Yoni Lang and Jeff Miller, the chefs at newly opened East Village sushi restaurant Rosella, at 137 Avenue A, between East 9th Street and St. Marks Place, don’t exactly consider themselves environmentalists. Yet all of their most recent efforts working in kitchens at places like the award-winning Austin sushi spot Uchiko, and Alphabet city’s Mayanoki have been focused on using local, sustainable ingredients.
“The sustainability aspect is more about a refusal to serve products that are destructive to the environment,” says Miller. “It has opened up a new world of fish, flavors, and products for us, and there’s just no going back now.”
At Rosella, the chefs are serving up dozens of different species of fish procured from farmers working along the coasts of New York, Oregon, and Florida. They appear in the duo’s 15-to-18-course tasting menu, which consists of a mix of nigiri and small plates, and a robust a la carte selection. The latter includes dishes like the chirashi bowl ($25), that features seafood trimmings which might otherwise get wasted, and the Southeast Asian soup Laksa ($15), which has a broth made with fish head and bones, and comes with the option of adding shrimp ($5) and a lobster tail ($19). The restaurant’s pickle bowl ($15) likewise minimizes waste by pickling out-of-season fruits and vegetables.
Lang and Miller’s efforts to stay local — unlike many other sushi restaurants in the city, which import products from Japan — don’t stop at their fish. The duo sources the restaurant’s miso from a farm in Pennsylvania, and the vinegar, which is made with Carolina rice, comes from New Jersey. Many of the wines (and some herbs) selected by the restaurant’s beverage director and co-owner TJ Provenzano, come from Rooftop Reds in Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he was previously the general manager.
Provenzano’s drinks menu is staying local, too, with two different New York-made sakes along with beers and ciders. At Mayanoki, Provenzano only served New York wines, but at the Rosella, he’s expanding the scope to the rest of the country as well.
Still, with all their efforts to keep things local and sustainable, Miller and Lang say they don’t take themselves too seriously. “We’ve been working for other people for so long, and now we’re just trying to have as much fun as possible and keep it lighthearted,” says Lang.
Rosella marks the culmination of a two to three-year plan for Miller and Lang to develop their own establishment. In the lead up, the duo studied up on gardening and pickling along with hosting tasting menu pop-ups, like the Saturday night, 15-course dinner series they did at Rooftop Reds back in August.
The duo planned to open the restaurant earlier this spring, but like countless others, their plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. Now, as restaurants and bars settle into a new reality in the city, Rosella is opening with a menu that is largely a la carte, an effort to make it more adaptable to the takeout and delivery model.
Even so, Lang and Miller plan to offer limited service at Rosella’s sushi counter, albeit with only 10 seats due to NYC’s restrictions on indoor dining. The duo will serve their tasting menu here, which will also be available for delivery and takeout on Friday and Saturday.
The chefs are making up for that lost indoor space with 20 seats outside, which will be located street-side under a covered awning. For now, though, Miller and Lang are just focused on welcoming neighbors and serving local, sustainable food.
“From an outside perspective it can definitely feel like we are putting ourselves at a disadvantage,” says Miller. “But we see restaurants that haven’t figured this out yet as the ones at a disadvantage.”
Rosella is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and for weekend lunches (from next weekend) from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tasting menu reservations are pre-paid on Tock, and delivery is available on all the major platforms on the restaurant’s website.