Umi Star, rising restaurateur Jason Anderson‘s Asian-fusion restaurant on North Campbell Avenue, closed Wednesday after an 18-month run.
Anderson said the closing was more of a “transition” as he and his two business partners look for a bigger space to keep up with Umi Star’s growth.
“This needs to be in a bigger space for it to compete and for it to do what it needs to do,” he said, noting that he has identified three possible locations including one downtown and another farther north.
But Umi Star’s rebirth will be on the back burner for now as Anderson focuses on his new Latin-Asian fusion concept Nox, to open Feb. 1 in the old Cafe Jasper, 6370 N. Campbell Ave. Nox will explore another side of Asian fusion, with strong Latin influences alongside New American accents.
Umi Star’s closing comes several months after Anderson temporarily closed the restaurant and invested money to revamp the menu and renovate the space, 2502 N. Campbell Ave.
The work was in response to a failed health inspection in August that cited the restaurant for six critical violations including food not stored at a proper temperature and employees not washing their hands after handling raw foods.
Two weeks after the restaurant reopened Sept. 30, Umi Star failed a follow-up inspection, which found a broken sushi cooler that didn’t keep the fish at the proper temperature. The restaurant fixed the problem and passed its reinspection Oct. 28.
Anderson said the health inspection woes played no role in his decision to close the restaurant.
“I think it is really a matter of the big picture,” he said, ticking off Nox; his downtown project Hudson, which he hopes to open in August; and the planned opening in late April of an outpost of the Phoenix fast-casual sandwich shop Original Chop Shop as projects that top his to-do list.
“We had one of our best weeks ever last week, so as you can imagine from a staff perspective it’s a little confusing and from a customer perspective it’s confusing. But I’m thinking of the Umi Star brand. We need to get it in a bigger space. It kind of clicked together.”
Anderson said he is partnering in a new fast-casual concept set to open in the Umi Star space with an international group that he wouldn’t identify. He said he hoped to have the restaurant open by mid-March. He and that group also are exploring plans to take Umi Star to Mexico and Phoenix, he said.