602 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609
Cost range: 10.01-20.0
Payment options: Credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer and wine only
Matoi was serving tekka maki to intrepid Tampa diners before most of us knew wasabi from our wazoo. A stalwart for more than two decades, luck ran out one night just before the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa. Stocked to capacity with raw fish and other ephemeral sushi ingredients for hungry sports fans, an electrical fire broke out in the comfortable independent restaurant, causing massive damage. The Lim family rebuilt, most of the longtime employees coming back to work. And while the Tampa Bay area has swelled with sushi bars in recent years, Matoi still makes most people's "tops" lists. There are a few reasons for this: breadth of menu, affordable price point, veteran servers who have all the details dialed — but the No. 1 reason is fresh fish. The jewel-colored swaths of fish are treated reverently, sliced expertly and then arrayed atop rice fingers (nigiri), over a bowl of rice (chirashi) or tucked inside rice (maki, offered with white or brown rice) with accessories.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday.