By Gary Nager

Based on the number of Japanese steakhouses located in and near New Tampa, not to mention all the other places that also serve sushi, a lot of you really enjoy chowing down on Japanese cuisine. Unfortunately, for many people, a dinner at the average Japanese steak house usually has to be a “big night out” or special occasion.

Well, you may have to rethink your ideas about the cost of enjoying truly delicious sushi and teppanyaki (hibachi) fare, now that Koizi (it’s actually pronounced “Ko-ee-zee”) Endless Hibachi & Sushi Eatery has opened.

Located in the same Shoppes at the Pointe plaza in Tampa Palms as World of Beer and the Coffee Beanery (behind Olive Garden), Koizi is a more delicious, more affordable way to enjoy all you can eat of sushi, hibachi entrées and a number of other great Japanese appetizers and dishes than any of those “Asian buffet” restaurants. Koizi lives up to its self-billing as the “Tampa Bay area’s first & only full-service, endless sushi bar and hibachi steakhouse.”

And, once you’ve visited Koizi, you’ll realize that it is actually the polar opposite of any “buffet place.”

First of all, the restaurant itself — the décor, ambiance, etc. — is absolutely beautiful. No remnant of any previous restaurant in the same space remains. Whether for a business or casual lunch or a dressed-up dinner date, Koizi is, well…really cozy (sorry for the bad pun), even though it’s actually a pretty big place.

The menu offers ridiculously affordable opportunities to “pay one price” for lunch or dinner — $8.95 for lunch (11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.), $17.95 for dinner (4 p.m.-10 p.m.) and $14.95 any time on Sundays (noon-9 p.m.).

That one price includes all-you-can eat, made-to-order sushi (everything from fresh snapper sashimi to unique rolls like the “Sexy Girl” roll, which is served with a lighted “diamond”), plus unlimited appetizers (like a variety of hot soups, crispy Shanghai egg rolls, pot sticker dumplings, Udon noodles and more), plus unlimited Mongolian beef, General Tsao’s chicken, shrimp and broccoli and a few other non-hibachi entrées.

Full yet? You haven’t even hearabout the hibachi fare, which you can enjoy even if you choose not to sit at one of the six teppanyaki tables. The “standard” hibachi fare, which is all you can eat for no additional charge over the prices listed above, includes unlimited top sirloin, shrimp, chicken or squid (aka calamari).

But, if you really want a gourmet dining experience, you can pay to “upgrade” your steak to one full dinner portion of filet, NY strip or even ribeye for only $5 more. Feel like kicking your seafood up a notch? Upgrade to a portion of salmon or scallops for $5 or a tender, delicious lobster tail for only $8.

General manager Mark Planeta, who also has worked at Dempsey’s Steak House at Saddlebrook Resort Tampa, says that Koizi’s goal is to combine the best quality food at the best price possible.

“Value is so important for people these days,” says Planeta. “But, just offering a lot of food won’t keep people coming back. We think more people will want to come back for this kind of quality and value.”

Koizi doesn’t currently serve beer or wine, although you can get free “shots” of sake from a ketchup-style squeeze bottle during the fun (and sometimes a little loud, based on the crowd) hibachi table chefs’ shows. And, while you can’t take out your leftovers when you order the all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner at Koizi, call and ask how you can order sushi and hibachi “to go boxes” for take out.

Just don’t ever confuse Koizi, where “the possibilities are endless,” with any Asian buffet place or with any other Japanese steakhouse or sushi bar in the Tampa Bay area. But, please go… and tell them yours truly sent you!

Koizi Endless Hibachi Grill & Sushi Eatery (17012 Palm Pointe Dr., Tampa Palms) is open every day for lunch and dinner. Reservations are accepted but not required, but Koizi also can host “Hibachi Table Parties” for up to 16 people. For more info, call 971-1919.

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