The moon hung low by the windows, and he could not sleep. An idea had arrived in the man's mind like a midnight caller, rapping on the glass and driving out all chance of rest. He lurched out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen, his arm knocking a bowl of blood oranges off the counter, sending them skittering across the floor.
His mind was fixed on a singular shape, an edgeless figure of circles sliding within circles. Unprompted, his eyes began finding the maddening pattern in the grain of the wood planks underfoot, the folds of the curtains over his sink, and even the whorls on the ends of his own fingers. The man seized a knife, not with any violent intention—as the charlatans at the university had suggested!—but rather in his frenzy to bring the shape into reality with the crude matter in his kitchen. But even as he vivisected a sweet potato on a counter slick with clotted tempura sauce and clumps of rice, he despaired of creating it himself. His fingers crawled up his face, finding a mask of stark horror that no mirror had ever showed him.
He rushed out the front door. The idea was a hook that had sunk into his brain, and now it reeled him through the moonlit streets of Jacksonville—the line going slack as he crossed Sans Pareil Street, pulling taut over Beach Boulevard—until he stood on Kernan again. Of course he would find himself back on Kernan, the site of the accident years ago! But the doctors had told him never to think of that.
His bare feet slapped the concrete as he crossed the empty parking lot, certain now that he would find answers inside Ginza Japanese Cuisine. He stood before its doors for a moment before they opened with a whisper. Silent figures stood by the entry, ushering him to a table deep inside. On it there were piled, in stacks and mounds, pygmy cylinders made in that singular shape that had blotted out all other thoughts. His tongue was loose in his mouth as he approached the table.
A change in the air told him that the attendants had moved in noiselessly behind him. He turned. And as he stared into the smiling faces around him, he saw nothing but understanding in their eyes.
Behind Matsuya Sushi & Grill's sparkling L-shaped sushi counter, succulent fillets of tuna, salmon, and white fish succumb to chefs' keen knives before joining rice in bite-sized nigiri or tempting rolls. Collective gasps of admiration—usually reserved for the unveiling of a child’s macaroni self-portrait—leap from the lips of patrons as a chef taps and tosses shrimp, chicken, filet mignon, and lobster on the hibachi grill. Dressed in traditional Japanese robes and hats, waiters ferry plates decorated with carrot roses and artful splashes of sauce across the dining room, where screens and blond woods cultivate a peaceful atmosphere. Chefs reveal their sushi secrets every Sunday, bestowing their knowledge upon students during four-hour all-you-can-eat sushi-making classes.
Simple Asian décor, wood-paneled walls and dark cherry tables pepper Thai Orchid Restaurant on Jacksonville’s south side. Overstuffed green leather booths and Asian-inspired wall art complete the vibe inside this casual eatery located next to a Publix in a one-story strip mall, where Thai favorites like papaya salad, pad Thai, and mango sticky rice emerge frequently from the diminutive kitchen. Thai Orchid Restaurant offers large portions of traditional Thai favorites, including a few unexpected twists, like a pineapple curry with chicken. Otherwise, laid-back eaters looking for an inexpensive Thai meal stick to the Panang or excelled Thai iced teas. There’s not much to make you want to linger once the meal is over, unless you count the unfalteringly nice waitstaff. If you live close enough, you may even just opt for takeout instead.
East Coast Sushi Buffet encourages diversified dining with its buffet-style Asian menu of cuisine hailing from Japan, China, and America. East Coast's expert chefs craft more than 150 freshly made gob-stopping dishes daily, including entrees, sides, and desserts. Feel free to hoist chopsticks to transport the avocado sushi roll or use them as crutches for the crab legs ($3.99 extra). Impressionistic gardeners can concoct leafy artworks at the salad bar, and patriotic patrons can commemorate the discovery of the Northwest Passage by sticking a fork in the New York strip, its luscious protein prepared to order at the hibachi grill. Meanwhile, sips from soft drinks, wine, and beer can complement each bite, and postmeal indulgences, such as the apple pie, chocolate cake, and mini éclairs, prove that there's always room for dessert and cross-cultural pastry integration.
The chefs at Sushi House treat each plate as a canvas, surrounding artfully assembled orders of sushi with intricately carved garnishes and vivid streaks of sauce. Despite the aesthetic appeal of a perfectly composed dish, guests still devour any of the 90 maki from the menu. Familiar cylinders of rice-swaddled cucumber and avocado appear along with a few more adventurous rolls that incorporate premium ingredients, such as tempura lobster, spicy honey sauce, or julienned college diplomas. The cooks also make use of their kitchen's stovetops to whip up teriyaki chicken, tempura vegetables, and hibachi-style steak.
Sake House on Jacksonville’s south side is located inside The St. Johns Town Center Shopping mall. The fish is fresh and the sushi rolls and plate presentations are a work of art, while Hibachi-style dining is also available. Sushi is accompanied by a colorful rain forest of fresh vegetables, with a few drizzles of soy sauce in a mound on the side. Intrepid drinkers should opt for the sake bomb, which for the uninitiated is a shot of sake dropped into a glass of beer. You’ll earn cheers from the crowd scattered throughout the dining room, where warm wood floors, black tables and Japanese touches give off a decidedly friendly feel. The granite sushi bar is a fun spot to hang out and watch the sushi chefs work their magic.