By Gary Nager
I have only know Ace “Uncle Bo” Jenkins for a few months, but not only he is a friendly and genuine guy, he also serves some of the best BBQ I’m almost certain you haven’t yet tried…that is, unless you’ve driven by his roadside stand on S.R. 54 less than a half-mile east of the northernmost entrance to Meadow Pointe. It’s a little far away for some New Tampa residents, but if you live north of Cross Creek Blvd. — or anywhere in New Tampa, really — it’s worth the trip!
Ace keeps his smoker working its magic on the road every day (yes, on Sundays, too), noon-8 p.m., pumping that delicious wood-smoked aroma and plumes of smoke rising into the air in order to attract hungry drivers on their way to lunch or on their way home from work.
“The smoke and the aroma are what draws them in,” he admits. “Then, it’s up to me to keep ‘em coming back for more with great food at a great price.”
And man, does he ever deliver. I’ve mentioned in previous stories that I’m not the biggest BBQ fan iBy Gary Nager
It’s been almost two years since A.J. Jewell and his wife Tawnya purchased Sushi Tsu Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar in the Shoppes of Amberly from A.J.’s former boss and Sushi Tsu founder Jay Choe, so it’s kind of hard for me to believe I haven’t yet done a full-length feature on the “new” owners of my (still) favorite Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar in New Tampa.
A.J., who is a talented sushi and teppanyaki (hibachi) grill chef in his own right, and Tawnya, who handles the bookkeeping and marketing, have revamped and expanded the already wonderful menu at Sushi Tsu and they continue to weather the tough economic times with outstanding Japanese cuisine and always-excellent service.
I have loved the sushi at Sushi Tsu since the years before it became a full-blown Japanese steakhouse and it’s still my favorite sushi in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. The seared tuna tataki is always high on my list and A.J. and his awesome sushi chefs also specialize in creating unique sushi rolls, as well as always stocking my favorite white meat fish sushi “flavors” — snapper, grouper, flounder, tilapia and cobia.
I have to admit that although I find cooked cobia delicious, I never really got into it as sushi because its texture is quite a bit chewier than most other white meat sushi. But, I now love cobia at Sushi Tsu because the sushi chefs slice it extra thin for me, so it’s not quite so tough and chewy — and the taste is delicious!
I haven’t yet sampled all of the new appetizers on the new menu, but I saw a number of new items, including pork egg rolls, calamari tempura, seasoned black seaweed, tempura-fried gator tail, Japanese fried chicken nuggets and more. There are even teppanyaki appetizers, including Kobe beef negimaki and teriyaki tofu. And of course, you can still get your favorite edamame (soybeans), gyoza (pan-seared dumplings), age shumai (pork dumplings) and Yakisoba (stir-fried noodles).
A Teppanyaki Tale!
But, the thing that brings most people back to any Japanese steakhouse is the teppanyaki-grilled specialties, all of which at Sushi Tsu are served with delicious onion (not miso) soup, a fresh salad with a delicious ginger dressing, awesome Japanese-style fried rice AND lo mein noodles, the freshest veggies (onions, zucchini, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms) and, of course, “Goody-Goody” (mayonnaise-based) and “Yummy-Yummy” (ginger) sauces.
On my most recent visit to Sushi Tsu, my guests and I were treated to food created by Chef Ana, one of only two female Teppanyaki chefs in the state of Florida.
“The Japanese are very traditional people,” says A.J. “So, we actually got phone calls and letters from some people who don’t think a woman should be a teppanyaki chef. But, Ana has been working with me for years in our inside kitchen and she’s picked up the hibachi routine very nicely, too.”
I have to say I agree. Although Ana doesn’t yet put on the kind of show you get with Roger, Sushi Tsu’s best-known teppanyaki chef, everyone at my table loved her hibachi steak, scallops, shrimp (which I’m allergic to) and especially, the teriyaki chicken…and she does still catch shrimp tails in her hat, create a Mt. Fujiyama volcano on the table and other teppanyaki standards.
You also can get hibachi lobster, fresh fish (today’s catch) and a variety of surf-&-turf and land-lover combos at Sushi Tsu, from the Chef’s Special (NY strip and chicken teriyaki) to a Japanese iron skillet, with chicken, shrimp or scallops and white wine sauce, a Samurai’s Choice (teriyaki chicken with calamari, shrimp or scallops), and Yuki’s Choice (filet mignon, lobster and scallops). You can even get authentic Kobe beef yakiniku (thin sliced in a special sauce), although the Kobe beef is quite a bit pricier (as you’d expect).
There’s even Japanese curry dishes, vegetarian and hot noodle dishes, early bird, “late owl” and children’s menus and a full dessert menu.
And, don’t forget that Sushi Tsu also has an ultra-premium, full-liquor bar, as well as those delicious Japanese beers (my favorite Asahi Dry, as well as Kirin and Sapporo), hot and cold sake, plum and house wines, too.
And yes, Roger and the gang (of servers and chefs) will bang the gong and sing for your birthday, anniversary or other special occasion at your table.
In other words, if it’s been a while since you’ve eaten at Sushi Tsu, you owe it to yourself to visit again and enjoy 20-percent off, just for mentioning this story or the ad on page 44. Sushi Tsu is located at 15363 Amberly Dr., in the Shoppes of Amberly plaza in Tampa Palms.
For reservations (which are not required) and information about Sushi Tsu’s new lunch hours, call 910-9404 or visit SushiTsu.com. n the world, but I particularly love Uncle Bo’s meaty pork ribs and sliced beef brisket, which are cooked and smoked without sauce and then served just drizzled with his awesome homemade slightly-sweet, slightly-spicy sauce. If you need extra sauce, he’s happy to oblige, but I, for one, appreciate that he doesn’t try to drown his delicious food in sauce.
And, you can’t beat the price, either. Three of those big ribs (or multiple slices of the beef brisket) and two sides cost just $9, or without sides, the cost is just $8. A full rack of ribs (14 bones) is just $27 and a half-rack (7 bones) will set you back $14.
Also available from Uncle Bo (which is what his nieces call him) are smoked BBQ pork or chopped smoked sausage on a bun ($6) or his awesome daily chicken special of a leg quarter and two sides for just $5! You also can get a five-dinner family feast (the rib orders come with two bones each), with each dinner served with sides, for only $34. A la carte side dishes (the homemade baked beans and cole slaw are my faves; although the potato salad is good, too) are just $1 apiece and you simply have to wash his delicious food down with a glass of his homemade sweet tea, which also costs just $1. Pepsi Cola products and bottled water also are available for just $1.
In other words, you can’t get better food from a better guy at a better price. And, while Ace doesn’t have 20 years of restaurant experience, he does know what he’s doing and enjoys his customers as much as he enjoys the business. He notes that he got into the BBQ biz by necessity, after his wife had suffered multiple strokes in 2009 and 2010 and he had to leave his full-time job to care for her.
He originally was located on S.R. 54 on the other side of I-75, near Wesley Chapel Honda, but decided to move further down 54 last October, when the construction between I-75 and Curley Rd. cut his business in half. Take a little ride, New Tampa!
Uncle Bo’s Smokin’ BBQ is open every day, noon-8, on S.R. 54, just east of Meadow Pointe, next to Payless Homes. For more information, call Ace at 732-4136 and please tell him we sent you!