Although Nicholas Z. Topjian ’03 stands only 15 feet from the counter of the Quincy Grille—that quintessentially American late-night kick-it spot with burgers, shakes and fries—he is oceans away. He stands behind a sushi bar draped in Japanese floral tapestry, lit by a calligraphied paper lamp and boasting a menu of lighter, more novel fare. Here he is Chef “Niku,” master of Sushi Sunday.
Sushi Sunday has evolved over the years. In the beginning it was just a party, thrown by Topjian and his roommates when they were living in DeWolfe. (Topjian is now back in Quincy, where his sparsely furnished room features a tatami mat and oversized pillows.) The boys invited friends and friends-of-friends over for a night of sushi, sake and a trip-hop DJ. Although the gathering devolved into what Topjian deems “a crazy old dance party,” sushi fans and sake sippers begged him for more. “People really showed interest in sushi and the whole spirit of the night,” Topjian explains.
Topjian learned the art of sushi-making during a summer studying under an Okinawan sushi chef named Umezu in New York City. He had already spent a semester in Kyoto his junior year. When Quincy Grillemaster Justin A. Erlich ’03 asked Topjian to start making sushi for the Grille about a month into the second semester of last year, the event was so popular he could barely roll fast enough. Now he serves sushi weekly, and is on his way to becoming a Grille institution.
Sushi Sunday begins at 9 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m. Because Topjian’s is a one-man once-a-week operation, the menu is small: California rolls ($4), eel rolls ($5), cucumber rolls ($3) and a twelve-piece California/eel roll combo ($8). He must compromise between authenticity and economy. “I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible for now and also accommodate what people want to eat,” he says. “People like California rolls and eel—that’s the reality.” The logistics of buying super-fresh fish on Sunday—especially for a man without a car—are too daunting to overcome every week. What’s more, Topjian fears that raw fish won’t sell well enough to justify the effort.
Despite these restrictions, Sushi Sunday is still evolving. Topjian hopes to expand the menu, and will soon launch a website for placing orders. There is even talk of devising a delivery service for nearby houses. For now, though, Sunday-sushi cravers must come on down to Quincy for their weekly taste of the Orient.