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Samurai offers Citrus a taste of Japan

East meets West as a longtime restaurateur adds a Japanese steakhouse near his Mexican restaurant.

The Samurai Steakhouse is expected to open its doors by midweek, providing people with a dining experience new to Citrus County. The Samurai is in the same building as Scallywags Mexican Restaurant, at State Road 44 and County Road 486, Crystal River.

"I can go from Mexico to Japan in about 10 seconds," joked co-owner Roy Norman. Norman and his wife, Gail, have owned Scallywags for nine years.

The Samurai Steakhouse will offer Japanese cuisine, including a sushi bar and Dim Sung. But the restaurant breaks new ground with its three Teppanyaki tables.

Each Teppanyaki table consists of 10 place settings encircling a heated grill in the center of the table. A Japanese chef cooks the meals in sight of the customers, who are served the food right off the grill.

A skilled Japanese cook works with knives to dice and chop vegetables and meat, large spatulas to flip things and throws in humorous commentary during the food preparation.

"There's a lot of entertainment involved," Norman said.

The chef at Samurai Steakhouse is Jim Buddha, whose nickname is Big Buddha.

The Normans transformed what was the back room of Scallywags into a Japanese dining hall. The walls are adorned with oriental paintings and a huge triptych overlooks the room from the back wall.

The sushi bar, which will open in a few weeks, is off to the side.

For the time being, the sushi will be prepared in the kitchen. It will be cooked, but Norman said raw sushi will be served by request.

The steakhouse will serve several brands of Japanese and oriental beers and sake. The Normans bought an expensive sake warmer for authenticity.

The Samurai will be open by reservations only.

Norman said he has received plenty of calls in the last weeks from residents wanting to eat there.

"That's how we've made the business a success: providing quality products for local people," Norman said.