Asian Inspiration: Tsunami attracts loyal fans

America has become a sushi nation. The number of sushi bars in the U.S. has quintupled in the last decade. South Louisiana offers many fine sushi destinations, but those who know their sushi have definite opinions about which place offers the freshest fish, the best rolls, and most intriguing flavor combinations.

In Lafayette, any day is sushi day for sushi connoisseurs. There are numerous sushi bars in this food-friendly town. Put it together in an attractive presentation, add a friendly person to serve it, combine it with an owner who remembers frequent visitors, and you have Tsunami, which opened in January 2000 at 412 Jefferson Street (337/234-FISH). Tsunami is more than a sushi bar limited to Japanese fare. It offers an extensive menu, including great steaks and Asian specials. Two years of design and development went into the restaurant before sisters Leah Simon and Michele Ezell, along with husband, Sean, opened its doors.

“I had been living in L.A.,” says Simon. “I lived away for 20 years between L.A. and New York. I was in the music biz,” she explains. “There wasn’t a single sushi restaurant in Lafayette at the time. While she was on vacation in L.A., my sister Michele said that people were driving from Lafayette to Baton Rouge to get sushi. It was New Year’s Eve and we got a wild idea, inspired by the sushi restaurant we were eating at. Once we opened Tsunami, overnight, it blew up. Then people started driving down from Baton Rouge to hang out at Tsunami for our sushi.” The sisters were the first to open a restaurant offering fresh sushi in Lafayette, paving the way for the many that followed.

Four years later, they opened the second Tsunami, this time in downtown Baton Rouge at 100 Lafayette Street with a sweeping view of the city (225/346-5100). A grand place to dine as the sun descends in the afternoon sky, Tsunami offers a serene setting for everything from ribeye steaks to duck and Wahoo prepared by award-winning chefs. Their Asian-inspired specials on weekends have gained a loyal following.

“We had people waiting for tables 30 days before the Baton Rouge Tsunami opened,” says Simon. “We were successful almost instantly. We have had record years,” she explains. “We’ve branded. It has gotten exponentially bigger since we opened. Our Baton Rouge location is fancier.” Everyone says that the service at both restaurants is tops, but the food and diverse menu are the real draw.

More than just a sushi bar, Tsunami has positioned itself as a premiere fine dining establishment for international cuisine. The 24-ounce Allen Brothers Choice bone-in ribeye served with asparagus and ginger caramelized onion butter rivals the melt-in-the-mouth five-ounce petite filet topped with shrimp and crab ginger garlic sauce. Cedar plank salmon is grilled to perfection with char-grilled asparagus and a pomegranate balsamic reduction. Crispy pork cutlets served with grilled baby green beans and shitake mushrooms star with crispy duck breast, leg, and thigh twice cooked and served with sugar snap beans and a hint of raspberry hoisin drizzle that lingers on the palate.

From elaborate bento boxes to creative rolls, baby back ribs, and Tsunami specials such as the Sunflower designed with thin sashimi slices of fresh seared tuna in ponzu sauce served with black tobiko and a quail egg, Tsunami is a one-of-a-kind experience. Try the large variety of award-winning martinis or specialty drinks such as The Hunk made with vanilla vodka, simple syrup, pineapple and lime juice. When in Baton Rouge, be sure to stop in and take in the splendid, panoramic view. In Lafayette, Tsunami is a great spot to begin an evening near all the clubs on Jefferson Street.


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