Friday, January 24, 2014

The Perfect Antidote to the Polar Vortex: Nakaya Japanese Bistro in South Tampa

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

Growing up in Minnesota, I should feel ashamed that I start whining that I am cold anytime it gets below 65 degrees in Tampa Bay.  But I'M FREEZING!  My blood has thinned.  I am wearing multiple layers and have the heat blasting when it dipped down to the 40's the other night.  I wanted to get a giant bowl of soup and just sit in it.  So imagine my joy when I saw that Nakaya Japanese bistro had opened close to my home in South Tampa.  Advertising ramen and udon bowls, it was like the heavens had answered my prayers.  I knew I had to check it out right away.

Nakaya Japanese Bistro is located in the Walgreens plaza on Platt Street behind the UPS Store and the Cleaners in the former Nola/Second Street Cafe location.  (301 W. Platt Street but Google Maps is awful at finding it, so look for the northeast corner of Platt and Hyde Park Avenue)  Because it is tucked in the back, it can be easy to miss while driving by.  But if you like simple, well-made noodle bowls, seafood and sushi you will not want to miss Nakaya

For the first half of my lunch at Nakaya, I was the only one in the restaurant who was not speaking Japanese.  I loved this - with the shoji screen covered windows I felt like I was transported to a noodle house in Tokyo instead of being near the Leroy Selmon Expressway and downtown Tampa.  Even when the rest of the lunch crowd (English-speakers must lunch later?) arrived, I still felt like I was in another city.  It was fantastic.

The service was fantastic and very friendly.  They made sure my large cup of hot green tea was never empty and that I enjoyed every dish I ordered.

I started with the tuna tataki ($9.50 at the time of this writing).  The tuna was very fresh tasting and a large portion for the price.  The sauce was a perfect balance for the tuna.

On the lunch menu, they have ramen, chashu ramen, kakiage udon, kakiage soba, chicken katsu, karaage (Japanese fried chicken), tempura shrimp, garlic beef, teriyaki beef, salads and other items.  The kakiage udon is a large bowl of udon noodle soup with a tempura fried vegetable topper.  On the dinner menu, they have my favorite udon - shrimp tempura udon.  With my nicest smile, I asked my server if it would be possible to order the shrimp tempura udon noodle bowl ($9) even though it was not on the lunch menu.  She said it would be no problem.  Yay!

The shrimp tempura udon was wonderful.  The broth had a rich dashi-miso type flavor.  The noodles were perfectly cooked.  There was some lovely seaweed.  I believe the vegetable tempura was a fried Japanese lotus root which had a nice starchy flavor.  The tempura batter was fluffy and delicious laden with the rich broth.  The shrimp was nicely cooked.  On a cold day, this udon noodle bowl was a blessing for my stomach!

And if you like your udon spicy, don't forget to ask your Nakaya server for the "shichimi togarashi" - Japanese seven spice to spice up your noodle bowl!

I was impressed with Nakaya Japanese bistro - inexpensive, well-made food, in a relaxed atmosphere with great service.  Even their hot green tea was a step above!

They have a wide variety of appetizers and a small sushi menu as well.  I definitely will be back - I want to try their Chashu - Japanese barbecue pork, their wonton ramen, ponzu beef, pork katsu, their donuts and ice cream dessert and many more of their dishes!

If you are in South Tampa and like Japanese food, you must try Nakaya Japanese Bistro.
Nakaya Japanese Bistro on Urbanspoon