Nikki Li's friends and co-workers thought she was crazy to fly from her native Brooklyn, N.Y., to Valrico to help her cousin, Lin Jian, open his first restaurant.
It's a long way to go to help a relative whose proposed menu wasn't fine dining as much as takeout dining with fine prices. Jian opened his Asian Kitchen May 30 in the Valrico Commons plaza, 1997 State Road 60, around the corner from Publix.
Though it offers some typical Chinese takeout that diners might expect, it also fuses Japanese cuisine such as hibachi grilled steak and jumbo shrimp dishes for $10.95 that Li said would go for more than $15 in New York City.
"It's a good price, fast service and a big amount of food," said Li, translating and speaking on behalf of her cousin.
The hibachi grill items come with housemade white sauce, and steak is cooked to order — similar to what you would expect from a full-service Japanese steak house, sans the show. The family-run business took just three months to build out, and Li said that he has seen sales grow every day as more residents discover the restaurant.
"One guy has been here three times already in four days, and he brought his girlfriend back," Li said.
"I was so surprised."
In addition to staples such as General Tso's chicken (lunch portions go for $5.25) and the popular crab rangoon (eight for $3.95), Asian Kitchen also offers daily specials written on a whiteboard.
Prices are generally $3 off main entrees, and portions are slightly smaller to encourage customers to try it before they buy a lot of it, Li said.
There are four tables for dining in, and meals are served on plates with silverware instead of paper and plastic. To celebrate their opening, the Asian Kitchen is offering a 10-percent discount coupon on its website, asiankitchen.m988.com. Call (813) 685-8880 for takeout.
Another Starbucks comes to Brandon
If it weren't already convenient enough to order a skinny Venti vanilla latte in Brandon, Starbucks has begun construction on a standalone store at Regency Square set to open in the fall. The company already offers its tongue-twisting beverages nearby, including two locations in the Westfield Brandon mall and one inside Target. There also are stores at 11029 Causeway Blvd. and 1265 E Brandon Blvd. near Mount Carmel Road. There were 6,866 Starbucks stores in the United States at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, about 400 in Florida. Only California, New York, Texas and Starbucks' home state of Washington boast more. There are more than 20,000 Starbucks locations globally.