Make us your home page
Instagram

Wasabi Sushi & Japanese Grill is a delight in Spring Hill

SPRING HILL — After a couple of years of rolling sushi at a local buffet restaurant, customers started asking Ivan Cheng the same question.

Your sushi is good, they said. Why not open your own place?

So Cheng did, with his brother, Jay, their father and other family, transforming a shopping plaza storefront into Wasabi Japanese Sushi & Grill.

"The first day we opened, it was all his customers," said Jay Cheng, 26.

Since that day last June, business has increased steadily as customers rejoice in that rare species among Hernando County restaurant options: the sushi bar. Now it's typical to have to wait for a table or a spot at the eight-seat sushi bar during prime time on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ivan, 24, smiles and uses his still-progressing English to express what it means to have the hard work pay off: "I'm so happy."

The family, in fact, is Chinese, hailing from Fujian Province, on the country's southeastern coast. The Chengs' father, Xie Fu, came to the United States about 15 years ago, working as chef in a Chinese restaurant in Louisiana. Jay, Ivan, their sister, Ming, and their mother came five years later.

The parents now live in New York, and Ming has a hibachi-style restaurant in Virginia. Jay was living in Brooklyn, working as a waiter, when Ivan moved to Spring Hill and came up with the idea for the grill. The entire family, plus three uncles still in China, chipped in the capital.

With its dark wood, modern light fixtures and faux stone walls, the Chengs have transformed the 3,200-square-foot space that formerly housed a Dollar Tree and pet store into the kind of hip eatery found in the place where Ivan got his start making sushi: Manhattan.

The menu offers more than 90 sushi rolls, with standard options ranging from $3.50 to $5.95.

Then there are the special rolls, offered for as much $17.95, where the sushi chefs get to show their skills. The brothers just added several options to that part of the menu, including the Longhorn: spicy tuna stuffed in jalapeno, fried with cream cheese and topped with snow crab and spicy mayo sauce.

Customers shouldn't be shy about asking for their own variations.

"Anything we can do, we'll do it," Jay said.

Diners who enjoy rolls and sashimi can opt for combination platters. And "love boats" serve up to four people.

The seafood comes from all over the world. Some tuna from Hawaii, salmon from Alaska and Scotland. Some inventory comes stamped with the time and date it was caught. But after years in the business, the brothers have a sixth sense for freshness.

"Nobody comes and says 'Oh, the fish is not fresh,' " Jay said.

The Chengs estimate that sushi comprises about 70 percent of their sales. Diners can wolf down 20 pounds of tuna in one night, but they like salmon even more, plowing through some 160 pounds in a week.

People who shy away from raw seafood have plenty of cooked options. Beef, chicken and vegetables dishes are plentiful on the menu, with sections for fried rice, tempura and hibachi selections.

The menu boasts 10 kinds of sake and plenty of Japanese beer. Domestic beer is available, too, along with wine.

Alex Canner, a 50-something resident of Crystal River, headed south Wednesday to meet a friend at Wasabi. They polished off three kinds of sushi rolls, ended with fried green tea ice cream, and now qualify as regular customers.

"It's excellent," Canner said. "And the decor is a plus."

It's a boon to have another sushi option here, said Canner's friend, 36-year-old Terri Kelczewski of Spring Hill. Folks who have lived here long enough, however, know what it's like to fall in love with a place, only to have it close.

"That was the first thing my husband said," Kelczewski said. "I hope it lasts."

The Chengs plan to stick around and are now on the verge of a new venture. The Wasabi Japanese Store, located a couple of doors down from the restaurant, is set to open in a few weeks.

The 1,600-square-foot space will be packed with Japanese groceries, cooking supplies and small gifts.

"A little bit of everything," Jay said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

If you go

Wasabi Japanese Sushi & Grill is at 13154 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, in the Mariner Square shopping center. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Wait times can be 30 minutes on weekend nights, so reservations are recommended, and requested for larger parties any night of the week. Call (352) 596-6751.

About this feature

Diversions publishes a periodic feature called "What's Cooking," a look at some of Hernando County's favorite dining spots. We welcome recommendations from readers. If you have a place in mind for us to visit, please drop us a line at What's Cooking, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or email your suggestion to lneill@tampabay.com. Be sure to include the name and address of the restaurant and a brief description of what you like about it.

Wasabi Sushi & Japanese Grill is a delight in Spring Hill 01/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]