Experience a masterful, authentic Japanese meal with all the traditional flair and more at House of Japan.
Story: David Moore
When choosing a place for dinner for a night out with friends, I‘m always looking for a new place to try, a new food adventure to experience. Sometimes I like to go as soon as a new restaurant opens, but often I like to wait a bit, hear the buzz and give the place a chance to smooth out any wrinkles.
With that in mind, my wife, Beth, and I opted for dinner out with friends at House of Japan: Seafood Sushi & Steak Hibachi, 3410 S.W. College Road, in Ocala. Our friends Mike and Melissa McCain agreed to join us for this adventure.
House of Japan has only been open about seven months but it’s a welcome addition to the State Road 200 corridor, offering traditional and exotic Japanese cuisine. New signage and those beautiful Japanese lanterns let passersby know it’s a new place in town.
From the inside, you’d never know this building used to house a western themed steakhouse. The white leather backed parson chairs at black tables, the beautiful floor tiles and other elegant furnishings help to set this place apart from others. You’ll notice the large bar area upon entering, as well as a section of high and low tables. Those long high tables would be perfect for a large gathering of friends. It also has a great section of booths, and a sushi bar where you can watch the chefs at work and enjoy a sake bomb if you‘d like.
We were escorted to a comfy booth, which we loved because it offers a bit more privacy than tables. But then came the hard part. Trying to decide from its extensive menu. Just the sushi roll menu alone takes up 14 pages with names like Kamikaze, Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivago and Bermuda Triangle. It features color photos of the sushi offerings that will certainly tempt you if you’re a sushi lover.
We started off with an appetizer, the Crispy Calamari, which our server Mandy said was a good choice. She was correct. We all loved it and the tasty Aioli Sauce that came with it. Mike and I finished up the last few pieces, not wanting any to go to waste.
As Mike pointed out, this is the kind of place where you like having someone in your group who can point out the “musts” from the menu. As in, “ You simply must try this dish or that.” Since none of us fit that bill, Mandy served as our guide. She was very knowledgeable and helpful and shared in our laughter during the night.
Soup came next for Beth, Melissa and me. The Miso soup was tasty with big chunky mushrooms in it. But I liked the onion soup better. You may have to get use to those big Japanese soupspoons but they help you to enjoy the soup more.
The traditional Japanese ginger dressing was great on the salad that came with my meal. I always choose the ginger dressing because it’s something different from the salads you get anywhere else.
I had a hard time deciding on my main course. Would I go with one of the exotic sushi dishes or something from the dinner menu? I decided to go with the Miso Marinated Sea Bass with Mushrooms. It was lightly grilled and simmered with Miso Mirin Sauce and served on top or a trio of sautéed shitake, enoki and button mushrooms.
It did not disappoint. The bass was delicious and flavorful and I loved that sauce, too.
But of course, I had to have some sushi so I ordered the sushi combo with my meal. It came with three California rolls, as well as tuna, salmon and freshwater eel. My dining partners watched in amazement as I ate the eel. It was the only cooked part of this combo and it came with a bit of sauce on it. Let me tell you, it was quite tasty.
Beth ordered the Plum Wine Glazed Bacon Scallops, per Mandy’s recommendation. What a great flavor combination! We both liked it.
Melissa ordered the Hibachi Shrimp Special. It seemed like a mountain of shrimp on her plate. It was great with the Aioli sauce. Instead of the white rice, she ordered the fried rice and she loved it. We all agreed.
Mike ordered the restaurant’s famous Japanese Bento combo. At $11.95 this is a great deal. You get to choose from three selections in each of these categories: Appetizer, Salad, Sushi, Tempura, Teriyaki and even Dessert.
It was a great presentation served in bright red Bento box sectional plate. Mike said it reminded him of a cafeteria tray, but his selections were far beyond cafeteria food. “I love this crab cake and I’m not even a crab cake kind of guy,” he said.
With an announcement like that I had to try some. Crunchy on the outside and flavorful on the inside, it made me want to order one for myself. Two thumbs up, uh, make that four thumbs up on crab cake.
He also ordered California roll sushi, shrimp teriyaki and salmon tempura. That is a great way to try a little of everything from the menu.
Had it been a Tuesday we could have enjoyed the restaurant’s “2 for Tuesdays” special. You get your choice of two meals for $19.95 from a select menu that includes grilled salmon or red snapper, shrimp or chicken hibachi, beef teriyaki, fried oysters, pork katasu dinner or tempura dinner. Or choose two sushi meals for $14.95. That’s a great deal. Table for four for next Tuesday, please!
House of Japan is also open for lunch. The lunch special is $8.95 and includes Miso soup and salad as well as your choice of two from the following categories: Teriyaki, Hibachi, Tempura, Rice & Noodles, Sushi and House Maki. With its nice atmosphere, this would make a great spot for a business lunch with a client or colleague.
Speaking of business, House of Japan also has two banquet rooms perfect for a private party or business meeting, complete with a large flat screen monitors. They can accommodate up to 50 people each. They also do catering. Imagine one or two of their sushi chefs at your next gathering.
For dessert we shared the House Tempura Ice Cream, a delicious fried ice cream with strawberry and caramel sauce. It was wonderful and a perfect way to end the meal.
With its extensive menu, House of Japan surely will have you wanting to return to enjoy a favorite or experience a new culinary adventure.
If You Go
House of Japan
3410 SW College Rd, Ocala
Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm / 5pm–10pm