Yumika Parsley Opened a Harlem Restaurant for ‘Survival’

It draws a loyal crowd for Japanese homestyle cooking

Natalie Pattillo
Heated
Published in
6 min readJul 16, 2019

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All photos: Johnny Fogg

For Harlemites in need of respite after 30-minute train delays and bumping shoulders with the masses during their commute, Chopped Parsley, an intimate Japanese restaurant that seats just 17, is a sanctuary.

Chopped Parsley offers hearty dishes like chicken udon soup with dashi made from scratch, wakame seaweed, and scallions, a recipe the restaurant’s owner, Yumika Parsley, learned from her mother.

On any given night, you might hear Lupe Fiasco, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday, and Sade playing in the background. Yumika’s zeal for music is obvious: She customizes the playlist based on the vibe she’s getting from patrons. The restaurant’s inviting mint green and dark blue walls are decorated with framed Spike Lee movie posters and album covers. Diners watch from wooden tables and a corner window couch as Yumika prepares meals behind a counter.

Yumika opened Chopped Parsley after years of waiting tables at restaurants all over New York City. In the ’80s, before her career in hospitality, Yumika was making music with a local independent label in Sapporo, Japan, putting out her first single in 1986. During that period in Sapporo, it was popular for bands to have food-inspired names, she explains. “When I had a band, at our first show, I said, ‘OK, Parsley sounds cute,’” she says. She kept it as her stage name, and it stuck. Yumika and her fiance planned to move to New York City together in 1989, but that never happened. In 1991, she lost her fiance to leukemia, which caused her to take a hiatus from making music.

Around that same time, hip-hop from the U.S. was making waves even in Sapporo, which enlivened Yumika. ”I looked around where I lived and there was nothing going on,” she says. “There was no hip-hop. I have to be there.”

In 1995, Yumika moved from Sapporo to New York City alone. Her urge to create came back when she settled into the city. Waitressing afforded her the means to pursue a career in the city’s bustling music industry as a singer…

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