Food & Drink

Longtime successful Southpark restaurant gets ready to turn its menu upside down

Upstream at Phillips Place is getting ready to make big changes in the menu.
Upstream at Phillips Place is getting ready to make big changes in the menu. Observer files

One of Charlotte’s longtime fine-dining restaurants is getting ready to make a major shift in the menu, right after renaming the company that owns it.

Tom Sasser, the owner of what has been the Harper’s Group, including several Harper’s restaurants, Mimosa Grill uptown and Upstream in Phillips Place, confirmed the changes Monday. The new menu is still in transition and won’t be officially announced until next week, but diners have already started noticing.

The new menu, under chef Gene Kato, will have more of an Asian focus with a longer lists of shared plates. While Upstream has had sushi and sashimi as part of its focus on fish and seafood, Sasser says the new menu will have even more. The sushi menu that’s now posted in the restaurant’s web site will be replaced soon, he says.

“We’re going to be finally, truly, more Pacific Rim than we’ve been,” Sasser said. Kato trained in the culinary program at Central Piedmont Community College before heading to Chicago, where his robata sushi restaurant Sumi made him a semifinalist for the James Beard Awards last year.

While Sasser wouldn’t address prices, he said some of the entrees will have lower prices because they’ll be offered as smaller shared plates.

“I think guests will recognize some lower of the higher entree prices.”

Along with the menu changes, Sasser also is changing the name of his restaurant company from Harper’s to Burke Hospitality Group. The change is aimed at easing confusion people had over the difference between the Harper’s restaurants and the company. The company is now called Burke because Sasser and all of his partners are from Burke County.

“We needed a little name change to help put down the confusion we always have between the different brands,” he said. “Harper’s is a restaurant, so we’re going to let it be a restaurant.” With the catering arm of the company being called Harper’s, people often didn’t understand that catering was available from all the restaurants, including Mimosa and Upstream.

“We’ve been fighting it for so long,” he said.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis