Situated a few chopsticks’ length away from a nearby beach, Sushi Shoya serves Japanese fare and sushi amid ocean breezes. Inside, foliage spills from wicker baskets lining the doorway, echoing the pale green walls that envelop the eating environment in a natural tone. Guests can settle into black leather chairs at a table or sidle up to the sushi bar, where chefs slip fresh fish such as salmon, tuna, and spicy yellowtail into a variety of specialty rolls. Unlike their more secretive maki counterparts, nigiri sushi pieces covered with eel, surf clam, and smelt roe let it all hang out, much like clotheslines on vacation.
Restaurateur Bob Spoto’s culinary clubhouse, open only for dinner, procures the warmth of Chicago's neighborhood joints with a menu of steak, seafood, and wine. Enter through an archway smattered with neon blue lights and share starters of calamari bruzzi ($9.90) ornamented with pepperoncini relish, sundried tomato aioli, and several layers of holiday lights. In the back kitchens, chefs cleave robust cuts of certified Angus beef porterhouse ($27.90) and baste it in a buttery robe of maitre d’ butter before tucking onto a king-size plate. Those averse to dunking their heads in gulf shores to catch a fresh meal may instead order from Spoto’s Grill 131’s seafood selections, choosing from regional favorites such as black Florida grouper picatta, ($21.90) or classic broiled lobster tails ($34.90 for twin tails/$23.90 for single tail). When finished, cozy up in a moody booth as the attentive wait staff fills flutes with Santa Margherita champagne ($35/bottle).
As you get ready to play palate-poker with Boulevard Bistro's menu, ante-up with an appetizer of one dozen of the steamed mussels, which are simmered in a chipotle cream sauce ($8.25), or the bistro's famous lavash and bean dip ($2) with crispy flatbread. From there, circumvent light appetites with a BLT pizza ($8.95), topped with applewood-smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes, and spring greens atop garlic ginger aioli, or plow directly into hunger with a mighty bistro French dip ($8.95)—slow-roasted sirloin shaved and stuffed into an asiago ciabatta bun served au jus and with a choice of spicy potato hash, french fries, coleslaw, or smoky chipotle baked beans. The wild mushroom steak Diane ($22.95) comes accompanied by parsley garlic potatoes and a bistro or Caesar salad and will find a leggy, sensual tango partner in the Wild Horse cabernet sauvignon ($9.50 glass/$38 bottle) from Boulevard Bistro's extensive wine list. Finally, give your carnivorous comedy an appropriately happy Hollywood ending with a dessert of iced lemon pound cake ($3.95) or homemade chocolate fudge brownie ($4.95).
The delicate subtlety of Fuji Yama Sushi & Thai Cuisine's exotic selection of sushi rolls, nigiri, and sashimi serve as a cool yin to the yang of a hearty selection of flavorful Thai fare. Immerse tongues in a full-fledged savory saturnalia of entrees, such as the curry duck, whose crispy exterior and curry kimono flank veggies and jasmine rice ($18.95), or the whole red snapper topped in chili sauce, peppers, and onions ($24.95). The eatery's sushi menu houses more than 50 specialty rolls created by skilled uncooks, including the Sexy Man roll, a savory medley of tuna and avocado topped with tempura eel, roe, and sexy-man sauce ($12.95), and the massive King Kong roll, which contains more sea creatures than Poseidon's guest house ($16.95). All sushi comes with a choice of a seaweed-, rice-, or soy-paper exoskeleton, and the adventurous nigri selection showcases such options as quail egg ($1.25/two pieces) and conch ($4.75/two pieces).
Although evening has come for the balmy Gulf Coast waters, a three-story ocean vessel glows with all the radiance of daylight as it slices through the open seas. An evening breeze washes over the deck and onto the faces of the passengers aboard Trade Winds Cruise Lines’s 200-foot-long ship. Inside, passengers partake in Las Vegas–style casino games late into the evening.
During each five-hour midday or nighttime cruise, dealers at blackjack and poker tables shuffle cards with a magician's dexterity, and an orchestra of ringing slot machines and tumbling coins add a jolly backup track to guests’ buffet-conquering victory dances. In the dining room, stately lunches and dinners come in buffet form, sating tummies growling from hours of luck testing, and bartenders whip up sumptuous drinks to keep throats hydrated.