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

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Joy of Tokyo

Joy of Tokyo is a new restaurant in New Tampa by the University of South Florida. I dined there by a twist of fate when a friend and I found Soho Sushi closed at 2PM. We found Joy of Tokyo to be open for lunch still (they are open from 11am-10pm daily…you won’t find many sushi restaurants with hours like that). There were a few tables being waited on, but we were quickly acknowledged and allowed to pick our seat. The restaurant has a modern feel with plenty of decorations and it’s spacious so you don’t feel crammed next to other people dining there.

What a cool little crab.

My friend and I were hungry and found ourselves in luck. Joy of Tokyo has a $6.99 lunch special where you an order Chicken, Shrimp, or Steak in Teriyaki, Hibachi, or Tempura Style (they also have tempura vegetables). Normally this can cost well over $15, talk about a deal. Even their Dinner prices are under $12. My friend and I decided to share hibachi steak and noodles. We also ordered another special, Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables.

Gazing at the sushi menu at Joy of Tokyo we saw two sushi specials, 2 basic rolls for $8 or 3 for $10. Why not we said? So we ordered a Yellowtail Scallion Roll, California Roll, and Salmon Avocado Roll. My friend also had an Unagi nigiri. The orders were put in promptly and we quickly received our food.

The noodles tasted great, perhaps the most flavorful hibachi noodles I have had (normally at a Japanese steakhouse you have to add some kind of sauce to make it have some flavor) in Tampa Bay. My friend said they reminded her of drunk noodles. There was plenty of steak and it was cooked all the way, but still juicy. We could have probably been filled with just this plate, but there was more to come…

The sushi rolls were a little smaller then some restaurants, but still a good size for the price. The rolls were very fresh, I have to say that I enjoyed every bite of them without needing to dip them in any soy sauce. Some people argue that California Rolls taste the same everywhere, but there really is a difference in the quality of the rice, seaweed, and crab inside. The same rule applies to salmon, I am a bit of a salmon nazi…if my salmon is not fresh I instantly can tell and this salmon was fantastic. They weren’t cheap with the avocado either, there was balance in the roll. I was impressed because I originally thought that this restaurant was more of a Japanese steakhouse, but they did a great job with their sushi as well.

My friend’s unagi nigiri looked quite appetizing as well.

The tempura was also impressive. It has to be one of the best tempuras I have had in Tampa Bay. The batter wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily inside. The shrimp tempura was crunchy and somewhat similar to the excellent tempura I have enjoyed in the past at I Ai Sushi (who I consider to be the Tampa King of Japanese authentic cuisine). The Tempura sauce was good, but a little bit messy to dip in (I’d put a napkin under it next time).

Brown rice came with my friend’s tempura. I will admit I am not much of a rice consumer so my friend ate it. She enjoyed it.

Overall, I found myself to be very pleased with Joy of Tokyo. The food and serve was on point and after my meal, I conversed with the owner who was very friendly and personable. She told me that they came all the way from Ohio down her to Tampa to setup business. With Joy of Tokyo being a short drive from USF (pro tip: take the shortcut on 42nd street), it is an easy draw in for college students and employees/residents in New Tampa and Temple Terrace. The hours are friendly to people who can’t make the typical 12 to 2 lunch openings at other sushi restaurants and the deals are attractive to the wallet in this economic climate. They also have free Wi-Fi (great for iPod Touch users like me and businessmen). I’ll be back soon!


Joy of Tokyo Sushi & Grille on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Joy of Tokyo

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 14913 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, FL 33613

Phone Number: 813-978-8222

Neighborhood: USF

Website: http://joyoftokyo-newtampa.com/

Dinner @ I Ai Sushi

My Japanese friend from Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Hiroki-san, and I went to dinner a few weeks back at I Ai Sushi. I wanted to take him somewhere where he could look at a Japanese menu and maybe have something a little closer to home for an affordable price. No other place but I Ai Sushi came to my mind.

I was a little apprehensive because sometimes service there is lackluster, but service was actually pretty good during this visit with no complaints that I can think of at all. There weren’t many people since we came on a weeknight as well so our food came quickly.


Hiroki-san, the special guest in this review.

Miso Soup
Full of plenty of ingredients, a hearty miso soup ($2).

The first thing we ordered that came out was the Kaki Fry ($4.50). Great quality as always…Hiroki-san accidentally put it into his mouth when it came out hot and when the juices inside came out he burned himself pretty bad. >_> However, the Kaki Fry was excellent and had great texture and flavor as usual.

Tempura-Don
Hiroki’s tempura-don looked appetizing. I’d like to try it on future visits. Hiroki noted that in Japan many of the vegetables that were made into tempura in his batch were not common to have put into tempura.

Sushi!

I ordered two sushi rolls. Their Alaskan Roll ($4.25), pictured on the top, was phenomenal, their Salmon is always really fresh and just hits the spot. The price is good for that roll as well, which can sometimes climb over $5.50 at some restaurants. I was feeling experimental and gave the ❤ Ai Ai Roll ($5), pictured on the bottom, a shot and boy was I glad I did! It tasted great, really fresh and flavorful. It contains crab, shrimp, mayo, and roe…a nice combo indeed.

2 Thumbs Up
Hiroki-san gave I Ai Sushi two thumbs up and I couldn’t agree more.

I Ai Sushi on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: I Ai Sushi
Address: 3691 W Waters Ave Tampa, FL 33614
Phone Number: (813) 932-1111
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30 am -10 pm