[google-map-sc width=”200″ height=”200″ margin=”10″ align=”right” zoom=”15″ type=”TERRAIN” address=”3611 First Street East, Bradenton, FL 34208″ ] Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
3611 First Street East, DeSoto Junction, Bradenton, FL 34208, (941) 747-6300 (I tried calling this number and it doesn’t work?)
Cuisine: Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
Price Rating: $15-$25 per entree
Review Date: March 23, 2012
Review Tip: More of a visual person or don’t have much time? Skip to the bottom for a quick video with all the pics!
Tamas was the sweet, supportive husband-of-a-blogger and bought me a Groupon to the Samurai Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Bradenton, FL recently. It was a large enough Groupon that we could bring others so we invited our good friends Nick and Sheri to join us as none of us had ever been there before.
The restaurant is located in a not-so-beautiful part of Bradenton, right across from the Arby’s with that big, old school sign. The outside of the restaurant had some interesting local characters smoking, presumably from the bar next door, but they were nice enough to hold the door open for us. When you enter the restaurant, the ambiance greets you as warm, clean and inviting. The hostess was a delightful smiling young woman and after a few minutes wait to get a free Hibachi table, we were seated next to a couple who goes to this restaurant several times per week! They gave us a glowing review and said we wouldn’t be disappointed. Their only advice was that if we ordered steak, to order it a temperature lower than normal, as it is often overcooked. Tamas smiled with delight, as anything under well, well, well, well, well-done is much too raw for him.
First, they serve you some clear broth soup with yummy fried onions and then some miso salad. Both of those were really great. We order our appetizers of Tempura Vegetables and Shrimp and some Beef Negimaki. Both came out and were amazing. The tempura batter was not too greasy and in fact, very light and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. And with the Yum Yum sauce, it was absolutely to die for. I could have had a whole meal just out of that! Very much like coconut shrimp, in fact. “And the veggies were good, too,” says Cheri reluctantly. The Beef Negimaki (beef wrapped scallions), according to Negimaki connoisseur Nick, was the perfect texture, soft and not tough at all. And the sauce was a great accompaniment – Tamas loved it too.
Then the chef came out and started off with the super fun, Hibachi style action where he starts wowing you with some fire spurts and egg throwing (and dropping, oops!) Ha. He starts cooking up the rice and vegetables on the table in front of you, and you can feel the heat. Tamas joked around at one point pretending that the lemon the chef squirted got him in the eye, so the chef playfully countered with a little plastic squeeze doll of a boy and when he squeezed the doll, a spurt of water came from the pants – right onto Tamas! Sweet revenge. This happened to Funny Man Tamas not once but twice during the meal. I just had to laugh!
So then our meals were in the process of being prepared. I have to say that for a first-time Hibachi eater, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the visuals, even though I loved it. It’s just that the presentation, cooking and interaction left me a bit wide-eyed and speechless. I was having such a great time taking it all in that I almost forgot to eat!
We were served our meals in the respective order that the meat was done cooking. Which means that according to Tamas’ well-done requirements, he will always get his food last from now on at Hibachi, giving me a reason to torture him for his disgusting taste in meat. Hibachi it is, from now until eternity!
Being the food blogger, of course, I get to taste everyone’s meals – it’s a sacrifice I make for my ART. Sheri’s scallops were amazing and fluffy – not overcooked at all and a tasty choice. I got the shrimp just like she did, and I have to say that was cooked perfectly as well – super flavorful and still juicy. The steak, though I tried Tamas’ and it was DRY because he ordered it that way, it was still really good. The chicken was a little dry, however, and I heard from the couple next to us that it often is, so unless you like your chicken overcooked (ahem, cough, TAMAS) I wouldn’t recommend that. And sadly, my lobster was a bit overcooked and chewy as well. I probably won’t order that again, which is okay because it leaves room for more shrimp! If you happen to order something that comes out a little dry, rest assured, they have two sauces that they give with it that are to die for so all is not lost. I just tend to order my meat and seafood erring on the side of undercooked not only because I walk on the wild side but just because I like to really get the flavor of the meat.
The next part bothered me a bit. Everything was going swimmingly until we were done with our meals. The couple next to us, the regulars; they got really great, fast, prompt service. But us, the newcomers with the *gasp* coupon, we were pretty much ignored for about the next 15 minutes until I finally flagged someone down. I mean, I was glad to hang with the friends but what I REALLY wanted was dessert! (Sorry friends). So after waiting for that, when the waitress finally came around, she seemed a bit bothered that I had bothered her, kept interrupting me while I was ordering, and then ended up bringing out the wrong dessert. I politely asked her to bring out fried ice cream instead of just regular ice cream, and she seemed a bit put out to have to change it. So while we waited for the Fried Ice Cream, we ate our Fried Cheesecake which was AMAZING by the way – creamy, tempura fried. I think it was a ricotta cheesecake, which normally I don’t like, but when it’s fried, well, most anything is great fried. We were glad to share that together, and I was double glad that Nick doesn’t like cheesecake and that Sheri is polite, because the only person I really had to fight for an equal portion was Tamas, aka Mr. Doesn’t Share. When the Fried Ice Cream was finally ready, the waitress who I thought hated me, was suddenly extremely polite and gracious. Which, I choose to interpret as her having had a few moments of negativity followed by a change in attitude, nothing else. The Fried Ice Cream itself was pretty good, but we all agreed that we liked the cheesecake better. And from that point on, the service was stellar.
One thing is for sure after visiting this restaurant and sitting at the Hibachi table for the first time: there will be a Hibachi table in my house before I die. Hopefully, not right before I die ’cause I’d like to enjoy it a little before I kick the bucket.
Entertaining, clean, warm atmosphere with a menu offering prepared in a fun, Hibachi way. The service left a bit to be desired at one point and some of the items were a bit overdone, but the other positives really made up for that.
As a participant in this outing, I feel the need to add my own two cents to our experience, which was, overall, as positive as Cheri’s.
The layout, or lack thereof, of the restaurant is very unusual, and I’m not entirely sure it’s for the better. The whole dining area, which includes a bar, about 12 hibachi grills, regular tables and a waiting area, is all in one large room. While the owners probably think this lends itself to a roomy, airy atmosphere, it tends to be a little calamitous with all the intense food prep and large number of customers. You also have a direct line of sight from one end of the room to the other, which removes any sort of aesthetic that would be normally provided by decor. A few well-placed half-walls would do much for the atmosphere and surrounding noise level.
The food was great, and there isn’t much to add to Cheri’s words. As a frequenter of similar eateries, I can say from experience that the portions were larger, and the cuts and quality of the main ingredients (steak, scallops, etc) were larger and better. Flavor-wise, it’s difficult to stand out, since the cooking style, flavors and ingredients don’t vary much from restaurant to restaurant when cooking tableside, but everything was delicious and certainly made you feel like you were getting your money’s worth.
I don’t know what was up with that absentee waitress at the end, but none of the other diners seemed to be experiencing the same problem. Definitely put a damper on the overall experience.
If you’re a fan of local competitor Joto’s or DaRuMa, but don’t feel like making a trek into north Sarasota from points in Bradenton, check out Samurai as a perfectly acceptable replacement.