St. Petersburg's Sushi Rock Grill (1163 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N; (727) 898-7625) has announced the hiring of Jouy (pronounced "Joy") Techo as executive sushi chef. Techo began his sushi training in 1997 under Daniel Sung of Kiku Restaurant in Clearwater Beach and Kinjo Sung of St. Petersburg. Prior to joining Sushi Rock Grill, Techo was executive sushi chef at several restaurants in Georgia. Sushi Rock is also adding Sunday brunch and corporate lunch meeting accommodations in 2010.
Rawbar Sushi (777 N Ashley Drive, Tampa; (813) 422-5220) has also undergone changes, unveiling a new menu of sushi, cooked dishes and bento boxes, for lunch and dinner. Owner James DeVito also announced the hiring of chef James Lee, Rawbar's new executive chef. Chef Lee has served sushi in Tampa for more than 30 years. DeVito describes the transition from the prior menu as bittersweet. "Former chef Nao Higuchi is very talented with experience at the highest caliber of restaurants such as Nobu, but for various reasons, it just didn't work out. Keeping a kitchen staff was a challenge, and that limited us from offering a full and flexible menu."
Mark Marone recently sold Belleair Grill (formerly the Peppermill, 1575 S Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater; (727) 449-2988) to Matt Camp. Camp is new to the area, having just relocated from Massachusetts. He has brought talented chef Cathryn Peplowski back, and his primary objective is to maintain the restaurant's base of more mature customers while attracting a younger audience, as well. How, exactly? Half-price appetizers after 8 p.m., more inexpensive wines by the glass and bottle, more nightly specials and, starting this week, Sunday brunch.
The Table (pictured above) recently made the full shift to St. Pete Brasserie (539 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 823-3700) with new signs and a menu of classic French brasserie staples like cassoulet and steak frites.
Barnie's Coffee & Tea Co. has opened in the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. In addition to signature coffees and teas, the shop offers coffee beans, tea products, appliances, gifts and accessories. The store is 1,700 square feet and features outdoor seating for patrons. Mateo's Fresh Mex has opened in the space that recently held Taqueria Quetzalcoatl at 402 S Howard Ave. in Tampa. And La Cachette (635 Cleveland St., Clearwater; (727) 596-5439) has opened in its pretty new location, with several rooms to accommodate different-sized parties.
Restaurants do good
Donatello Restaurant (232 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 875-6660) celebrates its 25th year of Italian hospitality in Tampa Bay by donating 10 percent of all sales through Friday to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.
Guppy's on the Beach (1701 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach) and E&E Stakeout Grill (100 N Indian Rocks Road, Belleair Bluffs) have announced that a portion of the proceeds of every meal served at both restaurants through Dec. 15 will be donated to the Holiday Meal Ministry of the Beach Community Food Pantry. Calvary Episcopal Church of Indian Rocks Beach and the Holiday Meal Ministry of the Beach Community Food Pantry will use the donations to purchase and deliver Christmas meals to families in need this holiday season.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic