Features On the Table

Take a Look Behind the Curtain at Sei Less

Photo courtesy of Sei Less

Whether you’ve seen its glowing pink sign on West 38th street or you’ve seen it tagged in your favorite rapper’s latest Instagram post, there’s no denying that Midtown hotspot Sei Less has generated incredible buzz. Since its opening in January 2022, Sei Less has seen everyone from the New York City Mayor Eric Adams to rappers like Cardi B and French Montana sitting at its tables. The powerhouse team behind Sei Less includes Joseph Licul, co-owner of Harbor Rooftop Nightclub; Dennis Turcinovic, former managing partner of Delmonico’s Restaurant Group and co-owner of Harbor Rooftop Nightclub; Dara Mirjahangiry formerly from Jue Lan Club and Philippe Chow; Ivi Shano formerly from Jue Lan Club and George Karavias of Dream Hospitality.


“I’ve been in this space, since 2011, of high end Chinese food,” Mirjahangiry said. “This is the fourth restaurant I’ve operated, and it’s the first one that I owned. I’ve kind of taken some of the things I’ve learned from each of those experiences, and I think Sei Less is the culmination of the best of all of those. I think our clients and people that have never even been to any of those restaurants that come here, we’re seeing a lot of repeat customers.”


“The goal was to create a private, intimate space where like-minded individuals could come out to eat dinner, have business meetings, come to before a sporting event, before a Broadway show.  All types of businesspeople, but not in a formal business setting,” said Mirjahangiry. “We quantify it as fun fine dining.”


This intimate setting makes Sei Less the perfect spot for private party groups to thrive.


“We have a lot of private rooms,” Mirjahangiry said. “We do large groups, anything from 10 to 100, 200, 300 people, but our sweet spot is probably the 10 to 20 [person] groups where we put them in these rooms, and they have a great time. We are a family-style restaurant, so everything is about sharing, it’s not about ‘what dish did that person order?’ everyone at the table shares all of the dishes.”


This friendly and upbeat atmosphere carries throughout the restaurant.

“All of the food dishes are vibrant and colorful, and so are the people that come here, and so is the artwork,” Mirjahangiry said.  


The artwork is a key part of the carefully curated vibe at Sei Less, where they have worked to seamlessly blend elements of both traditional Asian and modern hip-hop interior design styles.


“The art, this is an artist that we’ve known for a few years, Ricky Heeraman, is pop-art. So, we try to incorporate some things that relate to the culture and society [in the art],” Mirjahangiry said. “The keyhole is our logo, so that’s a big part of the incorporation.”


With the team behind Sei Less consisting of some of the biggest names in the hospitality industry, it’s no surprise that the restaurant’s opening was well received amongst the celebrity set.


“So, I’ve been taking care of a lot of the celebrities that come here for over 10 years, and then we’ve also got some new celebrities here that have never been in any of our venues before,” Mirjahangiry said. “I think what really catapulted us, is that we opened up towards the tail end of the pandemic, people were looking for a new place to go, we were a very fun restaurant. Before we even opened, we held a couple of private events, for the New York Giants, for some of the athletes, and a lot of the music artists.”


“There’s a whole new brand of music artist and athletes that are new to Sei Less and all they know is Sei Less; they don’t know the other restaurants.” Mirjahangiry continued. “So, I think what we do for them is we give them privacy, which is the most important thing.  Hospitality, it’s a fun atmosphere, you know, they love the food, and I think we’re very social media friendly. I think that’s something that’s been captured in our marketing.”


After the tremendous success they saw within their first nine months of business serving dinner, the Sei Less team has now added lunchtime to the restaurant’s hours.


“We didn’t originally open for lunch, we waited until after the summer, and we’ve had a pretty positive reception from the locals with our lunch,” Mirjahangiry said. “We have a $30 lunch special, but most of the people actually don’t even order the lunch special. One of the good things in terms of lunch is that with Chinese food it’s fast-paced, so you’re not rushed, but if you need to come and eat a meal in 30 minutes, you can be in and out of here.”


While the atmosphere is a key part of Sei Less’ success, like any good restaurant, the menu is equally as important for bringing in long-term customers.


“So, our signature dish, you know, I’d say our most popular is the chicken satay that has a peanut sauce,” Mirjahangiry said. “But honestly, there’s something for everyone. There’s a lot of people that don’t like seafood or people that are vegetarians, so there’s something for everyone on the menu and the fact that everything is shared, you can try a bunch of different things.”


Following Sei Less’ incredible success, the team behind Sei Less has no plans to stop there. The team is planning on opening a new restaurant/lounge by the name of Sinsei in the NoMad area next year.

“Sinsei, it’s a play off of Sei Less, but with a little bit of sinful, loungey [atmosphere],” Mirjahangiry said.


The Sei Less team is also working on launching a Sei Less merchandise line.


“It’s going to be designed by Gemo Wong, he’s a famous designer in streetwear culture,” Mirjahangiry said. “He’s done stuff with Jordan, Christian Dior, Travis Scott with Cactus Jack. We’re trying to do an elevated merchandise line, not your average t-shirt or average hoodie, but something that’s a little more elevated and exclusive, similar to our brand.”


The team also plans to continue doing special events outside of their normal location, meeting with their fans where they are.


“We’re going to be doing more pop-ups at Art Basel and NBA All-Star Weekend, things that cater to our clientele and our crowd, you know, it’s a younger demographic,” Mirjahangiry said. “But when we say younger, then there’s also that 65-year-old person that loves the Knicks that comes here for a pre-game meal, so honestly, it’s appealing to everyone as long as they like to have a good time.”