Tag Archive | "Phao"

Memorial for Trenny Lynn Lowey

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Trenny adjusted

A Memorial will be held for Trenny Lynn Lowey on April 29, 2012. Ms. Lowey passed on November 26, 2011 from a severe asthma attack. There will be a prayer service at Havens Beach located off Bay Street in Sag Harbor at 12:30 Followed by a gathering at Phao located at 29 Main Street, Sag Harbor from 1 to 3:30. There will be a cash bar with any proceeds to be donated to an asthma organization in Ms. Lowey’s name.

Frostbiting Regatta

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Last Saturday, November 26th the Breakwater Yacht Club ran its annual frostbiting race.  Ten racers showed up on a warm almost perfect Fall day with bright sunshine and, well, very little wind. The Noyac Bay Informal But Competitive Laser Racing Association offered up great tee shirts to all contestants, and Phao restaurant awarded two gift certificates.  One to Derrick Galen,the top overall racer and the other to Katlyn Cummins, the top HIgh School sailor.  Second place went to Tavis Moonan and third place went to Mike Gershenson.

Breakwater Yacht Club offers community sailing all during the year.  This years frostbiting season runs on Sundays at 2pm as long as weather permits.

From Working Hard to Working Smart

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web Biz imaddu_tora-6

by Marissa Maier

Tora Matsuoka is locally known as the affable co-owner of Sen Restaurant and Phao Thai kitchen. From conducting staff meetings during the daytime to greeting customers in the evening, the young businessman — he is in his late 20s — seems to spend most of his time in close proximity to his eateries.

But on Thursday, November 4, Matsuoka took a temporary leave from his duties to play a different role: as panelist and inspiration for a crowd full of aspiring college and high school-aged entrepreneurs.

As part of the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, which includes national conferences held at colleges aimed at linking under-30 entrepreneurs with business-savvy young people, Matsuoka participated in a panel at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.

“The mission of doing this is to help college students understand what entrepreneurism is and how they can continue along that path or get into it,” Matsuoka explained.

Undoubtedly, the questions centered around the issue of raising capital. Matsuoka recalled that other attendees were concerned over the difficulties associated with establishing a company as a young person.

“I tried to share with these kids that they need to use what may seem like a disability to their advantage,” Matsuoka said. He noted that he is sometimes discredited because of his lack of years, but offered, “on the other side of that coin you [a young entrepreneur] have more juice and ability to work harder and longer than anyone else.”

Matsuoka tried to impress upon the crowd the value of hard work, a lesson learned from his father, Japanese-born former Sumo wrestler Kazutomo. After retiring as a professional athlete, Kazutomo established Sen nearly 16 years ago with partner Jeff Resnick, who remains co-owner. Starting at 13-years-old, Matsuoka spent every school vacation working for his father. He didn’t receive any special privileges as the son of the boss and instead worked his way up from the lowest tier of the restaurant hierarchy.

“Dad said I wasn’t good enough to be a dishwasher, so I started as a basement scrubber,” Matsuoka remembered. “In retrospect, I praise him for his ability to teach me hard work.”

By age 25, Matsuoka bought his father’s portion of the business and later opened Phao Thai Kitchen with Resnick. It was around this time Matsuoka had his first entrepreneurial epiphany.

“I was working 90 to 115 hours a week. If I was not at work I was sleeping. There was no balance,” Matsuoka recalled. “It became clear if I am doing this with these two restaurants I will never be able to open more.”

In order to expand his empire of eateries, Matsuoka said he is developing a method to not only work hard but “work smart.” Culling information from countless business reads, Matsuoka explained that “working smart” is “creating an infrastructure based on systems that utilize programs, procedures and protocols that allow you to operate multi-units at very high levels without your presence.”

Or in simpler terms, Matsuoka is attempting to craft a type of manual to standardize his restaurant operations so that his business model can be applied at other locations. Using Sen and Phao as test sites, Matsuoka said he has boiled down success to three main ingredients of varying proportions: 40 percent service, 35 percent cuisine and 25 percent atmosphere.

Matsuoka and Resnick’s newly formed company, Big Fish Hospitality Group, is in the midst of vetting 20 to 25 different opportunities at the moment. A project to develop a restaurant in Vail, Colorado recently fell through, but Matsuoka said the company is now focusing on opening a place similar to Sen on the East Coast, possibly in New York City, Washington, D.C., or Florida.

“My intention is to create a modern westernized Japanese restaurant that focuses on small plate menus and features a high end cocktail bar and lounge aspect to them,” Matsuoka explained. “It will be the next generation of Sen.”

While stationed at his home base, however, Matsuoka will remain the full-time, gregarious restaurateur and part-time mentor to the next generation of Tora Matsuokas.

Music in Sag Harbor May Require Permits

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web Jim Turner Band

By Kathryn G. Menu

From open mic nights at Blue Sky with Jim Turner to Friday night jazz at Phao, Sag Harbor’s Main Street has been awash in live music and entertainment this winter, delighting patrons with soulful sounds, belly dancing and even drag queens.

And as of now, this is technically against the law.

Next month, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will present legislation that will legalize live music in restaurants and bars, although live entertainment like belly dancing and even disc jockeys appear to be off the table in the first draft.

On Tuesday, May 11 the village board will host a public hearing on a new law that would allow restaurants, bars and taverns the ability to host live music, with a village-issued permit.

“Clearly, in every restaurant and bar in town there is some kind of music being played and based on the current code it’s basically illegal,” said Sag Harbor Deputy Mayor Tiffany Scarlato, who wrote the draft code with trustee Robby Stein. “We wanted to support the business community and give people the opportunity to legalize what is happening and at the same time give the village control over the potential transformation of a restaurant into a nightclub.”

According to the draft law, a music permit would be free and establishments would need only to fill out an application with the village clerk to obtain one. As long as there are no problems in the next year, the permit will be automatically renewed.

The law allows music to be played in restaurants no later than one hour after dinner service, and no later than 1 a.m. Bars and taverns would be permitted to have live music no later than one hour before they close, and all establishments must adhere to the village’s noise ordinances. Cabarets, discos or nightclubs will not be granted a permit, nor would any restaurant or bar with characteristics of a cabaret, disco or nightclub.

The law was drafted similar to legislation enacted in East Hampton, which Scarlato penned herself.

“I think almost every municipality has the same type of definitions in their codes and they all restrict music in that they don’t want them to turn into nightclubs,” she said.

However, added Scarlato, the idea was conceived in an effort to ultimately help the business community by legalizing a practice that has been an economic draw for individual restaurants, and the village as a whole.

After first introducing the law, at a village budget meeting earlier this month, Scarlato noted it was purely a draft and “something to throw out there and get some feedback.”

“I think this is a great idea,” said Beppe Desiderio, co-owner of Blue Sky. “It is business driven, but more importantly, this supports the village and the people who work here by bringing people to Sag Harbor.”

Desiderio and his partner, Gerald Wawryk, both took issue with the notion that bars and taverns could host music later than restaurants, noting in Sag Harbor, technically the only legal bar is Murphs Backstreet Tavern on Division Street. All others are restaurants, and even the Cigar Bar is technically zoned for retail.

Wawryk added he would like to see the time increased to 2 a.m. for restaurants.

“We have to bring some of the nightlife back,” he said. “From a business point of view, if the mom and pops are going to survive, we have to give a little bit more. I am not saying we want rock and roll or techno – that’s not suited to Sag Harbor.”

Desiderio said music at Blue Sky has been crucial to the restaurant’s success, in particular the open mic sessions they began on Thursday evenings in the off-season with local musician Jim Turner.

“We had people who would otherwise have not come into the building come see us – we were able to bring them in,” said Desiderio. “They loved the music and they saw we were able to create a great environment here. I had mothers, high school kids that play in bands – everyone was here.”

While the open mic night will only be held every three weeks in season – the next show on May 20 – Desiderio said in the fall it will resume weekly, due to its popularity. Currently, Blue Sky has planned on hosting a disc jockey on Friday and Saturday nights, something Scarlato said was not allowed under the current draft law.

“I don’t understand that,” said Wawryk, noting his New York State Liquor Authority License allows him the use of a disc jockey on premises. He added a lot of charitable functions at Blue Sky have used a cover charge, also not allowed in the draft law, to raise funds.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said this week he was reviewing the law, and meeting with building inspector and fire marshal Tim Platt to go over some ideas. While supportive of the measure, Chief Fabiano said his main concern was ensuring the law was crystal clear, easy to read, and specific about what will, and what will not, be allowed in Sag Harbor.

“Some laws that have been passed, or codes proposed, you need a lawyer to figure out what it means and it can be taken three different ways by three different people,” he said. “It’s a good idea – let’s just make it clear.”

Restaurant With a Green Sensibility

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Kazutomo Matsuoka wanted his son to learn the restaurant business from the bottom on up, literally.

“I had to sweep the basement,” said Tora Matsuoka of his first summer in the business at the age of 13. “Washing dishes was too good for me.”

Some 14 years later, the younger Matsuoka’s hard work has paid off as Tora is now the co-owner of Sen, the same Sag Harbor Japanese restaurant and East End sushi mainstay he once swept clean. Earlier this year, the 27-year-old also opened Phao Thai Kitchen, with business partner Jeffrey Resnick, who founded Sen with Matsuoka’s father.

Phao Thai Kitchen takes the place of Sen Spice, an Indian restaurant opened next door to Sen last year. Phao was originally located across the street from Sen, but closed in 2002.

“Jeff and I felt people wanted a faster, more affordable, sexier cuisine and Thai food is that,” said Tora of the decision to close Sen Spice and resurrect one of Sag Harbor’s most popular restaurants. “It’s a faster preparation, and more appealing to people during the hot, summer months when we are our busiest.”

Phao opened its doors in the beginning of April.

“The response was incredible,” said Tora. “We are so grateful for the support of our friends, family and clientele. We opened to a much bigger crowd than we expected, which proved people were looking for something a little different.”

Phao Thai Kitchen offers a number of mainstay Thai dishes, like chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce, fresh shrimp and vegetable summer rolls, wok charred squid with garlic chili sauce and sweet basil, Tom Kha Gai soup, Pad Thai, a crispy Tamarind duck, pineapple fried rice and several curries.

“I love to eat, so it is hard to pick a favorite, but the drunken noodles is a great dish not originally found on the Phao menu,” said Tora. Phao Drunken Noodles with Shrimp is a rice noodle dish with onions, peppers, sweet basil and chilies in a brown sauce that Tora noted packs just enough of a spicy punch without overwhelming the senses.

The company has also used the new launch to expand the catering leg of their business, incorporating a street food theme into their menu.

“A lot of great ethnic cuisine started out as street food,” said Tora, who said the catering business will offer carts and wok stations to their clients this summer featuring food from both Sen and Phao.

While just recently opened, Phao Thai Kitchen has become a place for the environmentally friendly to gather, the site of a Green Drinks event last Thursday, and this Saturday the meeting place for 725-GREEN, an organization of Sag Harbor residents interesting in pooling their resources towards creating a more sustainable village.

“My interest in this is we have been a part of this community for over 15 years now and we are not going anywhere any time soon,” said Tora. “The 725-GREEN movement is serious – the world should be more serious about this, and Gigi [Morris] has done a great job organizing people. If they need a venue to make this happen, we want to offer our services.”

On Saturday, May 9 at 4 p.m. Morris will host the green forum, which will focus on what the initiative has begun to accomplish towards making Sag Harbor a more environmentally friendly, and conscious place. An offshoot of Mayor Greg Ferraris’s municipal greening committee, 725-GREEN is aiming to tackle issues such as the inclusion of solar panels and other renewable energy resources in a historic village, recycling, the creation of bike lanes and educating the citizenry on the perils of pesticides, to name a few. Morris will speak, as will Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island and Russell Diamond of Solution Capital Partners.

For Tora, the focus on sustainability does not stop at offering meeting space to like-minded organizations. On Tuesday, he noted the restaurants are doing everything they can to reduce the amount of waste they produce – a problem he sees as widespread in the industry – by trying to recycle and reuse as much as possible, and use locally produced food products. Both are not without challenges, he said.

“Where we live there are not enough resources to do what we need to do with our recyclable materials,” noted Tora. “I see a lot of waste when it comes to restaurants so when Gigi brought this group up I wanted to jump in and help as much as I can, even though I know it is not enough.”

The restaurants work with a company that provides biodegradable bags for Sen’s significant take-out business in an effort to reduce waste, and Tora said they attempt to get as many local ingredients on both menus when possible.

“Really, the only reason we can’t always buy locally is if they can’t produce enough of what we need,” he noted. “We do support our local fish companies and farmers. We are also talking to some North Fork farms about growing some specific products like edamame for us.”

Phao Thai Kitchen is located at 26 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725 4546.


Sag ARB Focus on Signs

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Diane Schiavoni is known on the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) as the “Sign Lady” — the board often looking to her for final approval on any sign proposed in the village’s historic downtown. On Monday, Schiavoni joined the rest of the board in approving Phao Thai Kitchen’s perpendicular hanging sign at its Main Street location, although the Sign Lady did so begrudgingly, sighing as she made the approval unanimous.

Tora Matsuoka approached the board for the sign after being asked at last month’s ARB meeting to make some slight revisions. According to Matsuoka, existing signs for both Phao Thai Kitchen and neighboring Sen are difficult to see once the awnings are down, and he would like to ensure visibility on Main Street.

“I just think we don’t have many perpendicular signs in Sag Harbor,” lamented Schiavoni when reviewing the 12 by three foot sign.

“I think it is nice,” said board member Michael Mensch. “I think a frame is important to make it look a little old — not too slick or clean.”

Matsuoka agreed and also promised to center the sign between the two restaurants at the board’s request.

Also on Main Street, Paul Russo will be sprucing up the Capital One building at the corner of Washington Street, completing repairs and painting the trim. Michael Park of Double J Realty was also approved to place a new awning at 80A Division Street, the site of the Little Angel Tips Nail & Spa, formerly known as Beach Nail House.

Architect Paul Alter was brought back to the board to discuss windows, a door and a brick wall at Penni Hirstenstein’s 162 Main Street property. While the board was pleased with most of the revisions for the approved project, they were concerned about a window sample Alter presented, wondering if it was too modern for windows that will be treated with restoration glass. Alter argued the windows will be an improvement over what exists today and urged members to view the residence before making a decision at next month’s meeting.

In other news, Erika Hecht was approved for a blue stone stoop at 26 Suffolk Street. Herbert Sambol was given the go ahead for a swimming pool at 30 Prospect Avenue, Paul Alter was approved for the removal of a non-historic maple tree at 25 Burke Street and both John Vaccari and Rue Matthiessen were approved for additions to their homes at 262 Madison Street and 261 Main Street, respectively.

Charles Thomas was also granted permission for what board member Robert Tortora joked was the “longest garage application” in board history at 125 Main Street. Thomas agreed to simplify the structure, much to the board’s pleasure.

“I think that is the first time we are saving a client some money,” joked Mensch.