New Contemporary Asian Restaurant Opens Near Hamilton Town Center

 Writer / Jon Shoulders

Photographer / Belinda Russell

The Odyssey restaurant is, in several ways, the culmination of a decades-long family dream.

Soon after immigrating from southern China to New York in the 1990s, siblings Kevin Ni and Sue Cheng observed their father open up his own small Chinese take-out eatery in Brooklyn Heights, and their interest was piqued by the possibilities of the restaurant industry. Located one block away from a busy subway stop, the business was slammed daily just a few months after opening, and as teens Kevin and Sue got a full glimpse of what it takes to keep a restaurant humming along successfully.

“Our father would make special dishes for us sometimes, and customers would ask what they were,” Cheng recalls. “Sometimes we would have them try some, and they said they wanted to buy some. So we made a unique menu for those particular customers. We couldn’t believe that people liked that kind of southern Asian cooking, and I think it made my brother passionate to have this own restaurant.”

By the mid-2000s Ni’s desire to open his own Asian-style eatery had not abated, and it was during a trip to the Midwest to visit relatives that he fell in love with the Hoosier state.

“We were visiting relatives in Chicago, and my brother considered opening a restaurant there but he was starting a family and didn’t want his children to grow up in a big city,” Cheng says. “We’re from a small town in China. So he ventured out here to Indiana and felt like it was home.”

Ni opened The Journey, an Indy-based buffet-style seafood and steak establishment, back in 2008, and just like his dad’s take-out business back in Brooklyn, it was an immediate success. In subsequent years he began to envisage another, more high-end Indy restaurant with Asian-fusion cuisine, and last year Ni and Cheng began work on The Odyssey on Tegler Drive near I-69.

“We decided to call it The Odyssey because it’s what Kevin has wanted to do for a long time and it’s almost like coming home to that idea,” says Cheng, who co-owns the establishment with Ni and serves as general manager. “Just like the Odyssey story.”

With an understated, contemporary interior, The Odyssey offers an extensive menu of pan-Asian selections with Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese elements, including a raw bar, sushi and sashimi, traditional seafood, noodle dishes, steaks and more.

“It’s primarily an Asian take with Chinese dishes, a lot of sushi choices and some western dishes that are popular in many steakhouses,” explains Executive Chef Kevin Fry, who previously held positions at Shula’s, Morton’s and Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse.

“We take some of those Asian and American elements and elevate them to a high-end level as far as the plating, the flavor and the accompaniments,” Fry adds. “The menu is definitely a team vision with me along with the owners, the sushi chef and Asian wok chef bringing in ideas and trying things out, too.”

The lengthy sushi menu includes favorites like the California roll and tuna roll as well as specialty rolls like the Big Island (tempura Hawaiian yellowtail, crispy asparagus and avocado) and the Tokyo Pearl (tempura sea scallion, spicy mayo and barbecue unagi).

“Our sushi chef is one of the best, and he’s worked with chef (Masaharu) Morimoto in Philadelphia,” Fry says. “We have popular selections that everyone is familiar with like the Dragon roll, and then we have our own take on some other rolls. He even has a scallop ceviche and several different things that he has his own take on from all his travels and sushi training.”

The Odyssey staff held a soft opening on March 21, and Cheng and Ni plan to continually adjust, refine and improve their menu as circumstances warrant — just like their father did more than two decades ago back in New York to keep his customers happy.

“This is definitely the owners’ masterpiece, where they are putting together all of their ideas based on their experiences so far and elevating those ideas for a high-end restaurant,” Fry says.

The Odyssey is located at 13521 Tegler Drive in Noblesville. Call 317-774-5797 or visit them online at theodysseyindy.com for more info.