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My Sushi Paradise: Tampa's Soho Sushi North and South

      In my food-loving world, there is one cuisine that always ranks supreme: Sushi. Oh how it tempts me more often than I should say.  I simply cannot get enough of the rolled up lobster, scallop, salmon or tuna accompanied with taste-bud pleasures like cream cheese, avocado, asparagus, cucumber, roe, aioli and eel sauce…my goodness, I admire it all.  My favorite modern sushi hot spot in Tampa?  Soho Sushi…or as I like to call it, “Sushi Paradise.”  Soho Sushi sets the bar quite high for the seaweed wrapped, cylinder shaped, fish-filled rolls of heaven. Sushi daredevils, these artistic chefs love breaking old-school raw seafood rules and fusing ingredients from Italian, American and even Mexican cuisines making their sushi very progressive and also so uniquely divine.  This joint also boasts one spectacular daily happy hour from 5-7PM with BOGO house wine and beer as well as a featured selection of delicious discounted specialty rolls.

     Soho Sushi has two locations-the original on West Kennedy Blvd. in South Tampa and their newest on Bearss Ave, just a hop, skip and jump away from USF.  Consistency is clearly important to these Japanese restaurateurs as I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with the service and fare at both sites.  I venture to these spots rather frequently and find that I equally worship the sushi gods in both the North and the South ends of the city.  While Soho Sushi South gets very busy and has a high-energy kind of attitude, Soho North tends to be a bit quieter- definitely an ambiance more conducive to a romantic date night.  The locations share the same sushi and entrée menus but their featured specialty sushi offerings (discounted at happy hour) are entirely different.  Yet, they both offer always-changing specialty rolls with all the bells and whistles.

     This past Friday evening, I ordered a roll my palate forces me to get every time- the "K-town" roll.  I have no idea why it has that name, but I do know it was intelligently invented by one of the sushi chefs at the North Tampa location.  With not a single grain of rice, this roll is relatively "carb friendly.”  It is served cold and radiates a fantastic fresh quality with its tuna, salmon, mixed greens and tempura chips all rolled up in clear rice paper and surrounding a mound of lemon juice marinated daikon.  Topped with dollops of Sriracha aioli, this roll has a solid kick in every bite.

         The “Red Devil” roll is another must order.  Hence the name, it is devilishly prepared with some wicked rich ingredients.  Fried lobster and shrimp topped with tuna and avocado and then drizzled with spicy mayo and eel sauce makes my tongue dance with delight and then quickly crave another piece of succulent fried seafood and sauce bliss.  No exaggerations here.  This roll is the crème of the crop and will forever be on their menu.

      Lobster Tempura.  How you can be so easily screwed up.  Not at Soho Sushi.  Their version is generous stuffed with fresh, tasty lobster, asparagus and cream cheese and then tempura battered and fried. Warm and crispy with that ooey gooey cream cheese center pairing so nicely with the delicate lobster, it is simply marvelous. 

     Now onto some of those gloriously elaborate “special feature” rolls.   Because Soho Sushi does change up their featured specialty roll menu regularly, some pretty inventive and scrumptious rolls can be devastatingly missed if you don’t frequent these eateries often.  I’ve been quite saddened when I’ve only had one shot at a chart-topping featured roll.  Just last week I ordered the “Fire Roll” from Soho Sushi North.  Panko Crusted and fried with red and white tuna and topped with green onion, roe, Seoul sauce and spicy mayo, it was the very best $7 I have ever spent.  This roll was full of fantastic flavors and offered a little something special with its panko crust versus a standard tempura batter.  Spicy and texturally fun, I can only hope they will have this roll for another week so I may devour it again.

    Another featured and happy hour discounted roll I tried at Soho North last week was the “Tempura Philly.”  This was my beau’s pick and although I normally detest imitation crab, it was surprisingly accepted by my palate when pleasingly combined with the much-loved ingredients of salmon, avocado, cream cheese and asparagus.  Oh…and it was tempura fried.  Yeah, the “krab” wasn’t so bad at all.  Only $6 if ordered before the clock strikes 7PM, it was yet another sushi steal.

Tempura Philly-the middle roll

    Just a couple of weeks ago I was wining and dining at the orginial Soho Sushi (South) and ordered a roll that was absolutely matchless in creativity and execution.  Get to Soho South quick friends…the “Mambo Roll” is still there and wow, is it something else.  Decadent hunks of lobster are combined with asparagus, rolled up with rice and then topped with blacked seared salmon, sweet potato strings, wasabi mayo and their very own sweet sauce. This sweet and spicy conglomeration was almost breath-taking.  I’ve never had sweet potato anything integrated in the sushi world nor have I ever seen blackened salmon as a “topping” or a filling to a roll.  Unusual in the most exquisite kind of way, this sushi roll is as decorative as it is divine.

       I really hate to do it.  I know I shouldn’t.  But I just have to make you jealous with some of Soho’s rolls you’ve missed.  Back in September, "The Bandit" was featured at Soho Sushi (South) and consisted of tuna, krab, cream cheese and avocado topped with salmon, eel sauce, and crispy tempura chips.  Wow.  Again, I am not a fan of imitation crab but with this roll, it did not even matter.  The fun and intense flavors were having one crazy party in my mouth.  

    The other September roll that I would love to demolish again was the "Emperor.”  Its description caught my eye as it contained crawfish, avocado, asparagus and mixed greens topped with seared tuna and....drum roll please...cilantro pesto sauce! An Italian and Creole inspired roll...I did mention they have fun with fusion, right? 

    Soho Sushi surprises me every time with their innovative spin on sushi.  They are creative in the roll "risks" they take and excel in their consistent execution.  Service is better than satisfactory even in the almost always packed house(s).  For those less fortunate souls who are not sushi consumers, there is also an extensive entrée and appetizer menu with excellent Gyoza, Crab Rangoons, Udon, tempura, stir-fry, and more.  I have sampled some of these non-sushi items from friend’s plates and they are all tasty alternatives to the famed sushi.  Both Soho Sushi spots are mutually knock your socks off luscious in their culinary creations.  If you have yet to visit, you need to do so now.  Order any of the regular menu specialty rolls or the special feature rolls and I assure you…there will be no feelings of food disappointment.     

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