- June 30, 2021
A former oriental buffet got a complete makeover and a new name.
Restaurateur Michael Dong quietly opened his newest restaurant, Yuniku, at University Square three weeks ago.
The Asian fusion sit-down at the corner of University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road transformed the space into what Dong hopes is a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere.
Dong has been working to get the space ready for the past five months. It has room for 200 seats and a full-service liquor and sushi bar.
“We changed everything from the floor to the ceiling,” he said.
Everything inside the interior is custom-built to Dong’s specifications, including a water feature, wood detailing and large Asian-inspired archways above the doors.
The restaurant features sushi, Korean and Japanese dishes for lunch and dinner. It’s endless, but not a buffet —
waiters and waitresses bring out dishes that have been arranged and presented with care. The look on the plate is important, Dong said.
David Lu serves as his sushi chef, and Jim Chen cooks the teriyaki and hibachi dishes. Dong said he tastes everything before it’s put on the menu.
Its full bar serves Asian liquors and cocktails, as well as a house specialty — the scorpion bowl. The drink, large enough for two, is fruit juices mixed with rum.
The China native opened his first business when he was 21. He moved to Florida in 1997 and opened a restaurant in Clearwater. Since, he’s been opening Asian cuisine eateries along the coast, including the Grand Buffet in Bradenton. Yuniku is his eighth restaurant.
He chose the location both for its proximity to so many neighborhoods on University and Lockwood Ridge and its cost-effective rent as compared to spots closer to the Mall at UTC.
“This is my passion,” Dong said.