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East County Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2021 3 months ago

Tsunami Sushi fills important role at The Green in Lakewood Ranch

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Business owners at The Green hope two new restaurants located at the heart of the plaza will bring more shoppers.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill Owner Sam Ray has a grand vision for his Lakewood Ranch location, which he hopes to open in the center of The Green by the end of the year.

The first floor will be family-friendly and a bit more casual. The top floor will be a high-end dining experience, similar to Michael’s on East or Euphemia Haye Restaurant but with a more modern twist, complete with an event space and a party room. He plans to blend elements of a high-end sushi restaurant and high-end steakhouse.

There will be a lounge bar. Live music will be a staple. Ray said he wants to bring in a baby piano to help set the restaurant’s atmosphere.

The news of Tsunami’s impending arrival was music to the ears of businesses located near Tsunami and the other cornerstone store now scheduled to open — BurgerFi. The two corner units, located at the heart of The Green shopping plaza, have long been vacant.

Batteries Plus Bulbs Manager Bojan Miocic has been working a few doors down from the future Tsunami and BurgerFi since his store opened 19 months ago. He said the new restaurants could attract more foot traffic to his store and the shopping plaza as a whole in the evening. He said his store brings in many customers during the day but sees a sharp drop as the afternoon winds down.

“Given that those are vacant now, it can drive so many more customers into the complex and see what we have to offer,” Miocic said. “That evening crowd, once they’re finished eating, they just want to explore what we have to offer.”

Miocic said his store benefited greatly when Winn-Dixie opened, and he said opening two big restaurants could have a similar effect. As of now, Miocic said many of the customers who come to The Green don’t see his store.

Lavish Nails & Spa Assistant Manager Nina Tran said she the new restaurants will be good for business. She knows from experience. It’s what happened when another popular restaurant, Keke’s Breakfast Cafe, opened at The Green.

“The more businesses we have, the more clients come in,” Tran said.

She said it was frustrating to watch two large units in the center of the plaza go unfilled for so long, especially when a “coming soon” sign went up for a restaurant called Irish 31 Pub & Eatery, only to be taken down.

Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill Owner Sam Ray stands in the middle of his future second location, which is at the heart of The Green shopping plaza in Lakewood Ranch.

Sirius Day Spa Director Maria Dietz said her spa's position on the plaza’s middle street will present a prime opportunity to attract people who came to eat at Tsunami or BurgerFi.

“When something's new in town, people always want to explore,” Dietz said. “It might not necessarily be someone that lives in our exact vicinity, but they're coming, and when they come, they're going to walk around and explore. The convenience of the entire plaza is that one stop. I can just park my car, and I can do five of my errands right now, have a wonderful dinner, get my spa treatments, have my dog groomed at the same time.”

Dietz has 42 employees, and she said they’re always looking for new places to eat. Tran loves sushi, so she is particularly excited to try Tsunami.

Attracting local employees is part of the vision for Tsunami, according to Ray. He wants to build a restaurant where people come to relax and drink cocktails after work or grab a beer and simply hang out at 11 p.m., and he wants to do it in a new-age setting that incorporates sunlight and vibrant colors.

“It will have bonsai trees,” Ray said. “It will be like a modern zen garden.”

Ray said the restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and late-night food, with different menus for each. The restaurant will make Asian-inspired cocktails, including teas, sake and Japanese whiskey. It will also provide local beers.

Ray and General Manager Jeffrey Karasawa said they think there is a lack of high-end dining opportunities in Lakewood Ranch, and they want to be the first to step in and fill the void, especially given the area’s rapid population growth. Karasawa said they get a lot of customers at the Sarasota location who say Tsunami is desperately needed in Lakewood Ranch.

“Even now they come to Tsunami downtown and say, ‘When are you opening up (in Lakewood Ranch)? People already want to start making reservations. … The hype is there.”

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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