Experience Sarasota: Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill

Experience Sarasota: Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill

Amid the plethora of sushi bars situated in Sarasota, Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill offers a menu that can easily lay claim to be one of SRQ’s most eclectic and daring.

Amid the plethora of sushi bars situated in Sarasota, Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill offers a menu that can easily lay claim to be one of SRQ’s most eclectic and daring.

Run by co-owners Sam Ray and Jeffery Karasawa (who claims the restaurant’s kitchen is a “sushi laboratory” thanks to the efforts of executive chef, Allan Yu), customers can confidently experiment with the restaurant’s full court press menu of fulfillment.

But it’s been a struggle for both entrepreneurs. They embraced a failing restaurant, but refused to succumb to the inevitable doubts.

“We took over Tsunami Sushi in late 2013", said Karasawa. “It’s the same name, but everything else has changed since then.”

“The restaurant needed help,” said Ray. “The former owners were having a lot of trouble. They asked us for some help to save the business. We did everything we could and we feel we’ve succeeded, but we essentially knew nothing about the city we were about to become a part of.”

But in the blink of an unwrapped chop stick set, it was apparent that Sarasota’s raw-fish rookies and those who think they’ve tasted everything a fish-filled roll can offer had to rearrange their conceptions about this sushi restaurant that now promises a taste bud tango.

“It’s like having a party here and everyone comes along,” said Ray. “This restaurant is fun.”

But the journey for Ray and Karasawa to Sarasota’s Center Avenue has been a mixture of fate and umm… fate.

In 2011 Karasawa was working at his uncle’s eatery, Kobe’s Steakhouse, in Austin, TX.

“He needed help,” said Karasawa. “So after I graduated from USF I moved to Texas to work there. But I always wanted to return to Florida because I’m more familiar with people in this state.”

And if there was ever a meeting of minds, it would be when Ray walked into Kobe’s that summer simply looking to have a quiet drink – on his 21st birthday.

“I was a student studying art at Texas State but I was bored with the course. I walked into the restaurant and Jeffrey asked me if I needed a job.”

It was unexpected, Ray admits, but it was summer and he needed to make money, so he agreed.   

And there began a partnership based on a desire to avoid a recipe for disaster.

“I was asked to try and make a success of Tsunami Sushi by my uncle,” said Jeffrey. “It was failing and he felt I could make a success of it.”

As for Sam, who had already impressed Karasawa with his managerial skills, he too was soon Sarasota bound.

“To arrive here from Texas was difficult at first,” Ray said. “I came here to work, to save the restaurant, but the hardest part initially of working in Tsumani Sushi was that every culinary technique I had learned in Austin didn’t work here because we worked in a college town where beer was cheap and the sushi rolls were $5.

“It was a horrible. Jeffrey and I were trying everything to fit into the community, but it took us a long time to understand Sarasota.”

But they succeeded and more.

Pair the Lychee-tini (a Stolichnaya-soaked concoction) with a Spicy Kani Tower, or Honey-Glazed Salmon or a soothing Summertime Ceviche and you may not want to leave the gracious company of Karasawa and Ray.

Having settled into a steady flow of customers with Ray stating the restaurant has grown by 200% since he and Karasawa took up the reigns, their success is no more complex than listening to those who are the most important to success: the customers.

“Our customer base is growing,” explained Karasawa. “When I arrived here I was serving tables and I would ask customers what they were really looking for from a sushi restaurant. Each table was very important; I would spend a lot of time talking to customers about what they like to eat, what do they expect?

“We didn’t change the menu too much back then, but we weren’t afraid to throw out recipes that weren’t to our satisfaction.”

Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill
100 Central Avenue #1022
942 366-1033


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