In the ever expanding and ubiquitous world of Japanese eateries, once in a while you come across one that leaves me slack-jawed and and craving more.
A visit to Jpan, tucked back on the north side of Paradise Plaza Shopping Center on the corner of Bee Ridge Road and Tamiami Trail, is exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve heard it was a great place for sushi, but how could all our Foodie friends have let me miss eating there for so long?
From the street Jpan looks like most restaurants you’ll find in a suburban shopping center. But don’t be fooled. The exterior is like a plain brown wrapper on an exotic travel book. Once you open the door you’ll find the decor is about as ultra cool as it gets, with an urban vibe that’ll transport you far from this unassuming storefront to trendy South Beach or Cali. But while that’s a pleasant surprise, the real reason to eat at Jpan is the food. Sushi is the real deal here.
For those who are still warming up to the idea of eating raw fish, the menu at Jpan offers all the traditional rolls you could ask for, like the Dynamite Roll, California Roll and Dragon Roll . . . the tasty morsels most of us were first introduced to when we first fell in love with sushi. I feel comfortable recommending these introductory rolls to anyone, but Jill and I are going to be a little more adventurous. After all, we’ve both been sushi hounds for over 30 years, each!
So, with the idea of an epicurean adventure in front of us, we start with cocktails. A cold Kirin or Sapporo beer is always a good bet, but I’m more inclined to order an exotic Sake-Tini. How about a Fuji Appletini, or a Lorin Lycheetini sound? Yeah, I thought so too.
And while the flavors of my favorite starter in town may not be considered exotic, the preparation is, meaning I will never, positively never go to Jpan without ordering the Ishiyaki Kobe Beef appetizer. Imagine, mouth-watering Kobe beef that arrives thinly sliced and uncooked on your table, along with a piping hot stone that you cook the Kobe on to whatever temperature you like. It’s accompanied with a Korean green onion salad and rice. Believe me, this starter is downright fun and a great conversation starter! (Keep that in mind if you’re planning a first date.)
Bypassing the traditional rolls, we dive into Jpan’s Lo Carb Rolls, which skip the standard rice for seaweed rolled in rice paper. We both enjoyed the Jap Wrap Roll – shrimp, kanikama, asparagus, cucumber, lettuce and cilantro, and consider the Amazon Roll to be a good bet as well. Losing the rice allows the other ingredients to shine. Yum!
From there we move on to favorites from Jpan’s Specialty Roll selection. Everything here is expertly prepared, and beautifully presented. We both go nuts when sushi is prepared with unexpected flavors, like the Aloha roll; shrimp tempura and cream cheese topped with mango and coconut. I’m a big fan of the Red Dragon Roll with spicy tuna, kani, scallops, cucumber topped with red Tobiko while Jill thinks the show-stopper is the Tropical Roll. And I have to admit, it’s a flavor combination I’ve never had before. This amazing creation features banana tempura and salmon, topped with avocado and passion fruit sauce.
As always, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and we leave Jpan stuffed and happy. Dieting, tonight, has less to do with the choices than it has to our decision to keep eating long after we were full. But it’s as I’ve always said “why walk, when you can roll?”