It’s now the best of both worlds.
When Benten Fine Sushi and Japanese Cuisine in Miller Place permanently closed in October, members of the community were devastated.
A new opportunity came just this month for Kenny Lee, the former Benten owner, where he has found a new home inside Port Jefferson village’s PJ Lobster House.
It began when the Lobster House’s owner, James Luciano, started getting tips and requests from mutual customers about Lee.
“James had another sushi person before who left and the timing just worked out,” Lee said. “I thought it was a good opportunity.”
When the PJ Lobster House moved from Upper Port to Main Street last year, as part of the renovations came a full sushi bar that they didn’t have at their old spot.
“It’s great to add sushi to the menu, especially with the summertime coming,” Luciano recently said. “There’s no sushi in Port Jeff.”
Luciano admitted that when the previous sushi chef was at the bar, people didn’t come to sit there and indulge. But then Lee came on board and the seats have been filled every night he’s there.
“We’re getting a lot of customers where people are asking for sushi, and then ask if Ken is working,” Luciano added.
Last March, TBR News Media reported that Benten was struggling to keep their doors open due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A GoFundMe was created to help support the sushi restaurant with hundreds of people showing their support.
Unfortunately, Lee said, the closure was inevitable.
“It was hard finding people to work,” he said.
Lee and his mother owned the building at 971 Route 25A in Miller Place for nearly two decades, previously owning a place in Mount Sinai for many years before that.
Lee and his family decided it was best to close instead of dealing with the constant stress.
But the new opportunity at PJ Lobster House is special for Lee — he is a graduate of Port Jefferson high school and is happy to be back in the community.
And while it’s not a carbon copy of his menu at Benten, Lee is bringing a ton of favorites — customers who order the new PJ roll might remember it as Benten #2.
Luciano said that right now they will have sushi available Wednesday through Sunday and will offer lunch, dinner and plan to add seafood towers to the menu.