Ten years ago, three brothers from China took a big chance, investing nearly all of their money to open a restaurant in Connecticut. The Chen brothers had a dream of sharing with Americans the authentic taste and traditions of their cuisine.
Now a decade later, the Chens have five successful restaurants located across Connecticut.
“We are so fortunate and grateful for all of the success we’ve had in this country,” Aaron Chen says. “Going from nothing to owning five restaurants is only something that could happen in the U.S.”
The Ginza Restaurant Group consists of five restaurants spanning the state of Connecticut: Feng & Lounge in Hartford; Feng & Hibachi in Canton; Feng & Hibachi in Millbury; Ginza & Hibachi in Bloomfield; and Ginza & Hibachi in Wethersfield. Ginza & Hibachi in Bloomfield was the Chen’s first restaurant.
The three brothers grew up in the southern area of China, a part of the country that’s rural and largely low income. They learned at an early age that success doesn’t come without hard work and that cooking was always a passion.
“We all learned how to cook from watching our mother,” says head chef John Chen. “She really taught us everything we know and the importance of cooking with fresh ingredients and knowing how to prepare a wide variety of dishes.”
The Chen restaurants have received high reviews. They routinely appear in the Best of Hartford every year and were named to the list of Top 100 Asian Restaurants from Zagat in 2010. In August 2011, their Hartford restaurant was featured in the New York Times where it received high marks for its sushi. The reviewer wrote, “From the sushi bar, the fish was of solid, if not sparkling quality. Simple rolls — tuna, yellowtail and salmon — were fine choices.”
The restaurant’s décor also received accolades in the article: “Its interior is brilliantly modern, combining stone, wood, and metal with stunning rust-colored walls and fabrics, and its menu is equally attractive: traditional sushi and sashimi, elaborate special sushi rolls, appetizers from the kitchen and sushi bar, and inventive entrees.”
Appearing in the New York Times was a “made it” moment for the Chen brothers.
“We were overwhelmed to have been profiled in such a prestigious paper,” says Bill Chen. “It was a great feeling of accomplishment.”
The Chen’s attribute their rated food to the higher quality and fresher cuts of fish. They constantly try different combinations for both sushi and hibachi. They differentiate themselves by being French-infused and they change their menu twice a year with the new menu being unveiled Dec. 1. Additionally, each restaurant features bi-weekly specials created around what’s fresh for the season.
Despite their success, the Chens have always stayed true to their roots, sponsoring young Chinese men who live in Chinatown, New York City, to come to Connecticut to train as sushi chefs. The restaurant employees are like family and many who started as bus boys and servers are now managing partners of the restaurants.
The Chens are also known in their community for their generosity, consistently sending money back to China to assist those in need. The restaurant groups regularly support a number of US-based charities as well.