Sushi Ramen on North Beneva Road has brought something new to Sarasota: a comprehensive selection of food served until 1:45 am. There are late-night options in the area, but the restaurant is the first to offer east and southeast Asian cuisine this late.
"When you're open late, you make the city alive," says owner Woody Tajawandee. "In this city a lot of people want sushi and Japanese, but also want it late."
And late they shall have it. The restaurant is quiet during the early hours of the evening, with a handful of tables enjoying Japanese dishes alongside the restaurant's new Thai menu. But after 9 p.m. is when the restaurant starts to shine. Servers and chefs from nearby restaurants pour in, still wearing their uniforms and settling into booths and tables to rest their feet after a long night.
Sake and beer flow freely as guests listen to live music played in the back of the restaurant and trade stories about their nights. The smell of pork broth wafts through the restaurant as diners receive heaping bowls of ramen.
The ramen is good—better than it needs to be. I order the spicy ramen and it is spicy. The deep flavors of pork stock coat my palate for a moment until I'm knocked over by the intense heat, courtesy of a generous addition of chili oil to the tonkatsu broth. My lips are on fire from slurping the bouncy, chili-soaked noodles. I love it.
The ramen has the standard accompaniments, like fish cakes, bamboo shoots, nori and sesame seeds. There is also the obligatory egg, which in this case is hard boiled, instead of barely cooked with the gelled center I was hoping for. No matter: the spiciness keeps me coming back, ruthlessly fighting me as I reach for my water.
If you're not a fan of spicy there are more mellow options. Tonkatsu, miso and shoyu ramen are on the menu, as well as a generous selection of specialty sushi rolls. The sushi is fine. The restaurant is heavy-handed with the sweet chili sauce, which is admittedly not my favorite condiment.
There's live music every weekend from 7-11 p.m., but after the musician is finished, the restaurant is still open for another hour and 45 minutes. That's when the fun begins as full-bellied guests sign up to sing their favorite karaoke songs.
Tajawandee hopes to create an oasis where people can relax—and by the looks of it, he's succeeding. "I want to bring happy people to eat good food," he says.
Judging by the laughter in the room, he's attracted the happy people. Or maybe he's made them happy by offering them a place to eat tasty food into the wee hours of the morning.
Sushi Ramen is located at 935 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota. It is open from 4 p.m.-1:45 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Sunday. For more information call (941) 702-8360 or visit its website.