El Puerto Argentinean Grill

El Puerto Argentinean Grill may be the first Argentinean restaurant I have dined at in my life and I was completely impressed with the food at this hidden gem in Ybor City. The restaurant is found on 5th Avenue near a cigar shop and various housing, nestled away behind the 7th Avenue strip. My family was originally out to have some Japanese cuisine, but after a mention of El Puerto as we drove on Adamo past Ybor, my family immediately made a detour.

The restaurant has a modest look, clearly a hole-in-the-wall with one dining room and a bar. Two main entrances. The smell outside the restaurant was fantastic and when we entered the restaurant, the pleasant aromas only became greater. We sat ourselves and within about ten minutes our waitress arrived at our table. Like many hole-in-the-wall restaurants the service at El Puerto could have been better. Many have noted the servers don’t seem primarily happy to be working and as long as my food comes out hot and flavorful without any rudeness, I can live with that. The wait time on the food is lengthy as well, don’t come in if you aren’t willing to wait more than an hour to receive your food.

The waitress understood English, but it was clear Spanish was her preference. I had an Inca Kola and the waitress was quick to bring our drinks. She dropped off some bread and then the wait began. We had plenty of time to talk about anything and everything, each time the waitress came in with a huge plate of meat we became more excited for what was to come. El Puerto gives you a bang for your buck, the dinner entrees range from $10-$20, but can feed 2-3 people.

I was particularly hungry and ordered their $2 Empanada Argentina (Argentine-style beef turnover in a fluffy pastry shell) in addition to the $12 Lomo Saltado (strips of skirt steak sautéed with red onions, served with French fries and white rice) as my main course. The waitress brought us some bread and butter to start our meal.

The bread was soft and the warm. The pieces were large enough to help hold over the wait.

The Argentinean empanada arrived. Different in appearance from the Puerto Rican empanadas I am used to. The shell was soft instead of crunchy. The meat inside was seasoned well and full of flavor, it did not need cheese or any additions. The empanada also came out hot, clearly fresh. It did not take long for this empanada to disappear from my plate.

About an hour later the Lomo Saltado arrived.

The steak came out sizzling hot. The rice warm and soft. There was so much steak that I had a whole portion to take home after eating. The red onions on top were juicy and crunchy, only adding to the steak. The steak needed no sauce, it was perfect just the way it was made. It has been quite a long time since I had a steak this tender that was cooked all the way. The steak just melted in my mouth, there was no need to cut it down into tiny pieces. The French fries were fantastic, and I would go as far as to say this Lomo Saltado was the best I have ever had.

The silence at the table spoke for the excellence of the food. The wait was worth it. I haven’t eaten that much in a long time and I credit the excellent flavors of El Puerto Argentinean Grill. There were many things I saw on the menu that interested me for future visits. My parents rave that El Puerto has the best chicken they have ever had. The Chicharron de Calamar, Baby Churrasco, and Peruvian pastas were just a few of the entrees I contemplated having during my visit. El Puerto also has a lunch menu with a modified menu and sandwiches/burgers that I would like to try as well. I am sure I will be back.

El Puerto Argentinean Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: El Puerto Argentinean Grill

Cuisine: Spanish, Argentinean, Peruvian, Seafood

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 1623 E 5th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 248-8222

Website: http://www.elpuertoybor.com/

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5th Annual Ybor Aficionado Days Stop 1: The Dog’s Bollocks Pub

Ybor Aficionado Days was the biggest restaurant tour I have been on to date. 17 restaurants in 3 hours. The tapas trail event was sponsored by Chevy who provided rides to each restaurant through Chevy vehicles. The drivers helped alleviate some of the distance between restaurants, but with the huge rush of people and the sometimes close distance between restaurant it was sometimes easier just to walk to each restaurant.

I documented each restaurant visit and will be positing each review individually. The first place we went to was The Dog’s Bollocks Pub.

The food was setup around the bar. The two employees at the bar were friendly with us and were happy to explain the tapas they were serving to us. I could see myself having a drink here and chatting with the employees.

The English Muffins at Dog Bullock’s were delicious. The muffins were soft and easy to chew. The beans and sauce were packed with flavor and the muffins had more flavor than they appeared to have. I was surprised there was such good food inside this small bar. I have probably passed the place tons of times when walking around Ybor City and never thought that stopping inside would get me a tasty meal. The owner mentioned that these were just a few of many creations they had been creating for the pub.  The place had a clear European ambiance with flags everywhere and free pool tables, foosball, and darts…certainly a nice bar to hang out at during a night on 7th Avenue. The pub was empty since it was the middle of the day and I am curious to know what crowd spends their time in here.

It didn’t take long for us to finish our food and be on our way, but the food at The Dog’s Bollocks impressed us and was the beginning of a great food adventure on the Chevy Tapas Trail.

Venue Name: The Dog’s Bollocks Pub

Cuisine: Pub

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 1704 E 7th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 506-1889

Website: http://www.dogsbollocksybor.com/

Go on to Ybor Aficionado Days Stop 2: Bernini

SoHo Sushi North

I have been by SoHo Sushi North numerous times, but never stopped in until this past week. It is the same plaza as the fantastic Wood Fired Pizza, and these two restaurants really do make this plaza boom with foodie activity. I first heard of SoHo Sushi when they became a sponsor for the Japanese Club at USF‘s “A Night in Tokyo” cultural event (a Japanese cultural-themed dinner).

We came during their “Happy Hour” which is from 5:00PM-7:00PM everyday and offers $5-7 special rolls and appetizers as well as 2-4-1 house wine, draft beer, and hot sake. USF students can get 10% off with their student ID making SoHo Sushi North affordable for the college students nearby and for diners who don’t mind having dinner early.

We decided to order two appetizers: their $5 Sunomono (cucumber salad topped with crab, steamed shrimp, octopus, and fined with rice wine vinaigrette) and $6 Geso (Japanese style calamari, flash fried and dressed in ponzu sauce).

The sunomono was excellent and had a very refreshing taste to it. It was a nice start to our meal and whenever we wanted to refresh our taste buds throughout our meal the rice vinaigrette really hit the spot. The shredded crab and shrimp were delicious and although I don’t like cucumbers on my sushi (I feel it detracts from the taste of the fish), I love cucumber on the side with some sauce. There was enough for two people to share so I say $5 is not a bad price for some sunomono.

The geso was quite a change in taste buds from the sunomono we had before it. The calamari was a little rough, but still quite tasty and the ponzu sauce was the best part of this appetizer. We could have dipped almost anything into the sauce and been happy. Although the geso wasn’t my favorite food of the night it was pretty good and I think I would try it again and see if maybe the chef just timed the cooking a little off on the appetizer. $6 is a great price for calamari. It is a nice switch from the usual calamari found in most restaurants and the batter was noticeably less greasy as well.

We decided to order four rolls and went with the K-Town Roll ($6), Lobster Tempura Roll ($6), SoHo Roll ($5), and Tuna Fresh Roll ($7). They came rather quickly and it wasn’t long before we had a pile of food in front of us. The Lobster Tempura Roll (top right) was tasty on the inside, but the outside tasted a little odd…like the tempura didn’t reach the amount of crunch one desires when having a tempura roll. Still definitely worth the price, but a little off what we wanted.

The fish was good in the other rolls, but the mayo was a little off-putting. My friend mentioned that the mayo tasted American and I couldn’t help but agree. The mayo was detracting from the roll and indeed the two rolls that had mayo on them would have been better without it. On the other hand, the rice paper was a refreshing change from your average sushi roll and kept the sushi from becoming too heavy. I also thought the tuna and salmon were both appetizing and my friend commented that the tempura chips were great.

Overall, I would say the sushi at SoHo Sushi North was good, but not the best I have had. They face fierce competition in the area with Tomo Sushi and Joy of Tokyo within a few minutes of driving distance and Tokyo Sushi Japanese Restaurant down on Fowler Avenue. SoHo is really a seller because of the good deals they offer with their Happy Hour and USF 10% student discount that few sushi restaurants will match nearby. With the rough economic times everyone faces today you can’t deny a good deal.

As we were about to close our check we decided we would have some dessert and order their fried ice cream for $6 (pictured below). The ice cream tasted satisfactory (not too sweet and the fried piece on top was a pleasant finish) and was a nice close to our meal.

Soho Sushi on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: SoHo Sushi North

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: USF

Address: 2826 E. Bearss Avenue Tampa, Florida 33613

Phone Number: 813.977.8744

Website: http://www.sohosushinorth.com

Father’s Day at The Columbia in Ybor City

My family decided to spend this Father’s Day at The Columbia in Ybor City. We decided we wanted to surprise my step-father and we succeeded. My step-sister and I arrived around one o’ clock, The Columbia was busy but seemed to be handling the father’s day rush just fine. We were seated about twenty minutes early and the waitress kindly serviced us while we waited for my step-father to arrive. Before he arrived we already had fresh Cuban bread in front of each seat and a fried calamari on the way. The look on his face when his children were in wait was priceless to say the least.

The fried calamari came out quickly and was delicious. The tangy sauce it came with complemented it well and it wasn’t long before the calamari disappeared off the table (hence no photograph). My parents ordered a 1905 salad for the table and it was quite delicious, though I am used to enjoying this salad at regular visits to The Columbia Cafe. I decided to order a George’s Burger for my main course (not available at The Columbia Cafe), remembering a fine taste to it at The Columbia in the St. Petersburg Pier (are you starting to see that my family loves The Columbia now? 😉 ).

The description of a George’s Burger on the menu is “grilled seasoned choice ground beef topped with cheddar cheese, Ruskin tomatoes, lettuce, onions, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard on Cuban bread”, and I had almost all of those except for mustard (I only like mustard on hot dogs and corn dogs). The Cuban bread was a little harder to chew than a regular bun, but the flavor of their fresh Cuban bread was worth it. I also made quite a mess with the ingredients inside. Overall, the burger was great and seasoned well, although I was starting to feel full when I got the first half.  I saved the other half and it was just as delicious when I re-heated it for lunch the next day. The french fries were also tasty and although it looked like a small portion at first glance, I found myself struggling to finish them.

The service was impeccable as The Columbia in Ybor City consistently delivers customer satisfaction on each visit. I always feel a little guilty dining out during a holiday because I sympathize with the employee who is missing their family to earn a little extra cash (especially during these hard times), but our server and her co-workers were friendly and didn’t show any signs of longing to be elsewhere. Until next time Columbia, I’m sure we will meet again.

Columbia Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: The Columbia

Cuisine: Spanish

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 2117 East 7th Avenue Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 248-4961

Website: http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/

Brio Tuscan Grille @ International Plaza Disappoints

My first experience at Brio Tuscan Grille was one of fine excellence. My friend had a birthday dinner and we were all treated like kings. My glass would be refilled before it was even half-empty, my meal came out with great timing, and that waiters were so friendly it almost felt surreal. Impressed with their lobster bisque, I was excited to return to Brio for my aunt’s birthday. Unfortunately, my next visit wasn’t so stellar.

During this visit we sat outdoors and the waiter was less than attentive to our party. When we arrived to meet my aunt, the waiter never asked whether I wanted to order a drink and would slip away before I could ask about a drink. This was tolerable during the first-half of my meal, which was a lobster bisque, but it became considerably irritating when my pasta arrived and I had no drink to wash down my pasta.

The lobster bisque was as amazing as my last visit. I would honestly come to Brio just for their lobster bisque. It is affordable and has that creamy and sweet consistency that makes you love the soup.

The fettuccine alfredo is where the meal really took a dive. My favorite pasta is fettuccine alfredo and this was not a fettuccine alfredo. There was barely any sauce on it and the pasta was tasteless and rough, clearly under-cooked. The waiter barely returned to our table until the end of our meal for me to ask for more alfredo sauce and the main course was pretty much a disaster that could not be saved when the sauce finally did arrive.

I was disappointed in the dip Brio Tuscan Grille took in both food and service during this visit. I am not sure if it was because we ate outdoors, but I would honestly never order another pasta here. Olive Garden and Carrabba’s are far superior as far as chains go and Brio fails to even pack a punch against the amazing fettuccine alfredo at Bella’s Italian Cafe. I hope Brio will go back to having incredible service and food in the future.

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Brio Tuscan Grille

Cuisine: Italian

Address: 2223 Westshore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33607

Neighborhood: Westshore

Phone Number: (813) 877-3939

Website: http://www.brioitalian.com/

Lee House Chinese Restaurant

Lee House Chinese Restaurant has re-opened on Brandon Boulevard after closing off Bloomingdale Avenue in March. I first read about Lee House online and was intrigued at the positive reception. The first thing we noticed upon pulling up to the restaurant was that it smelled great outside the restaurant (a good sign). Once we entered we were seated immediately and given menus and water. The waitress was an older woman who knew the menu well. After much deliberation (the menu is a few pages), we decided to order the Lee House Special (similar to Yummy House’s 3 for 20 deal). We selected Salt & Pepper Calamari, Beef with Broccoli, and Young Chow Fried Rice which came to $21.95 total. Quite a deal when you dine with some friends.

Plenty of warm food came out quickly. The Salt & Pepper Calamari was delicious. My favorite calamari dish now belongs to Roy’s, but this calamari was still quite delectable and was a good stand-in for the calamari at Yummy House (my favorite until recently). The calamari was a little chewy instead of crunchy, but had lots of flavor. I was a little concerned that it had jalapenos on it (I can’t take spicy food), but the jalapenos brought the calamari a great taste. We finished this plate down to the last bite.

The Beef with Broccoli was also fantastic. The sauce was made just right and the beef was tender. I am not much of a vegetable consumer, but my friend loved the veggies on the plate. The Young Chow Fried Rice was a nice complement and wasn’t dry. I am not much of a rice eater, therefore anytime I actually enjoy eating rice, I know I am having a good meal.

The food was enough to fill three guys and I was impressed with Lee House. There are very few good Chinese restaurants in Brandon and dining at Lee House was enjoyable. I really want to try their Dim Sum in the future. From the Dim Sum menu the Deep Fried Taro, Custard Cream Buns, and Juicy Pork Bun caught my eye. Glad this place was able to find a new home in Brandon. I will be back!

Lee House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Lee House Chinese Restaurant

Cuisine: Chinese

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 909 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 661-6888

Website: http://leehousedimsum.com/

The Rack (Brandon)

The Rack has been in Brandon for quite some time now and although I live near it, I haven’t made it a point to stop here…visiting the location in South Tampa more often. Before visiting I grew a little concerned when I read online that The Rack in Brandon was more like the Blue Martini (known by many for being pretentious) and that there was strict dress-code. We were relieved to find out  there wasn’t as strict a dress-code and decided to I visit The Rack earlier tonight and the experience was pretty disappointing.

The main thing The Rack has going for it is that it is perhaps the only late-night sushi spot in Brandon (almost every restaurant in Brandon closes at around 10PM). The Brandon location is larger than the South Tampa location, but loses all the ambiance of the original in favor for a more upscale kind-of-lounge feel (which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing). Unfortunately, it also loses the friendly-atmosphere and employees you find at the SoHo location as well.

We entered around 10PM and the place was only slightly packed. We grabbed a table in the restaurant side and the waitress immediately left a sour taste in our mouths (she didn’t seem to want to be there). My friend signed up for their mobile mailing service and received a text message for a free drink and the waitress almost ignored his inquiries about how much the message was worth. She evaded this until the check was closed and then proclaimed it was too late to do anything about it. The Manager wasn’t much more help and his demeanor was like that of a bouncer, not welcoming and almost confrontational.

Now I can understand there is some confusion when it comes to mobile deals (especially in large franchise chains, such as Chili’s and their Foursquare deal). However, there are only 2 locations of The Rack, therefore I don’t really see how they can make such an issue over a deal they opt to provide customers. Why offer deals if you are going to hassle customers to honor them? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of mobile deals? Indeed, we seemed to be getting treated different because we are younger. The waitress seemed to be hovering over us and honestly if it wasn’t for her and the crappy service and dead crowd, we might have actually had fun and enjoyed our night here.

We ordered a good amount of food and drinks. The $5 Three Olive Bomb special was satisfactory and went down well. I special ordered a Salmon Roll and it ran me about $7.45. The salmon was fresh and the avocado was great as well. The sushi was perhaps the best part of our experience (although it is pricey, at least they make it good). We split a Small Deuce ($10.95), an assortment of appetizers: crab rangoon, coconut shrimp, chicken tender, and fusion rolls. The menu says it can feed 2-3 and I would say it can feed either one hungry person, or two people just snacking. You would really need to upgrade to the next size for 3 or more (add $8). The food came out quick and the best days to come to The Rack are definitely Tuesdays/Thursdays for the $20 all you can eat and drink special (cash only) from 9-11PM or on Wednesdays for their $5 Volcano Rolls. Otherwise, you are better off going to Samurai Sushi for some cheap eats in Riverview.

It costs $8 an hour to play pool and there was a good amount of tables there. You won’t have much of a problem grabbing a table (you sometimes can’t dream of grabbing one in South Tampa because it is really packed).

Overall, I prefer The Rack in Hyde Park to the location Brandon. The Hyde Park location is livelier, the people working and crowd are very friendly and it is the kind of place you can strike up a conversation with anyone. The Hyde Park location occasionally has bumps like any other restaurant, but is usually a good experience. The Brandon location made everyone look disconnected and the lack of people there on a Friday night was pretty surprising. The food lives up to the name and is convenient to Brandon residents, but I would recommend driving out to Hyde Park and visiting The Rack there for the full experience.

Restaurant Name: The Rack

Cuisine: American, Sushi

Address: 1025 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Neighborhood: Brandon

Phone Number: (813) 571-7225

Website: http://www.hittherack.com/

The Rack on Urbanspoon

Tia Cori’s Tacos (Daytona Beach)

My friends I took a trip out to Daytona Beach some time ago to relax and get away from the day to day. When we arrived in town after a 2 1/2 hour trip we were all hungry and I was a little disappointed when I saw nothing but chains and fast food on International Speedway Boulevard (the main road leading to the beach). I took out my phone and used Yelp to find Tia Cori’s Tacos. Yelp reviewers described Tia’s as “affordable”, “authentic”, and ” the best tacos on the East coast”. Being the Mexican food connoisseur that I am, I had to investigate.

Once we parked we found ourselves on a strip of restaurants and shops. The palm trees, blue skies, and ocean breeze certainly created that beach town vibe. We were surprised to find that Tia Cori’s was actually aesthetically pleasing with outdoor seating to the street and plenty of tables and booths inside. The cashier greeted us upon our entry and happily answered any questions we had about the menu. I decided to order their burrito ($7.00) and also a taco made both Mexican and American style ($2.00). I accompanied my order with an horchata ($2.00) with unlimited free refills!

The chips tasted great. They were warm and toasty. The texture can be seen in the photography above. The chips were different from your typical tortilla chips and I actually felt a connection to the chips of Mema’s Alaskan Tacos here. The horchata I had tasted great and wasn’t too milky. The consistency of horchata is important. If the drink is too milky or watery, then it makes your throat close up, but this horchata was made just right.

The burrito was quite large as you can see. I probably would have been satisfied with just the burrito if I wasn’t trying to fully explore the menu during my visit. Well-made, the burrito maintained its structure during my meal.

The burrito was slightly more expensive than the burritos you can buy in Tampa, but to include all the ingredients inside this burrito you would normally pay far more for this kind of burrito. This carne asada burrito included beans and rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and avocado as default ingredients. I did not have to pay 50 cents or $3.00 more to try and add ingredients that should be the standard in a burrito, which is one of my biggest complaints about Mexican food in Tampa Bay. Indeed, if you are given the opportunity to eat burritos in California, many of these ingredients are the standard and I applaud Tia Cori’s Tacos on their inclusion of them.

My taco was great and although some people might mention that I mixed American and Mexican ingredients together, it still created a delicious carne asada taco. The lime added some moisture to the meat and the flavor of the carne asada really came through with the hard shell taco. The flavor of the meat was a little masked in the burrito with all the other ingredients and the taco allowed me to enjoy the meat thoroughly. Everything tasted fresh.

My friend ordered their tamale, which looked very appetizing. I would like to try it on a future visit. My friend was very satisfied with it.

The Mexican style taco includes onions, cilantro & lime and is 50 cents cheaper than the American style which includes lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream.

Their tostada ($3.50) includes a choice of meat  and beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and avocado. Again the inclusion of avocado is something I was quite pleased to see during my visit to Tia Cori’s.

Overall, I was really impressed with Tia Cori’s Tacos and began to wish this place was closer to home. They are open until 10PM on weekdays and 3AM on Friday and Saturday nights and I don’t think any future visit to Daytona Beach would be complete with stopping by here and trying something on the menu. Tia Cori’s Tacos was oddly enough one of the most memorable parts of my trip to Daytona Beach.

Tia Cori's Tacos on Urbanspoon

Restaurant: Tia Cori’s Tacos

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 214 North Beach Street Daytona Beach, FL 32114

Phone Number: (386) 947-4333

Website: http://www.tiacoristacos.com/

La Guaguita – Puerto Rican Cuisine Food Truck

A friend and I went on a ethnic market hunt and just as I started complaining that there are basically no Puerto Rican food spots in Tampa, I turned around and saw a food truck called La Guaguita waving a Puerto Rican flag. My friend and I decided to investigate.

Click the photo for a larger version of the menu.

A quick look at the menu and I saw many favorites such as mofongo (flavored mashed plantains), alcapurrias (a fritter dish), pastelillos (empanadas), tostones rellenos con pulpo (stuffed fried plantains), arroz con gandules y pernil (rice with pigeon peas and roast pork), tostones (fried plantains), and also various sandwiches. All choices were at reasonable prices (~$8 for a full meal, $1 or $2 a la carte), this truck doesn’t over-charge for ethnic food. They also had various refreshments, including my personal favorite: Malta India. Malta has a sweet, refreshing taste to it and is essentially a beer that has not been fermented. Malta India is made in Puerto Rico.

I decided to order their arroz con gandules y pernil or rice with pigeon peas and roast pork ($6.00), which was fantastic! It only took a few minutes to come out and I would say it was as good as a home-cooked meal (sadly my family doesn’t cook much Puerto Rican food these days because they became lazy in recent years). The rice was moist and the peas also had an authentic taste. The pernil (roast park) was also excellent and really hit the desired taste perfectly, the fat was rich with succulence. Normally I only have this dish during the holiday season, so it was nice to enjoy it for an afternoon lunch for a change. It also came with small salad that had plenty of flavoring from some salt and pepper.

A great deal for $6!

The employees were friendly with us and the crowd was welcoming, both helpful in explaining any menu concern we might have. Many people came and went which was a good sign about the food. They accept major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard, so you don’t have to worry about keeping cash on you as well.

I am really happy to have found a Puerto Rican food truck and hope to come back to their empanadas and mofongo in the future :). They also cater if you’re interested in having some Puerto Rican food at your event.

La Guaguita Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: La Guaguita

Neighborhood: Town N Country

Cuisine: Puerto Rican, Spanish

Address: Hillsborough Ave & Sheldon Rd. Tampa, FL 33615

Phone Number: (813) 965-0086

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Guaguita/126037044109027

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