Last updated on February 9th, 2023 at 01:52 pm
Ninja Hibachi Sushi Steakhouse opened its doors in downtown Milwaukee last week, marking nearly three years since owner and chef Li Chai Chen set plans in motion to bring his Japanese concept to the city’s dining and nightlife scene.
Located at 770 N. Milwaukee St., Ninja Steakhouse spans three levels. There’s a sushi bar, standard bar and dining area on the ground floor, hibachi-style dining on the second floor and a karaoke bar on the lower level. The downtown restaurant is the third Ninja Steakhouse location for Chen, who started his career as a hibachi chef in 2003 and has built a loyal following over the past decade with the opening of Ninja Steakhouse in West Bend and later in Menomonee Falls.
After opening his second location in the suburbs, customers began asking Chen to bring his concept to downtown Milwaukee.
“A lot of my regular customers work in offices in downtown Milwaukee, and they don’t have a good sushi restaurant there,” he said.
Chen purchased the 7,800-square-foot, two-story building for $1.15 million in May of 2020. He spent the next two years and an additional $1 million renovating the entire building, which had sat vacant since Catch 22 closed in 2015.
The project faced several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and financing issues, but Chen said he is excited to finally introduce the concept to downtown Milwaukee and continue to build upon a reputation as one of the best sushi and hibachi restaurants in the area.
Ninja’s expansive, multi-floor space caters to the nighttime crowd, which is often dominated by groups celebrating birthdays or other special events. The idea was to create a spot where diners could sit down to share a meal and then continue their night with drinks at the bar or karaoke in the lower level, instead of moving on to another establishment.
Jackson-based Design 2 Construct was the general contractor and architect for the renovation project at Ninja’s downtown property as well as its West Bend and Menomonee Falls locations.
The new Ninja Steakhouse is open for dinner daily and for lunch Monday through Friday. Chen said he expects lunch service to be a big draw among downtown professionals, especially with a limited selection of lunch eateries nearby.