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Musician opening Japanese restaurant in East Aurora

Musician Sam Marabella is opening a Japanese restaurant in East Aurora.

Yoshi will open at 33 Elm St., with about 50 seats and a beer and wine menu. The building has been gutted to the floor and wall studs, and is being completely renovated, with the addition of French doors and other details, Marabella said. It was last the Ice House, a bar.

In Japanese, Yoshi name means virtuous, or good luck, Marabella said.

In a tight market for restaurant talent, Marabella said he had the good luck to find Kenneth Legnon, his chef. Legnon’s experience with Japanese cuisine and sushi most recently includes a three-year stint at Seabar. He came to Buffalo six years ago as the private chef for the Jacobs family, which owns Delaware North.

When it comes to sushi, “I’m kind of a traditionalist,” said Legnon, who grew up about an hour north of Lafayette, La. “At a sushi restaurant I go straight omakase and ask them to feed me what they would feed themselves.”

That doesn’t mean his sushi will all be classic Japanese styles. “There’s going to be some kitschy items, funny names for rolls, cream cheese and spicy mayo,” he said. “But for the most part, I’m going to focus on simple, clean, easily presented and easily accepted traditional-ish-with-a-modern twist.”

A draft menu’s non-sushi section includes udon noodle soup with roast pork, marinated calamari salad, and tempura vegetables and shrimp. Sushi offerings will include classic sushi styles, plus dishes like Hawaiian poke and salmon belly crudo.

From left to right, Yoshi owner Robert Karp, Chef Ken Legnon, and owner Sam Marabella. (Photo: Yoshi)

From left to right, Yoshi owner Robert Karp, Chef Ken Legnon, and owner Sam Marabella. (Photo: Yoshi)

Marabella’s business partner is Robert Karp, a real estate agent Marabella met when Karp was a student promoting shows at Broadway Joe’s in University Heights. Marabella owned the University Heights bar from 2001 to 2009.

Marabella has been a professional musician for about 20 years, including eight years with Sweatin’ Like Nixon. He currently leads the Sam Marabella Band, with various musical partners, which he said did 170 performances last year.

He’s the rare rocker who got into real estate. “There’s always one musician in a band who will book and organize the band,” Marabella said. “I was that guy.”

He’s opening Yoshi because he lives nearby and wanted a restaurant that he wanted to eat in. “I don’t see much ethnic food in that area, mostly pub food, and I want to eat healthy,” he said. “I think there’s a need for it.”

So when will it open? “We’re hoping late fall,” Marabella said. Yoshi sushi will be available at the East Aurora Co-op too, if all goes as planned.

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