Nara Sushi and Korean Kitchen in Upper Kirby will close after service Sunday, January 31. The news comes through a press release which stated "unresolved disagreements with its landlord" has forced owner Donald Chang to close. According to Chang, Chicago-based commercial real estate firm Transwestern never responded to his requests for visible signage on Kirby Drive and "relinquishing the private room back space in order to make the large 6,898-square-foot restaurant more manageable and profitable." Chang planned to close his modern Korean-inspired kitchen last month but Transwestern swayed him to stay until the end of January. Hoping to come to some type of agreement during this period, Chang instead claims the only communication received was a 10-day notice to vacate on January 31.
Two months ago, Chang celebrated Nara's one year anniversary after undergoing $100,000 worth of renovations and noted, "...we're really hitting our stride. Some restaurants don't even make it year, so there's that, right? I cannot complain." However in regards to the impending closure, Chang states via the press release:
It’s disappointing because I loved the concept, loved the restaurant, gave it my all... I poured my heart and soul into it. With everything we were trying to accomplish, I really did not expect the difficulty to come from the landlord side. It wasn’t something that was anywhere within the realm of possibility in my mind, but unfortunately, that’s what happened.
Nara is the latest casualty of the Upper Kirby mixed-use complex where chain restaurants thrive and smaller businesses are forced out partly due to high rent. Last year, Susie Jimenez's Trenza closed as did Austin-based The Van Delden Group's Saint Genevieve. Unlike both of those concepts, Chang isn't giving up on Houston and is on the hunt to open another restaurant inside the loop. Will Chang relocated to the vacated Osteria Mazzantini, which recently took on a new mystery tenant that's bringing an Asian fusion concept with a sushi component similar to Nara? We'll have to wait and see.