The Monroe Street area doesn't have a ramen restaurant or a sushi place. So, Zhiqiang "Zack" Li, who runs Nam's Noodle, is about to change that.
Li, 29, plans to open Sequoia at 1843 Monroe St., in the former home of the Irish pub, Brocach on Monroe.
"Anyone who wants to have a nice bowl of ramen or even Asian food, sushi, you have to go to either State Street area or Park Street area, which is kind of far away," Li said.
"Monroe Street is a very nice neighborhood, a family-friendly area, I think. And we want to be able to be a part of the community and we want people to know us as a restaurant that's very family friendly, community friendly."
He chose the name Sequoia because the interior has a redwood bar and lots of wood, and Li intends to use more. He said he also likes the name because of the two years he spent in California, on and off. He lived in Arcadia, in Los Angeles County.
Li said he loves how the word sounds and how it looks when it's written. "I think it's just very clean, beautiful and natural, and that fits into our mission," he said.
"Our goal is to create a business that's first of all, from a design perspective, very, very clean, modern, welcoming, natural," Li added.
The space, with a capacity of 99, is in good shape, Li said. The work he's having done is cosmetic, he said: new walls, ceiling and lighting.
Li plans to hire chefs from California. While he didn't work in the restaurant business in California, he said he still has connections there.
He moved to Madison six years ago to run Nam's Noodle, a restaurant his cousin, Ray Sze, opened in 1999 at age 25. Sze, who also once owned Dragon I on State Street, moved back to his native Hong Kong in 2014.
While his family owns Nam's Noodle, Li said Sequoia is his own.
Sequoia is more of a ramen restaurant than a sushi one, but will serve both, Li said. The casual Nam's Noodle, which isn't far away at 1336 Regent St., serves neither ramen nor sushi.
Its menu features bubble teas, many soups including pho, Thai curries and noodles dishes, Vietnamese sandwiches, congee (rice porridge), fried rice, and Chinese and Korean entrées.
Li said he's still developing the menu for Sequoia, but a sample menu submitted to the city shows that in addition to ramen bowls and sushi, the restaurant will offer bubble tea; Chinese, Thai and Japaneses appetizers; Japanese and Thai soups; Japanese noodle salads; and rice platters.
"This will be very new," he said. It's "going to be a completely different from Nam's, I think."
Li, whose ambitious June 1 opening has been pushed back until later in the month, said the food he'll serve at Sequoia will be healthy, and the "dining experience" will be "mid-upscale."
"But at the same time, I want everyone to be able to have access to the price," he said. "They can have a lot of nice food, a nice experience, but not have to, let's say, not ever go out to eat for the rest of the month."