In case you didn’t know…

…I LOVE tacos. The Twin-Cities are kind of lacking in the taco department but the best I have found are the ones from Taqueria Los Ocampo (though they are still no match compared to La Tienda in Gainesville <3). They have multiple locations but I have been to the Lake St one which is more of a fast casual place that is usually always busy and the one in St Paul which is more like a sit down restaurant. I usually always get the Al Pastor taco which is my favorite style.

These are from the Lake St location. The Al Pastor here tends to be a tiny bit dry but still enjoyable.
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These are from the St Paul location. I would say these are a grade above the ones served at in the Lake St location.
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ABC Seafood Restaurant (St Petersburg)

This is one of the places my family goes to for good Chinese food. It’s a half hour drive from where we live but we really don’t have a choice since there are a lack of good Chinese food options in Sarasota area.

fish tanks (ABC seafood)

Salt and pepper calamari

salt and pepper calamari (ABC seafood)

Salt and pepper shrimp (See how to make it here)

salt and pepper shrimp (ABC seafood)

Seafood pan fried noodles

seafood pan fried noodles (ABC seafood)

Pipa Tofu

special braised tofu (ABC seafood)

Red bean soup dessert

red bean desert soup (ABC seafood)

Kazu’s again!

I have a massive craving for sushi right now. Instead of satisfying my craving, I’m sitting here writing about sushi instead. This is from awhile ago. I was hungry so I ordered a bento box and two sushi rolls. As always, the service at Kazu’s was great.

The bento box included a siesta roll (cilantro, sriracha, tempura shrimp, avocado), three pieces of nigiri, a piece of fried white fish, salad, and miso soup. Remember the last time, I said that the ginger dressing tasted funny? This time, it was different and I enjoyed the salad. There was something weird about the dressing the last time I had it. That doesn’t matter though. I just want sushi. I don’t care much for sides.
kazu's - siesta roll bento

I also ordered a spicy tuna roll and mexican roll.
Kazu's - spicy tuna and mexican roll

Chelsea got the tempura udon. The tempura shrimp was legendary. It was calling for me to eat it. It takes a lot for tempura to impress me. It’s very hard to get it right. Raw Bar and Kazu’s know what they’re doing and have got it right. When I fantasize about tempura that’s what I picture in my head. On the other hand, Gainesville hasn’t kindled my tempura fantasies. Out of the four sushi (Miya, Matsuri, Shooting Star, Dragonfly) places I’ve tried tempura in Gainesville, none was really memorable.
Kazu's - tempura udon

Here’s a picture where you can really see how big the shrimp was. When I got home and went through the pictures, I found that some pictures I took captured Chelsea failing at picking up the noodles. See here for an animation the fail.
Kazu's - tempura udon

South Garden in Haile Plantation

One day I was shopping at Oriental 88 and I saw a menu for dim sum posted on the store window. Ever since I saw that, I’ve been looking for any excuse to try the dim sum. South Garden has been open for 2 years but they only recently started serving dim sum. The location isn’t ideal for attracting customers since it’s far from UF and I don’t see many Asian students driving to Haile Plantation to get dim sum. Haile Plantation is awesome though, it’s this community in west Gainesville that almost feels like a small town where everyone knows each other. As Darya mentioned, it’s like the town that Gilmore Girls takes place in.

Clockwise: taro cake, har gow (shrimp dumplings), and spare ribs.
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Egg tarts and stuffed eggplant.
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Shrimp rice noodle rolls with a sweet soy sauce and bok choy.
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Pan fried chive dumplings.
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The taro cake was a little weird. This was the first time I’ve seen it made with so much taro. All previous versions I’ve had, including my mom’s, had less taro and more rice flour. The two dishes I always order to judge a dim sum restaurant are har gow and spare ribs. The har gow was good but the spare ribs didn’t pass my test. There was too much sauce on the ribs. I like them lighter with just a little bit of black bean sauce. Overall, I enjoyed everything except for the spare ribs. The prices were fair and I would definitely go back again.

Raw Bar

Over the break, I went to Raw Bar with two lovely ladies, Linda and Chelsea. I think Raw Bar has to be my favorite restaurant. It’s a family-run operation with the dad, Jun, as the sushi chef and owner. The mom works in the back and the daughter waits tables. I don’t think they have anyone else, sometimes they’ll have one more person during busy hours but they usually don’t have more than 5 tables at a time so its very manageable with 3 people. The service can be a little slow but I don’t mind. You can sit at the bar in addition to 5 booths that seat 4 people comfortably and then 2 larger tables. It’s also got a hibachi grill for teppanyaki. I remember 2 years ago when he installed the teppanyaki grill, he asked me if I had any friends who would be interested in the job and that he had someone who would train you. If only I went to college in Sarasota, I’d work there just for free food. The family is Korean so they also have a Korean menu. So in once place, you can get awesome sushi, great Korean food, AND teppanyaki. A lot of restaurants would be lucky to do one thing well, but this place does it all. The funny thing is Jun used to be an engineer in Korea and before he made sushi, he was making bagels in the restaurant. I’m surprised the place isn’t more popular. The booths take up only 1/4 of the room and there is a lot of wasted space on the floor. They could easily double the business and would only need to bring in one more chef and waiter.

We started off with a tempura shrimp entree. The tempura sauce is yummy as always, it’s a mixture of dashi stock, soy sauce, and mirin. I always order the tempura when I go to Raw Bar. It’s simply the best tempura I’ve had so far.
tempura shrimp entree (raw bar)

The tempura shrimp is so flaky and crunchy. It doesn’t get any better than this. I don’t even know how to get the coating like this. I’ve scoured the internet for a recipe but haven’t found one yet.
tempura shrimp (raw bar)

The first plate to come out had the (from top to bottom) spicy tuna roll, mexican roll, and eel special roll. I’m not sure how the mexican roll came about. How is the combination of tempura shrimp, mayo, and avocado remotely Mexican? But who cares, it’s my favorite roll and I’m thankful for whoever came up with it. The eel special is an eel roll topped off with tuna and eel. I like the balance with this platter because there’s a spicy roll, a mild roll, and a sweet roll.
mexican, spicy tuna, eel special (raw bar)

This one’s got the crispy roll and the Jun roll. I normally don’t like cream cheese in sushi but the crispy roll was good. The cream cheese added a sweetness to the roll without overpowering the rest of the ingredients. The Jun roll was served with Ponzu sauce, but the sauce wasn’t very tart or citrus-y like it should be. I’ve tried most of the specialty rolls from Raw Bar, and they are all very good and unique. Even if you don’t like sushi there is so many varieties with traditional Japanese entrees, classic Korean dishes, and teppanyaki. Even the most picky eaters would leave Raw Bar feeling content.
jun roll, crispy roll (raw bar)

Everything was delicious and I left very satisfied. The food is always consistent but service can be bad during dinner hours because they only have one waiter. As full as we were, we still had room for ice cream at Coldstone after. Stupid Coldstone. I had an embarrassing experience there that no one else needs to know.

Kazu’s for lunch

Tuesday afternoon, I went to Kazu’s for lunch with my good friend Gan. The place is pretty small; it has 4 tables of 2 people and 2 tables for larger groups. It’s always packed every time I go. During dinner time, there is usually a wait. The decor inside is nice, it feels like a Japanese restaurant. Most of the menu consists of Japanese appetizers, rice bowls, noodle bowls, salads, and sushi. I really like going there for lunch because they have bento boxes for lunch and their lunch specials are cheap. You can get two rolls for $9.25 and most of the bento boxes are all under $10.

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I got the siesta roll (tempura shrimp, cilantro, spicy sauce, avocado) and the spicy tuna roll (spicy tuna, cucumber). I thought it would be weird having cilantro in a roll, but the siesta roll has to be one of my top 3 favorite rolls. The cilantro and the spicy sauce go really well with the tempura shrimp and avocado. Kazu’s sushi menu doesn’t have too many specialty rolls and the ones they do have don’t really appeal to me. Their basic rolls, ones you’ll find in almost every American sushi joint, are really good though. The rice is always consistent and they’re perfectly seasoned and cooked. Nothing ruins a roll like improperly cooked rice. I really like the tempura shrimp they use in their rolls. As you can see from the picture, you get huge tails sticking out for maximum crunchiness.

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Gan got the snapper katsu bento. It came with potato salad, salad with ginger dressing, rice, and sauce. You also get a miso soup with every bento. I didn’t really like the sauce, it was too vinegary. The katsu was really crunchy, light, and not greasy at all. The same salad with ginger dressing came with my two rolls. I’ve never been a big fan of ginger dressing and this one didn’t sway my opinion. I don’t mind the taste but the mushy, gritty texture of the dressing feels weird in my mouth.

I would definitely recommend going there for lunch or dinner for some quality sushi, but you can’t beat their lunch specials. You can choose from 6 rolls (tampa, california, mexican, siesta, spicy tuna, crab lagoon) at two for $9.25 (also comes with salad) and most of their bentos are under $10 (comes with miso soup). If there was one near where I lived, I would definitely go there at least every other day.