Ichiban Sushi (Gainesville)

During visits to Gainesville I am never quite sure where I should eat. About 3 years ago my friends and I discovered Dragonfly Sushi and it quickly became the default sushi spot to visit during trips to the University of Florida. However, my last visit to Dragonfly was less than satisfactory and prompted us to search for a new sushi spot during this visit. A Yelp search of the area yielded many restaurants with mixed reviews. We decided to give Ichiban Sushi a shot and I was glad we did.

We arrived at about five in the evening, early birds by sushi standards. The restaurant was relatively empty and had a slight sports bar look with a bar in the middle and televisions with the current March Madness game playing around the sushi bar. We were quickly seated in a booth and the waitress was quick to get us our drinks and was a little pushy for us to get our orders in. There were a variety of items on the menu from Japanese cuisine to other Asian cuisines, such as Thai, but the general praise for sushi rolls here led me to the Bento Box 4 (~$16) and included shrimp and vegetable tempura, 5 sushi pieces (chef choice), a California Roll, Miso soup, house salad, and green tea ice cream. The waitress quick to put our orders in and our food did not take much time to reach our table.

My friend ordered Ichiban’s katsu curry (which I sampled) and the presentation was oddly not Japanese (he is Japanese and noted that the katsu usually goes on top). The curry also had a peculiar taste to it and upon sampling it some more I noticed that the curry tasted like it was using Indian seasonings, not Japanese seasonings. It was definitely an odd item.

The miso soup was really good. It wasn’t bitter and actually was a little sweet. They put plenty of tofu inside and the tofu was appetizing. The soup bowls were smaller than some other restaurants, but it was still enough to start the meal off and satisfy my stomach before the main course arrived.

The bento box was a little larger than I was expecting. The sushi that came with it looked fresh and I couldn’t wait to start eating. The California Roll was appetizing, but I should have asked for them to remove the cucumber (as usual it detracted from the taste of the fish). The ginger salad was fantastic and the ginger sauce on top tasted fresh. The shrimp and vegetable tempura tasted savory, but the batter was less flavorful than I am used to. The best part was the sushi pieces which were fantastic and really hit the spot on flavor with or without soy sauce. The green tea ice cream that arrived after the box was a nice conclusion to the meal and I felt that the bento box special covered everything I wanted to have during a sushi visit.

Overall, Ichiban Sushi provided a pleasant meal and a more affordable option to Dragonfly Sushi. The sushi was fresher and there were much more Japanese options (although they might want to work some more on their dishes authenticity). The service could have been a little better (our waitress disappeared every so often and didn’t stop by to check on us very often), but the food arrived quickly and for the most part were quite satisfied with our visit. I would recommend Ichiban Sushi to friends and would return during future visits to Gainesville.

Ichiban Sushi on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Ichiban Sushi

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 4401 NW 25th Pl Ste J Gainesville, FL 32606

Phone Number: (352) 375-8880

Website: http://www.ichibanflorida.com/

Twitter: @ichiban_sushi

America the Edible by Adam Richman, Man Vs. Food

I have been reading America the Edible: A Hungry History From Sea to Shining Sea, written by the Man VS. Food: Adam Richman. I wasn’t sure what I would be reading about at first and was surprised to find that the book is more of a personal journal and documents Richman’s memories traveling around to various cities in the United States that all hold a special place in his heart. When you watch Richman on television, he just seems to be a happy, go-lucky kind of guy and when you read his book you realize that you don’t really know him very well.

America the Edible tells of times when Richman wasn’t a television star and of times, but when he was just trying to make it in the world like everybody else. Adam Richman has always been a foodie at heart and has kept food journals for years.  Food became Richman’s companion against all the challenges of life, including finding a career, love, and success. The book makes it clear that Richman knows much about the food industry and food history as he shares some of his knowledge throughout the book. My favorite chapters in his book are about Los Angeles and San Francisco, places that I can personally identify with and I think many readers will also share this perspective while reading Richman’s secret food diaries that are now compiled into this book. Unfortunately, this can also make some chapters with places less familiar somewhat uninteresting to read and make skipping chapters easy to do. Another issue in America the Edible occurs at times when the writing will go into a sensory overload that can sometimes become overzealous and turned me off while reading certain portions of chapters.

Overall, America the Edible is an interesting read but not quite what I hoped for. The book has plenty of useful tips and locations worth scouting out and trying. Richman’s die-hard fans will enjoy his anecdotes of romantic dining dates and career struggles that brought him to where he is today.

TBO Tweetup @ Fly Bar and Restaurant

I had the pleasure of attending the TBO Tweetup yesterday at Fly Bar and Restaurant. The event was a nice opportunity to meet new people, interact with people active in social media in Tampa Bay, and meet the people who make it happen at TBO, the Tampa Tribune, and WFLA, News Channel 8. The breeze and sunset setting on the rooftop of Fly Bar gave a nice backdrop to this event and was certainly part of some excellent planning by TBO.

There were some freebies, such as flash drives and pens as well as Yankees tickets given away. The best thing given away though was the free food from Fly Bar that TBO provided at their event! Fly Bar and Restaurant has been on my list for some time now and this was the perfect opportunity to sample some of their food.

Fly Bar’s Roasted Garlic Frites were very tasty. They had two dips available and the Chipotle ketchup was the superior choice. It was hard to stay away from the food booth because many of their appetizers were enjoyable to munch on and the garlic frites were among those free appetizers that were hard to resist.

The homemade hummus mixed with feta, tomato, red onions, and served with pita wedges was also excellent and hit the palate in just the right spots. I normally do not eat too much hummus, but I love onions and the mixture in their hummus was excellent.

The Kobe Beef Sliders were delectable little snacks. The mushrooms and onions on top enhanced the taste of the meat and the meat was cooked just right, retaining some great Kobe flavor to it.

I am not quite sure what this menu item was, but it was enjoyable. Oozing with what seemed to be a cream interior. My friend and I both noted that it tasted infused with some kind of alcohol, but we were unsure how to pin down the taste. The cream might have been a little overbearing if it was not for the tomato/marinara sauce served with it, complementing the dish quite well.

My favorite choice at the TBO Tweetup was the samples of ahi tuna with what appeared to be tomatoes and cilantro sauce. The tuna was excellent and perhaps the best ahi tuna I have enjoyed in quite some time. Ahi tuna tends to be a hit or miss with many restaurants and my past experiences have leaned more towards miss. The thing that really made this choice my favorite was the mix of flavors when sampling the dish. The ahi tuna, tomato, and cilantro sauce all bring about different tastes in your mouth all at once and leave a savory aftertaste.

Overall, the TBO Tweetup was an excellent event and I hope to attend a future tweetup. Fly Bar and Restaurant had some awesome food to sample and I look forward to visiting them again with some family and friends and enjoying another day on their rooftop deck in Downtown Tampa. I am really thankful to Karen McCallister and the rest of the TBO organizers for putting on this event.

Fly Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Fly Bar and Restaurant

Address: 1202 N Franklin St. Tampa, FL 33602

Phone Number: (813) 275-5000

Neighborhood: Downtown Tampa

Website: http://www.flybarandrestaurant.com/

Twitter: @FlyBarTampa

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fly-Bar-Restaurant-Tampa-FL/369123911007

Help Japan During This Crisis.

It’s no secret that Japanese cuisine is one of my favorites and I love Japan and Japanese culture in general. In case you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Japan was struck by a 8.9 earthquake this past Friday (the 5th largest earthquake in recorded history). This earthquake created a deadly tsunami that wreaked havoc on Japan. According to Japanese media, 2,000 bodies washed up in Miyagi and several thousands of people are missing and the Japanese government fears that an estimated 10,000 people or more are dead. Japan’s stocks have fallen 6% since the crisis. To make matters worse, many nuclear reactors have become unstable in Japan and two of them have exploded injuring workers and creating fears about radiation in Japan and talks of a possible radiation cloud threat to the Pacific.

You can follow the latest news about Japan on BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12307698

After reading the La Times Daily Dish Blog, I was motivated to also spread the word about aid in Japan. I’ll quote them and say “If you know of any fundraisers, bake sales or anything else that might be occurring within the food community to help the people of Japan, please let me know about it so we can share the information. It doesn’t matter how big, or how small, this effort is. People are looking for a way to help”. I totally wholeheartedly agree. Please let me know of any efforts to help Japan and I’ll do my best to pass the message on.

Leave a comment here on this post, send me a reply on twitter, leave a post on Facebook, or e-mail me at carloseats [at] gmail.com and I’ll try and spread the word.

If you’re living in the USA you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 for Japan earthquake and Pacific Tsunami or visit this link.

Together we can make a difference in other peoples lives.

Mema’s Alaskan Tacos

Note: Mema’s Alaskan Tacos has closed down.

I have long heard about Mema’s Alaskan Tacos from plenty of food websites. Walking inside it certainly feels like Ybor City, very artsy and unique. They have free wi-fi so I was able to access websites, such as Yelp and Urbanspoon, while I was inside and checkout all the reviews and tips from past visitors. There really are a wide-range of reviews; some people love Mema’s and some people think starving kids in Africa wouldn’t touch it.

They have a wide variety of choices on their menu. Tacos, Enchiladas, Chimichangas, Burritos, Tostadas, Nachos, Tamales, and Quesadillas. They even have Jarritos Mexican sodas. I took the food as a different experience than regular Mexican because they claim to be Alaskan Tacos not Mexican Tacos and it’s clear that many of their meats (gator meat for example) are not normal choices for tacos or Mexican entrees and that Mema’s has a unique way of making these dishes.

I decided to try their Chorizo Taco ($3) and Steak Burrito all the way ($6.50) and I actually passed $10 although I didn’t think I would. We were given free chips and salsa because we passed $10. Mema’s is a little pricey like the Taco Bus and California Tacos. Mexican or Mexican-inspired food isn’t cheap in Florida just like Korean food, the lack of places providing the food drives the price up (competition is a good thing for consumers!). (Note: Don’t lose your receipt or they won’t give you your food when it comes out).

The Chorizo Taco was great! They weren’t cheap with the ingredients and the chorizo was made just right. I liked the taco shell, they fry the taco with the meat so it tastes crunchier and it has a unique and good taste. I doubt it’s healthy, but hey if I wanted healthy food I would go to Algusto’s on Kennedy for Mexican.

The Steak Burrito was huge and about the size of a Burrito Prenado at the Taco Bus. The meat was good, but clearly regular steak and not anything like having Carne Asada. I’d say California Tacos on Bearss Ave. has a similar style in burritos. Mema’s has their own black refried beans recipe that I liked. They put all the toppings inside and at first the burrito tasted cold because the lettuce, salsa, and sour cream are cold, but once you get some meat and refried beans it’s great. The salsa water was dripping out of the burrito so I turned it upside to drain it out, you might want to do this and avoid staining your t-shirt or pants.

Overall, I thought Mema’s had pretty good food. It wasn’t the best I have had, but something different and pretty tasteful. I want to try their gator meat and other items sometime in the future. It’s located close by GameTime (formerly Gameworks) too so I’m sure I’ll be nearby in the future.

Mema's Alaskan Tacos on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Mema’s Alaskan Tacos

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 1724 E 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33689

Phone Number: (813) 242-8226

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Website: http://www.memasalaskantacos.com/

Tampa Bay Bars & Restaurants on Facebook

Last Updated 03/13/11

Today’s technologically savvy society has led many restaurants and bars to find their way onto Facebook. This is a list of restaurants and bars in Tampa Bay who are using Facebook to interact with customers.

Bella’s Italian Cafe

Big Belly Burgers

BurgerMonger

California Tacos To-Go

Cafe Kili

Cappy’s Pizza

Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant

The Columbia

Cuenelli’s Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken

First Choice BBQ

Hiro’s Tokyo Steakhouse

Island Girl Cakes

Jaymer-Q Southern BBQ

Mel’s Hot Dogs

Ocean Blue Sushi *new*

The Rack

Splitsville

Sushi Tsu

Taco Bus

Tina Tapa’s

The Venue

West Tampa Sandwich Shop

Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar

Don’t see your business listed? Send an e-mail to carloseats@gmail.com

Guy Fieri Visits the Taco Bus

Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives has officially made it out to the Tampa Taco Bus. Fieri commented that the torta was one of the best he has ever had…I still have yet to try the torta myself, but my friends love it. It’s going to be awesome to see the Taco Bus shared with the world on Food Network. Once it airs on national television the secret will really be out and travelers will make it a point to stop there during visits to Tampa Bay. This is truly a proud moment in Tampa’s food scene.

Source: http://www.tampabay.com/features/food/restaurants/food-networks-guy-fieri-gets-on-the-tampa-taco-bus/1154824