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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #517  (Vol. 11, No. 8)  This edition is for the week of February 15--21, 2010.

"Shutter Island" †by Mike Smith
Inalienable †by ED Tucker
Tokyo Bay Japanese Restaurant Review †by Jason Fetters
Lunchbox .... They Write The Songs .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Tokyo Bay Japanese Restaurant Review

When I first learned that there is an all-you-can eat sushi restaurant in St. Pete, I didnít hesitate to check it out. My fellow sushi fan and I, got into a car and rushed full speed ahead to South St. Pete, an area that I was apprehensive at journeying to at night.

I am always looking for authentic Japanese cooking, which is hard to find in the Tampa Bay area. Warning signs that a Japanese restaurant is fake and only catering to Western tastes are:

  1. The word "steakhouse" anywhere in the restaurant name. The most popular place for this rip off is Arigatoís Japanese Steakhouse on Dale Mabry. Overpriced fried rice with your choice of steak, chicken, or shrimp. If you like this type of cooking stick to Chinese buffets.
  2. The only sushi on the menu is California rolls. Fake sushi invented to appeal to Americans the same way that Tex Mex introduced beef tacos.
  3. A Pan Asian American staff where no Japanese is spoken.
  4. Elegant building with lots of statues and a koi pond somewhere outside. This is designed to sell Orientalism to tourists. The best Japanese restaurants are subdued with nothing fancy on the outside. No gaudy smiling Buddha statues anywhere.
  5. The head chef is from any country except Japan.
  6. No actual Japanese people sitting inside and eating.

When we first got to the strip mall where Tokyo Bay is, I knew that was a good sign because the best Japanese restaurants are usually in strip malls for some reason.

Inside, there was a display of Japanese beer, all manufactured in Canada, as well as, Korean sake and alcohol indicating that Tokyo Bay is probably Korean owned. Not a bad thing but for purists it stands out.

The staff all spoke in English and there were no problems communicating. However, when one of the waitresses spoke to her friend it was either in Thai or Vietnamese. That really is not a big deal and does not take away from the quality of the food since authentic restaurants like Jotoís hire Thais, Vietnamese, and Spanish workers; the probably is when the chef isnít Japanese.

The good news is the sushi is all-you-can-eat for $20. The bad news is most of the more popular sushi rolls are not included on the special all-you-can-eat menu that you have to order from.

I ordered a made-in-Canada, watered down Asahi Super Dry beer and picked three rolls to start with. When ordering from the special menu you have to order three rolls (about 6 pieces) and then you get one order that you have to finish before you can order again. I got the Golden Roll, the Spicy Salmon, and the Spicy White Tuna.

The spicy tuna and salmon are standard sushi rolls that were OK. I asked for a small dish so I could pour in light soy sauce and mix a little wasabi into it for dipping. Nothing special about the tuna and salmon that I havenít had before.

The Golden Roll was actually good. Not as good as any sushi I had in Osaka but for St. Pete the Golden Roll wasnít bad at all. The Golden Roll had white tuna, salmon, and some vegetables with yellow roe coating on top of the rice. It regularly sells for $7.20, which is so expensive.

The crowd was all upper middle class to upper class types with college students from nearby Eckerd college thrown in. Tokyo Bay is next to a Yacht Club so that is really not surprising.

I noticed the table next to me was all young college kids ordering nice safe choices like the fried chicken sushi roll. I made a joke to my friend that you could get that at any Kentucky Fried Chicken. A lot of people there pretended to be true sushi connoisseurs who stuck to cooked fish and crab and didnít venture into something real like raw eel or baby octopus. I have had baby octopus and it definitely separates the true sushi lover from the California roll crowd. The baby octopus is a whole small octopus with the head and tentacles still attached as if you just picked it up out of someoneís aquarium. The only thing missing is the eyes. The chef squeezes the hood to pop the eyes out. You are getting a whole octopus. The trick is to down it all in one bite. It is bad form to have a tentacle popping out of your mouth.

Overall I didnít hate Tokyo Bay. The service was good and the Golden Roll was excellent. The other sushi was standard and overpriced and the sushi selections for all-you-can-eat were limited compared to the main menu. The rest of the items on the menu were also overpriced. If you want real Japanese cooking in Tampa, that is light on the wallet and will still fill you up, check out Kaisen Sushi on Dale Mabry in Carrollwood and Kobaís in Palm Harbor.

Tokyo Bay is an OK restaurant to take a date or a few friends too. If I took my Japanese friends, they would look at me like I was smoking crack. Not the place to take a Japanese date to at all.

I probably wonít go back only because St. Pete Beach is so far and better places are closer to home.

Service -- 3
Food -- 2.5 (very overpriced for what you get.)

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. †Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. †All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.