Zukku-San Sushi Bar & Grill, located on the north side of S.R. 56, just west of I-75, has been my favorite Japanese restaurant in our area since the day it opened.

I love sushi, and Zukku-San has an incredible variety of some of the best sushi in our area, but for me, it’s always been more about everything else on Zukku-San’s delicious menu that sets it apart from its competition.

Co-owner Ferdian Jap and co-owner/executive chef Gia Tran have created something special in their unassuming space next to Crumbl Cookie. And, while Zukku-San is an elegant, but still casual, sit-down restaurant with a full premium liquor bar (with craft cocktails like the lychee nut martini and coconut mojito shown center right on this page), Ferdian and Gia actually started together with more of a fast-casual poké-bowl-and-sushi-“burrito” concept in Tampa’s Armature Works, with a similar location also open in Charlotte, NC, and they are getting ready to open a similar concept called “Ato” in the KRATE Container Park at The Grove (Ferdian says Ato likely won’t open until late May or early June). 

And, since they’re obviously not busy enough with just those eateries, Ferdian and Gia also have an Astro Craft Ice Cream location in Armature Works, and plan to open a second Astro location where Great Clips closed on the north side of S.R. 56. next to Mellow Mushroom. The signage is up at the new Astro Ice Cream, but Ferdian says the new location likely won’t open until June or July (more on that below).

But, this article will focus on Zukku-San, which continues to add new favorites to my list every time I try anything new.

The Best Starters!

I have been raving about the Starters at Zukku-San from Day One, including the most perfect deep-fried gyoza (pork dumplings) with house-made Ponzu sauce, crispy vegetable spring rolls served with an amazing semi-spicy orange chili sauce, skewered traditional Japanese chicken and beef tenderloin yakitori (with fresh veggies; there’s also shrimp and veggie-only varieties) served with teriyaki sauce, steamed or garlic edamame, crispy fried Karaage chicken served with spicy mayo and a wonderful tuna tataki, plus it’s the only place I know of that serves Tempura a la Carte options.

The tempura is lightly battered and fried to golden perfection and allows you to order individual portions of your favorites.

Our most recent order (left) included four pieces each of carrots, sweet potatoes and zucchini (only $2.95 per order each), as well as a whole soft shell crab ($9.95), which was cut into bite-sized pieces for us.

Other a la carte tempura options include shrimp, tofu, broccoli, while giant squid, avocado, hamachi (yellowtail snapper) collar, asparagus, onion, red and jalapeño peppers and whole lobster tail. So good!

On our most recent visit, we also ordered the chef’s special spicy bluefin tuna chu-toro crudo, which has thin slices of bluefin tuna (which is a fattier tuna they call medium-fatty, than their regular ahi tuna tataki appetizer), topped with jalapeños and scallions in an incredible sriracha/chili-based spicy sauce. It’s also served with a side of seaweed salad.

The Best Entrées!

We’ve usually stayed pretty basic when it comes to our favorite entrées “from the Wok & Grill” at Zukku-San, but on our most recent visit, we tried three new dishes (in addition to our usual chicken fried rice) and no one was disappointed.

My favorite was my grilled short ribs, which are marinated in Asian pear juice, grilled to perfection and served with jasmine rice and sautéed veggies. These aren’t your fall-off-the-bone short ribs; they’re more like Chinese-style BBQ spare ribs, but the flavor is definitely unique.

Photographer Charmaine George ordered the wok-fired Udon Noodles with fried tofu and we all raved about the sauce covering the chewy soft noodles, the tofu and the sautéed broccoli, onion, carrot, red peppers and zucchini. Like Zukku-San’s fried rice and wok-fired hibachi (egg) noodles, you can order them with just veggies, chicken, tenderloin steak or shrimp, too.

Of course, Jannah and I also had to bring our granddaughter Rosie with us, since Zukku-San has been her favorite restaurant since she was just over a year old. Rosie and her mom Lauren love all the starters we order (the carrots are her favorite) and the perfect California roll, but her dad Albert also raved about the soy butter glazed baked salmon entrée. Lauren also always gets a Mexican roll, with tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, masago (fish roe) and spicy mayo.

For those who only crave sushi, try Zukku-San’s Masterpiece sushi rolls like the shrimp volcano and lobster Masterpiece roll.

Zukku-San also has a wide variety of nigiri (sliced fish on rice) and sashimi (no rice), hand rolls, as well as sushi and sashimi palettes with from 24 pieces of up to four different sashimis (for $50) up to small and large sushi palettes with as many as six Masterpiece rolls or 8 classic or hand rolls for $120.

For lunch, Zukku-San has make-your-own poké bowls with rice or mixed greens, up to two proteins (try the panko chicken and ahi tuna), up to two sauces and up to three toppings, as well as Bento Box lunches with short ribs, chicken teriyaki, shrimp tempura or sushi-only, served with ginger salad, pork gyoza and miso soup.

Zukku-San Sushi Bar & Grill is located at 25916 Sierra Center Blvd.) and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner (although the lunch menu isn’t available on weekends). For more info, visit ZukkuSushi.com or call (813) 419-1351.

Astro Ice Cream Set To Open!

For those of us who love ice cream, the announcement that Zukku-San’s owners also are opening a second location of their Astro Craft Ice Cream in our area is very much welcome news.

The Armature Works location features a variety of unique flavors that, according to its website, “feature new twists of traditional flavor combinations that reflect  the diversity of our Tampa Bay community & honor its rich history.”

Ferdian says no one else has flavors like creme brulée café con leche, whiskey cookie dough, Tampa guava cream cheese or banana pudding peanut butter cookie, Ybor spiced run toasted coconut meringue pie, or options like ice cream sandwiches made with real pressed Cuban bread from La Segunda Bakery (photo above). “The bread gets crispy and the ice cream stays cold,” says Ferdian. Wow!

Stay tuned to these pages for updated on Astro Ice Cream’s expected opening. 

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