Sarasota is home to an impressive number of Indian lunch buffets, none better than Tandoor, located in the Cooper Creek shopping plaza. The restaurant’s long $9.99 spread is loaded down with most of your longtime South Asian favorites, such as pakoras, butter chicken and vegetable biryani. The simmered items are tender and creamy, the basmati rice fluffy and herbal, and everything gets a jolt of pizzazz from the varied collection of chutneys. They might have to drag you away.
Inexpensive sushi is a contradiction. Anyone out there really want cheap raw fish? But Jpan delivers spectacular rolls at affordable prices via a series of tempting lunch specials. Grab a combo of two or three basic maki rolls for $9 or $12, a deal that also includes a small side salad. Or select a bento, a rectangular plate divided into small boxes that cradle a California roll, a fried spring roll, delicate shrimp dumplings, rice and a main item of your choosing. The pork katsu, the meat pounded into a thin paddle then coated in panko crumbs and fried, is ace.
Sure, it’s a sushi restaurant, but more importantly, Goichi's has a ramen menu stocked with a long list of brothy beauties. The restaurant’s tonkotsu broth, made with pork and chicken, is always a solid bet, particularly when it’s filled with thick, chewy homemade noodles and laced with shreds of braised pork, fishcakes, roasted seaweed, green onions and chili oil. The portions are enormous, too. A single order comes served in a bowl the size of a hot tub. And if you pay in cash, you’ll snag a bowl for $8.95 instead of $9.95.
When Pho Cali closes up for its annual summer vacation locals freak. How can we go without Sarasota’s best Vietnamese restaurant? Such is the fandom Pho Cali has earned, and it’s a credit to the restaurant’s way with the clean, strong, fresh flavors that dominate Vietnamese cooking. Dishes like phở ($10.95-$11.95) and bún ($11.50-$14.95) offer an inimitable blend of rich meat, lively herbs, crunchy vegetables, sticky noodles and fiery jalapeños. Sweet, salty, sharp, perfect.
Every Saturday, the back of this pan-Asian Gulf Gate specialty store transforms into a small Korean café. One staffer carefully prepares Korean-style sushi, while another slides a couple of small sauté pans over a pair of burners. The menu begins at $3.99 and includes fishcakes stir-fried with vegetables and hot chilies, fried dumplings, noodles tossed with root vegetables and pork and the bibimbap, a stunning mix of rice, veggies, roasted seaweed, pepper paste and a fried egg whose gooey yolk is whipped up until it coats everything in the bowl. If only they served this stuff every day of the week.