BITE-SIZED

Roll It Up

Our columnist finds sushi love in a Mandarin strip mall

ON THE LIST: The Chirashi is a medley of fresh sashimi garnished with an edible flower, pieces of tamago omelet, colorful pickled daikon radish and a bed of heart-shaped sticky sushi rice.  
Caron Streibich
TOFU, PLEASE: Soft cubes of tofu are fried in tempura batter, then paired with tempura vegetables peacefully floating in a slightly salty and sweet dashi dipping sauce.
Caron Streibich
Kazu's sashimi salad is light and colorful, and full of assorted raw fish. The yuzu vinaigrette is refreshing and doesn't overpower the fish or avocado, radish and lettuce.
Caron Streibich
From the sushi menu, both the Dancing Eel and Spider roll were flavorful and fresh.
Caron Streibich
Pan-seared pork gyoza, great for sharing, paired with a light dashi dipping sauce.
Caron Streibich
The restaurant is spacious and spotless, with a modern feel and comfortable vibe. The sushi bar seats about a half-dozen patrons.
Caron Streibich
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Posted

9965 San Jose Blvd., Ste. 35, Mandarin

kazujapaneserestaurant.com

Know that feeling you get when you try a new place and enjoy it so much you want to shout it from the rooftops to every food-loving soul you know? I'm going to be that girl.

Excellent sashimi and Japanese fare have been hard to nail down in Jacksonville, but I've finally unearthed a gem that's nestled off San Jose in a Carrabba's strip mall, of all places. Had two people not mentioned Kazu to me, I'd have never set foot in there, due to that location. Upon entering, however, I saw a place that's spacious and spotless, with a modern feel and comfortable vibe.

Open for two months, Kazu has a menu that offers a delightful variety of Japanese comfort food, including a variety of soups, dumplings, sushi bar appetizers, salads, bento boxes, sushi, maki handrolls and sashimi. Prices are fair and the servings are abundantly portioned and artfully plated.

We started with agedashi tofu ($4.50), pork gyoza ($4.95) and Kazu sashimi salad ($9.95). I highly recommend the tofu. These soft soybean cubes are fried in a tempura batter then served afloat a slightly sweet yet salty dashi, a soup-like stock. The pan-seared gyoza dumplings ($4.95) were good but not as memorable as the tofu. And the colorful salad had plenty of fresh pieces of sashimi, sliced avocado, mango, carrot and red onion, tossed in a light yuzu vinaigrette. It was refreshing and perfect for sharing.

On the sushi menu, I was immediately drawn to the Dancing Eel ($7.95): eel, shrimp, seaweed salad, creamy avocado and spicy mayo. So many of my favorite things all rolled (no pun intended) into one! It was solid. My next order was the Spider ($7.95), which touted tempura soft-shell crab, avocado, cucumber, a sweet eel sauce and tobiko on top.

Sushi and apps aside, I can't stop thinking about the Chirashi ($15.95) — the most remarkable dish of the evening. An absolutely gorgeous rainbow medley of amazingly fresh sashimi garnished with an edible flower, pieces of tamago omelet, colorful pickled daikon radish and a bed of heart-shaped sticky sushi rice. Of the raw fish, the yellowtail and salmon were two of my favorites, each bursting with freshness and flavor.

I'm eager to return soon and try some of the dinner entrées, like panko-encrusted pork katsu, nabeyaki udon soup and unagi don (barbecued eel) over rice.

I have a whole list. Don't judge me.

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