People keep talking about Yume Sushi. Back in 2009, The Herald Tribune noted the restaurant's "loyal following," and they lauded its sushi for being "consistently excellent." That was high praise, especially considering the restaurant's sushi menu has more than 80 choices for rolls and sashimi—from a tuna-lover roll to the ever-popular lobster roll. The positive reviews weren't a fleeting occurrence, which meant the restaurant would have to hire more tiny captains to pilot its sushi boats. In 2013, Yume was voted one of the best sushi restaurants by Sarasota Magazine, and it took top prize for "Best Local Sushi Sarasota" during The Herald Tribune's Readers' Choice competition in 2014.
The sushi bar has certainly earned its prominent place along a blue-tinted wall within Yume Sushi's dining room. But away from this casual space lies the other side to Yume Sushi's culinary coin. In the kitchen, chefs stir-fry pork loin with fresh ginger and brew tempura udon soup with thick noodles. A selection of hot and cold sakes completes the Japanese dining experience.
Tokyo Bay Mang Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse spans a spectrum of cooking ideologies, simultaneously folding fresh, raw fish into sushi rolls, searing hibachi items in a scorching blaze, and rounding out the menu with pan-Asian entrees and Thai dishes. Chefs fire up three front-and-center teppanyaki tables, where flaming plumes obscure steak, shrimp, and scallops. The King lobster sushi roll sports dual tempura and fried lobster tails swept up in the flavors of faux crab, asparagus, avocado, and eel sauce. Basil sprinkles thai curries and piping-hot seafood, served behind a façade that mimics the tiered roofs in Thailand that protect possessions from pad thai monsoons.
A combination of savory, sweet, and spicy aromas greets diners when they enter The Queen and I Restaurant, serving as an aromatic prelude to the menu's extensive selection of fragrantly seasoned cuisine. The cooks can stir-fry chicken, pork, or scallops and moonlight-ripened vegetables in a number of sauces, imbuing their entrees with flavors of ginger, basil, or fiery chili paste.
Featuring taupe-hued walls and white tablecloths, the dining room has walls with framed artwork and a painted mural of Thai statues that lend a more authentic trans-Pacific feel than a flipbook made entirely of travel brochures.
At Thai Sweet Basil, chefs shun frozen produce and MSG, instead championing fresh, all-natural ingredients for their menu of traditional Thai cuisine. They simmer five varieties of curries, serving them with fragrant mounds of jasmine rice, and fry up classic noodle dishes, such as pad thai and sweet-basil fried rice. They also plate delicacies such as soft-shell crab with green curry and snapper marinated in tamarind. All the recipes and cooking techniques that they use were developed over the centuries in the Thai royal palace. Servers weave between sunny walls and maroon booths bordering a dining room speckled with emerald fronds, exotic artwork, and linens as white and untarnished as a snowman's criminal record.
Thai cuisine doesn't favor any one portion of the tongue. By drawing on a full range of herbs and spices it strives to activate all five of the palate's taste senses in every meal. The result: colorful dishes such as tom yum goong, a spicy sour soup prepared with chili and lemongrass, and phad se-ew, a sweet and savory rice dish with a choice of meat glazed in soy sauce. Thai Thani, which is celebrating its 10th year in Tampa, embraces this wholeheartedly and adds its own creations to the Thai canon. The house specialty Thai Thani angel wings, for instance, stuff boneless chicken with pork, water chestnuts, clear noodles, mushrooms, and garlic.
The restaurant doesn't only embrace Thai culinary philosophy, either. It also transports its diners to a little slice of Thailand by filling its dining room with imported antiques and statues, hand-carved tables and tropical plants, and stamping the passport of everyone who enters.
As diners enter Joto Thai-Sushi, their attention is drawn to the newly redecorated, amber-toned dining room. In the kitchen, chefs cut, roll, and transform fresh fish into more than 50 kinds of sashimi and maki, such as the spider roll—packed with deep-fried soft-shell crab—and the fried-fish Tampa roll, appeal to sushi-eaters not ready to go raw, while more traditional options, such as fresh salmon or sweet-shrimp sashimi, slake cravings for fish in its purest form. Groups can order an assortment of rolls and sashimi, typically served on a large wooden boat for the table to share, or settle into a table and enjoy fresh-grilled salmon teriyaki, shrimp tempura, or udon soup. In addition to the sushi and Japanese offerings, diners can also enjoy expertly prepared Thai classics such as Pad Thai and a variety of Thai curries. For dessert, the chefs perform the seemingly impossible and deep-fry ice cream.