JPAN has been around in Sarasota for a number of years and always seems to be mentioned whenever the topic of good sushi comes up. We have not had the opportunity to visit the Sarasota location but they opened a second location here in Lakewood Ranch and we decided to try them for lunch this past Saturday.
Located in the space formerly occupied by Saijo, they offer indoor dining at tables or around the sushi bar as well as a good number of outdoor dining tables. With the beautiful spring weather we are having we elected to sit outside, which might have been somewhat to our detriment.
The lunch menu offered a variety of traditional sushi, sashimi, rolls and appetizers as well as a more limited selection of noodles.
We decided to start with a couple of appetizers. First we had the salmon carpaccio which was described as sushi salmon with ponzu sauce infused and cilantro. The fish itself was very tasty but unfortunately the ponzu sauce completely overwhelmed any of the cilantro flavors. We actually thought that it would have been cilantro leaves as opposed to the paste that this is served with.
We also had an order of the steamed shrimp shumai, which were very light and full of fresh shrimp flavor. The traditional dipping sauce was also lighter and very tasty. I am always happy when appetizers for two are served in even numbers such as this was… no fighting over the last piece for us!
We elected to go with some sashimi and nori-maki rolls for our entree. Always on the lookout for a really good volcano roll we selected that plus some ikura (salmon roe), escolar (commonly called white tuna) and a spicy tuna roll.
The volcano roll was listed as including tuna, cream cheese (which we omitted) and asparagus topped with avocado and shrimp/crab salad. The roll itself was fairly tasty but the avocado looked as if it had not been properly cut and basted because it had a fair number of brown aeration spots on it. The shrimp and crab salad was quite tasty but was not spicy as expected nor had it been toasted under a broiler. We were also surprised that the salad was served more as an accompaniment rather than an integral part of the dish.
Both the ikura and escolar were very tasty and served very traditionally. No complaints here at all.
Finally the spicy tuna roll was tasty but was not spicy in the least. The addition of some wasabi solved this problem, but we were quite taken back by this oversight.
As mentioned above, we enjoyed sitting outside on a beautiful day. Unfortunately for us though, our waiter did not appear to share our enthusiasm for being outside and we saw him only very briefly. To say that our service was underwhelming would be kind. You know that you are not getting good service when you have to ask for a water refill.
Overall we enjoyed the food quite a bit. The ambience was great, especially being able to sit outside and people watch. The service definitely was a negative but we would like to think that it would be better if we had sat inside or at a more peak time. While we still prefer Kumo down the street, we expect that we will give this one another try.