On a roll: Ocala’s Tony’s Sushi serves up fine Japanese cuisine with a creative flair

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On a roll: Ocala’s Tony’s Sushi serves up fine Japanese cuisine with a creative flair.

Story By ADAM HUNT

Photography By CHRIS REDD

Greeted with a firm hand shake and a warm smile, the owner of Tony’s Sushi Japanese Steakhouse, Tony Li, welcomed me with a traditional bow of respect. In return, I did the same. When entering into Tony’s Sushi, one can’t help being taken back by the vibe of the downtown Tokyo feel. It is as if you have been whisked away to the orient, in search of far-east cuisine.

After all pleasantries were given and hunger set in, Tony ushered me over to the tantalizing sushi bar. The art of making sushi has been practiced for thousands of years. It was invented by the Japanese as a way to preserve raw fish. The ancient methods of preparing sushi were to layer fish and rice together and press them between two larger stones. After being pressed, the mixture of both rice and fish were covered with either seaweed or bamboo. Tony explained, “Most of the sushi in ancient Japan were square, not the familiar cylindrical rolls we are accustomed to eating today.”

Tony also shared with me, when it comes to sushi, there are two distinct styles: Kansai style from Osaka and Edo style from Tokyo. Kansai style is made with a small bit of seafood on a pad of rice. Edo style consists primarily of seasoned rice mixed with other mouthwatering ingredients. Most people in the United States are familiar with Edo style.

My first beautifully crafted roll arrived – the sunny classic California Roll – a crabmeat, avocado and cucumber stuffed roll served with or without sesame seeds. Next, I was delighted with a Japanese Bagel, a cream cheese stuffed roll with thinly sliced pieces of fresh salmon and diced scallions. My favorite roll of the evening was the Spicy Tuna Roll. This selection is a triumphant mix of tuna, masago, scallions and spicy mayo. This delicate roll has just enough kick to make the sushi fanatic sweat. Tony’s Sushi has a large variety of other delicious sushi roll options on their custom menu. One that caught my eye was Tony’s Futomaki – a roll layered with Tamago, crab, avocado, kampyo, inari, masago and oshinko. There are also delicious choices such as the light Tekka (Tuna) and Hamachi (Yellowtail) Rolls.

But for those of you with a more clandestine taste, try ordering your sushi from “The Black List.” This prestigious list includes sushi rolls one cannot find on the house menu. The first of these dragon delights is the G Roll. This elite roll is constructed using shrimp tempura, spicy crab and a cheese blend topped with white fresh salmon, avocado and mango. It is then cloaked with a sesame sauce and served with a honey miso flake on the side. For those counting their carbs, Tony serves a Skinny Roll. This carb-conscious roll is formed using spicy crab, avocado and seaweed salad, haloed with fresh tuna, salmon, white fish and wasabi aioli.

The main event on Tony’s Black List is the infamous sushi roll known as the Kraken. This monster of a roll is made using white tuna, spicy crab and seaweed salad, peppered with tempura flakes and filled with mayo, thinly sliced octopus, cheese and eel sauce. The presentation alone is mind-blowing. Guests are bestowed with a combination of rolls, displayed on the plate to give the impression of Clash of Titians versus The Last Samurai. To me that’s a plate full of awesomeness!

But if sushi doesn’t flip your fin, there are other amazingly flavored dishes to devour. Tony’s Chirashi, a Sashimi dish, is served atop a bed of steamed rice and displayed as a work of art. With a choice of both meat or vegetables, guests can opt for the Yakitori – skewers grilled with teriyaki sauce.

Tony’s extensive menu offers a cast of noodles to select from. The Soba, or Buckwheat noodles, swim in a rich, delectable beef broth. The Yakisoba are sautéed egg noodles mixed with fresh vegetables and combined with chicken or tender beef. And we are all familiar with the classic Ramen noodle. However, Tony puts a spin on this familiar treat, using quality chicken, flavorful broth and diced vegetables.

Guests can dine in an intimate setting at any of Tony’s tables. However, most guests enjoy the social thrill of experiencing Tony’s Teppanyaki, or grill tables. On any given day of the week, you can catch the carefully choreographed dance of fire and knives. You will sit in amazement as the highly skilled personal chef creates a volcano out of thinly sliced onions and olive oil that erupts into flames right before your eyes. From the comical “egg roll” or catapulting shrimp into the open mouths of his table guests, Tony’s staff of personal Teppanyaki grill masters are guaranteed to entertain and amaze, while serving up their award-winning delicacies.

To cap off an eventful experience, I indulged in Tony’s delightful Beverages and Desserts menu. Tony’s Sushi has a number of specialty cocktails. Down the hatch went a cold, pleasing Strawberry Squeeze. This refreshment is made using a strawberry and melon blend, spiked with the spirit of rum. The second round came with a twist. Tony’s Lychee Fruit Martini is a seasonal drink, due to the fact that the lychee becomes ripe only during spring. Be sure to celebrate the season by indulging in this spring favorite. Tony’s variety also includes his Bonsai Blossom, a Myers Rum, DeKuyper Melon Liqueur and Strawberry mix drink that pleases the palette. Likewise, the Fuji Mountain, a doubled-layered drink bottomed with DeKuyper Melon Liqueur and topped with Pina, is amongst one of the more popular refreshments.

And for dessert, Tony’s Sushi offers an oriental take on some American classics. There are a number of freshly made ice creams like the Tempura, Tempura Cheesecake, Red Bean and Green Tea. There’s also the light and fluffy Thai Donuts. Yummy!!

So if you find yourself traveling down State Road 200 and your taste buds are looking for a Samurai Showdown, pull into Tony’s Sushi and prepare to do battle, my hungry warriors.

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