Monday, May 11, 2009

Eating Orlando Road Trip: Daytona’s Sapporo Japanese Steak House Review

I’ve been addicted to sushi most of my adult life. There’s just something appealing to me about popping a roll into your mouth and consuming an entire little meal of fish, rice and veggies all in one bite.

The experience, too, of dining at a sushi bar is unique and wonderful in its own way. There’s a little bit of theater involved, a bit of culture, and there’s a bit of a learning curve for the uninitiated.

One of my favorite things to do is to introduce a person to sushi. It’s fun to watch them use chopsticks for the first time and frown at eating raw fish. You know it’s an experience they will never forget. Kind of like sex, everyone remembers their first experience with sushi.

But after a while, sushi can become old hat. You eat at a couple of sushi bars around town and you pick a favorite. That favorite becomes your go-to sushi spot. Mine is Ichiban in downtown Orlando.

Recently, however, on a weekend visit to Daytona Beach, I broke out of my normal sushi routine and dined at a sushi bar with a unique twist, a gimmick if you will.

Sapporo Japanese Steak House is located on Seabreeze Boulevard, just a few blocks from the beach. It features a teppanyaki room on one side of the restaurant and a traditional dining room and sushi bar on the other. My guest and I chose the sushi bar and delighted in the way sushi was served there.

Sit down at the u-shaped bar, and before you is a little running river with Japanese-style boats floating by. On each little bamboo boat is a colored plate with a sushi roll, or other item. Each dish is covered with a clear, plastic dome. A sliver of paper placed on the plate identifies the item. The boats move swiftly, so reach quickly, and select a plate with an item you like.

It’s a fun experience to watch the boats stream by. It’s fun to see which items are popular and which items come back around again and again. Quite a few children were eating sushi, a site not normally seen, and they seemed to love the boats and the whole experience.

What I loved about it was the fact that as soon as you sit down, you can start eating. No going over the list and marking your items. No waiting for your order to cue with the chefs. No flagging down the waitress. Just grab a plate and start eating off the floating buffet.

In the middle of the bar, sushi chefs slice and dice your meal as in a normal bar, and place the dishes directly on the boats as empty vessels stream by. We watched as one of the chefs filleted a whole red snapper in front of us and immediately placed the slices on boats. Obviously, the sushi is fresh at Sapporo.

I couldn’t help but grab more plates than I should have. Every time I thought I was full, another item floated by that looked good. Needless to say, I sampled quite a few rolls:

The Mexican Roll (red plate) consisted of fried shrimp, roe and avocado with rice. Not bad, but the rice seemed a little lifeless, and the shrimp could have been more crispy.
The California Roll (red plate) tasted, well, like every other California roll I’ve ever eaten.

The Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll (red plate) was not very crunchy, and not very spicy, but it was rather “tuna-y.”

The Anchorage Roll (yellow plate) was great with a generous portion of smoked salmon rolled around cream cheese, asparagus and red peppers.

Incredibly, my favorite roll was the Kentucky Roll (red plate), a roll featuring fried chicken, mayonnaise and onion. So ridiculously redneck, yet so deliciously good. Only in Daytona.

As you consume your meal, stack the plates to the side. At the end of the meal, the plates are added up, and you pay the total. White plates are $1; red plates are $2, and so on.

Our server was friendly, but there really wasn’t a lot for her to do. She brought our beers (Kirin Ichiban $5.25), added up our plates at the end of the meal, and took our payment. One note: Don’t forget to tip the servers and the chefs.

I really enjoyed my visit to Sapporo. It’s fun watching the sushi armada float by, and the choices seem endless. I think it would be a great place to bring sushi virgins. And if you can’t get them to try sashimi, there’s always the KFC roll.

3 1/2 Raw Gimmicks out of 5

Sapporo Website

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