The intersection of Webber Street and Beneva has turned into a popular foodie destination that many people in the Southgate area have been hoping for. With Mexican, Italian, Argentinian, Colombian, Peruvian, fresh seafood and even good ol’ American hot dogs and burgers, the only popular cuisine that seemed to be missing was Asian . . . but not anymore!
Bushido Izayaki opened several months ago and your SarasotaFoodies have heard nothing but positive reviews of the food, the service, and the atmosphere. Having lived in the area ourselves, we had to discover why this small sushi/Japanese restaurant was catching so much attention!
The first thing we noticed is the decor. Now I know you can’t “eat atmosphere” as one reader reminded us on Facebook, but it certainly is important, at least to this girl! Bushido’s interior has that upscale, modern appeal that belongs on Main Street. Clean lines, black walls and ceilings, spotless, polished concrete floors, chrome trimmed tables with sleek modern seating and Japanese linen panels hanging between each table let you know you’ve entered a purely Japanese environment. Mart’s head was on a swivel, checking out the minimalistic artwork, which included two very impressive Samurai warrior’s armor near the front entrance. (Ok . . . so these aren’t exactly minimalist!)
Bushido means “way of the warrior,” the code the Samurai live by. I originally found it odd that Chef Jon Woo would use a warrior’s code as the inspiration for his restaurant until Chef explained that the code places emphasis on loyalty, self-sacrifice, justice, and a sense of purity, frugality, honor, and affection . . . all the attributes a restauranteur will need to build a successful restaurant. Chef Woo worked two years on the concept, working on the menu, plating and presentations until they all melded into the Bushido Izayaki that opened three months ago. This attention to detail must certainly be the reason that Sarasota Magazine, Suncoast View and the Herald Tribune have all visited Bushido, with nothing but praise for Chef Woo and his team.
We took our seats, ordered a hot sake to share and mulled over the menu. While we were there during the dinner hour, I noticed several great lunch specials on the Bushido menu. (This blog posts a link to their website, just above the map. Click on it to preview their menu.) The selection at Bushido includes appetizer, tempura, teriyaki, soups, sushi, sashimi and everything you’d expect on a Japenese menu except hibachi. Ok by me! I’m in the mood for sushi, as is Mart, so we ordered a Tasty Roll and one of the vegetarian rolls, the Shiitake Mushroom Roll.
Let me first expound upon the Tasty Roll. It is, in fact, so delicious it deserves the #Can’tStopEating hashtag. For only $9, this Tasty Roll offered tuna mixed with spicy mayo, ocean seaweed, tempura flakes and topped with caviar and scallions . . . all rolled up in a thin layer of rice. I really appreciated the balance of rice to sushi on this roll. There was just enough rice to hold the Tasty Roll together while allowing the sushi flavors to shine. (So much better than those sushi rolls that are more rice than fish!) Packed with flavor, the Tasty Roll is definitely worth the price and the name!
The big surprise of the entire meal, at least for me, was the Shiitake Mushroom Roll. I’ve had a fair share of sushi over the years, including veggie sushi, and I’ve never experienced a more earthy flavor than I have with Bushido’s Shiitake Mushroom Roll. Even though I knew to expect the flavor of shitake mushrooms, taking a bite of what appears to be tuna sushi, and getting that burst of mushroom flavor . . . well, it was exceptional. I would certainly recommend Bushido Izayaki to anyone dining out with a vegan or vegetarian. There are a lot of choices on the menu that will please them, the Shiitake Mushroom Roll being just one of them. Note to self: Shiitake and seaweed marry well together!
The freshness of the sushi, by this point, was notable. I took a stroll down to the sushi bar to watch our next dishes being made and noticed a “little something different” in the sushi case. The sushi itself is wrapped and enclosed in a case that keeps the temperature just above freezing, so the fish stays fresh while waiting to be sliced and crafted into the edible artform that sushi so often ends up to be. Chef Woo explained that the refrigerant itself is a natural product, something he gets through Turbo Air Company. “We are the only sushi restaurant in the area with this equipment,” Chef said. “I just love it!” (So will you!)
We turned to the Bushido menu for two of their signature rolls, the first being the Million Dollar Roll. This roll featured spicy salmon and smoked salmon inside, with tempura flakes and sliced avocado on top. More importantly, there was minimal rice holding it all together. Again, we came for the sushi itself, and that’s what we got. The salmon was melt-in-your-mouth fresh, with Bushido’s special Ahi Soy Dressing rounding out the million dollar flavor. Like many of the rolls at Bushido, you won’t need to dip your roll into soy sauce. Chef Woo dresses each roll with a sauce meant to enhance that particular roll, so dip if you must . . . but do so at your own peril. These rolls are served exactly as they should be eaten.
Speaking of how the rolls are served, Bushido Izayaki offers some of the more unique platings you’ll find in the Sarasota area. Chef Woo is from Malaysia, raised in Brooklynn, and learned to make sushi in the big city. The need to stand out in a metropolitan crowd is always more important in a large market where there is a lot of competition. Yet, even though SRQ is a small city, there are enough sushi restaurants around that Bushido’s plating does, indeed, catch your imagination.
For example, look at the plating of the One Night Stand Roll . . . Not only is the sushi roll poised in a nice curve on the plate, but there is an ornamental tree on the plate as well as a glowing light under the radish garnish. I had mentioned to Mart earlier that Bushido Izayaki would be a nice place to take a date. I can just hear the conversation at the table . . . “I asked the Chef to come up with something special, just for you!” and then THIS dish arrives! You’ll look like a rock star! (Funny enough, Chef Woo told us the One Night Stand specialty roll was created in honor of Valentine’s Day!)
The One Night Stand Roll is one of a number of sushi rolls served without rice. Fresh tuna and salmon are the featured seafood, wrapped with Spicy Yellow Tail, seaweed, and tempura flakes, and an interior of diced avocado and cilantro, all dressed with a special wasabi sauce and topped with crunchy and colorful slivered beets. Again, no dipping was needed, and the roll was fresh, delicious and filling. We enjoyed our meal before the sun had set, so I can only imagine how dramatic this dish is when laid before diners after dusk with that glowing light below the tree!
I’m happy that the intersection of Beneva and Webber is turning into the International Intersection of Sarasota . . . at least where dining out is considered. And in that celebration of culinary diversity, I came away from our meal at Bushido Izayaki Japenese Restaurant with one thought in mind. I really feel that Chef Woo should change his name to Chef WOW! Drop by soon and let us know if you agree!