Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon: Where Sushi Meets Vietnamese (2024)

  • June 10, 2024Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon: Where Sushi Meets Vietnamese

    Tucked away in a plaza off of 54th Ave N. in St. Petersburg, Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon is offering up a memorable experience of a blend of sushi and Vietnamese delights. Their concept encourages both take out and dine-in experiences, but the to-go option appears to be the most popular amongst the masses. Whether you’re a sushi aficionado or a lover of Vietnamese pho, Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon captivates your palate with a menu that celebrates the best of both worlds. Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon started its journey seven years ago and was originally only a sushi-focused spot. They temporarily shut their doors five years ago for renovations that were supposed to only close the establishment for a couple of months; however, the renovation process lasted longer than expected and Ikigai remained closed for two years. Three months ago, Ikigai was able to reopen to the public with an expanded menu which included Vietnamese cuisine. Trang and her brother Jason own and operate Ikigai and Trang said that while they were closed, her brother teamed up with his friend, Au, who aided in adding the Vietnamese options to their menu. The space at Ikigai is simple and humble. They’re situated in a small plaza with enough parking spots to handle their flow of customers. It may not be located in a popular area for dining in St. Pete, but it certainly appears to draw quite the crowd. We visited Ikigai on a Saturday afternoon around lunchtime and the restaurant was buzzing with both dine-in and take-out clientele. Though, take-out was the clear favored option. Delivery services were in and out of Ikigai constantly, but there was also a steady flow of diners enjoying their meal on premise. If you’re eating in at Ikigai, as we did, you start by selecting your seat, reviewing the menu and then you place your food and drink order at the counter. Everything is then brought to you as it is prepared. As far as drinks are concerned Ikigai offers sake, soju, a few beers, water and some bottled soft drinks. We love sake and enjoy it often so naturally, that’s how we started our lunch. Sho Chiku Bai Nigori unfiltered was the selection and it was mild and a touch sweet. It was quite refreshing and paired well with our lunch. We usually tend to gravitate towards eggrolls, but it was 98 degrees on this Saturday afternoon and my husband suggested the fresh spring rolls with shrimp and pork and I couldn’t say no. These were a sleep hitter for me – we absolutely loved them. The flavors were so vibrant and I really enjoyed how present the fresh mint was. Not only were they delicious, but they were visually appealing too. As we were finishing our last bites of the spring rolls, the pho landed. Ikigai has phenomenal pho offerings which include beef pho, chicken pho, a build your own bowl option and more. We selected the beef pho which comes with two meats and we landed on the beef meatball and the shrimp. Additional meat options include steak, tendon, chicken, shrimp, tofu, fish balls, imitation crab, pork hock, blood cubes and egg yolks. After your pho arrives, you then have the option to head up to Ikigai’s buffet-like condiment station which entails lots of garnishes and sauces. We obviously took advantage of this garnish station and topped our huge bowl of delectable pho with cilantro, thai basil, jalapeños, sprouts and chili oil. This pho was incredible. The broth was so packed with flavor, noodle ratio was pristine and the do it yourself garnish game really was the cherry on top. As far as portions are concerned, this bowl was absolutely huge – we took more than half of it home and happily enjoyed it the next day. Sushi bowls are also a very popular option at Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon. When ordering this, they hand you a laminated card with all of the bowl options with an erasable marker to make your selections. For my bowl, I selected tuna, sweet and spicy Ikigai sauce, avocado, cucumber, edamame, jalapeño and onion. When it arrived, I first noted how ideal the portion was. Had we not ordered any other food, this bowl would’ve been the perfect amount of food to sustain me for lunch. A bed of rice with fresh tuna and vivacious accoutrements – it’s the utmost satisfying, to say the very least. Sushi rolls are a must at Ikigai. They have classic and specialty options and we had to order one of each, of course. Both rolls arrived on a platter together and the first standout detail of note was their beautiful appearance. The Mexican Roll under the classic selection of rolls has been deemed a favorite with the masses, so that one was a no-brainer. Tempura shrimp wrapped up in a blanket of seaweed and rice with avocado and topped with smelt roe – it’s a hard roll not to love. Texturally, this sushi roll is on-point. The avocado levels out the richness that the shrimp tempura brings to the table and all of it together makes for a glorious bite. A specialty roll was a must and we seem to always lean towards the tuna offerings – specifically, spicy tuna options. Luckily, they have a roll that is 100% up our alley and that is the Kamikaze roll. The roll is simple, but it hits all desired notes with spicy tuna and cucumber inside and more fresh tuna and spicy mayo on top of the roll on the outside. I often don’t love how large slices from a specialty roll can be, but these pieces were great and more than manageable. Spice levels were enjoyable without being too intense and the tuna was quite fresh. I find that less is more when it comes to a sushi roll and if you’re looking for that, this option is it. Ikigiai with a […]

  • Elevate your next dinner situation with crispy chicken cutlets topped with charred sweet peppers, homemade hot honey and a shower of minced chives. It’s a crunchy, hot, sweet, tangy dish that is chock-full of flavor and certain to leave you full of happiness and content after consumption. This recipe takes classic chicken cutlets to a new level, offering a crispy and golden exterior that encases juicy and tender meat. The charred sweet peppers perfectly complement the sweet heat from the hot honey and make for the perfect cutlet accessories. Minced chives assist in making these crispy cutlets next level with their fresh and vibrant characteristics. If you can’t be bothered with making your own hot honey, Rollin’ Oats carries Mike’s hot honey which is superb. I promise you though, making your own hot honey is a breeze. I suggest making it with honey that is raw and/or organic. Each stovetop is different, so the cook time for the chicken will vary. Keep a close eye on the chicken while in the oil as they do brown and cook quickly. Our cutlets took approximately 1 1/2 minutes to cook on each side on our stove. If you’re looking for an additional side to pair with the cutlets, I recommend a light and fresh side like an arugula salad dressed in lemon and olive oil. Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Hot Honey Recipe Savor this delightful combination of crispy chicken cutlets, hot honey with a punch and charred mini sweet peppers for your next easy yet crowd-pleasing dinner. Hot Honey1/2 cup honey (preferably raw and organic )1 jalapeno (sliced into thin rounds)1 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper1 tsp red wine vinegar1/4 tsp saltCharred Sweet Peppers1 cup mini sweet peppers (sliced into thin rounds)1 tbsp olive oil1/4 salt (I always use pink Himalayan )Chicken Cutlets2 chicken breasts (each one split to make 4 total chicken breast cutlets)1/2 cup olive oil (or other oil of choice)1 cup all purpose flour1 cup panko breadcrumbs1/3 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)2 eggs1 tsp salt (plus more for seasoning)pepper1/4 cup chives (minced) Hot HoneyCombine honey, jalapeno and crushed red pepper in a small pot. Place the pot over medium heat. As soon as the pot comes to a gentle simmer, remove the pot from the heat and allow the chilis to infuse the honey for 15 minutes. Strain the honey mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside until chicken is complete. Leftover honey can be stored in a container in the refrigerator for one week. Charred PeppersHeat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat (this will be the same pot that you will fry the chicken in). Add the peppers and salt and saute for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pepper rings are charred. Remove peppers from heat and place in a bowl until ready to serve.Chicken Cutlets & PlatingOne at a time, place each cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound them out until they are 1/4" thick. Season each cutlet with salt and pepper on both sideslPlace the flour, whisked egg and panko-parmesan-salt mixture into three separate bowls.Dredge each pounded cutlet in the flour, followed by the egg (allowing excess to drip off), followed by the panko mixture. Place on a clean plate.Heat oil in the pot or dutch oven and heat over medium high heat. One at a time, fry each chicken cutlet for four minutes (1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side – keep a close eye on them), until cutlets are golden, crispy and cooked throgh.Place them on a wire rack that is stacked on a parchment-lined baking sheet.To serve, place a cutlet on a plate, top with some peppers, drizzle with hot honey and garnish with lots of chopped chives. Dinner, Main CourseAmericanCrispy Chicken Cutlets with Hot Honey

  • May 28, 2024Bohemios: A Flavor-Filled Journey Through Tapas

    Every meal should be an experience, in my opinion. I love to romanticize and fully immerse myself in every single culinary moment. To be an experience, it doesn’t have to be over the top nor overly expensive – I just always aspire for it to be memorable and intentional. Food is a love language to me and it is always my goal to enjoy and savor every moment and every bite of everything that is consumed. Additionally, I think that there is something important and beautiful about trying as many different dishes as possible with each meal. This is why I love tapas-style dining so much and that’s precisely what you’ll encounter at Bohemios Tapas Restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg. Bohemios is located on the ground floor of the Camden Central apartments located on St. Pete’s lively Central Ave between 8th St. N and Dr. MLK Jr. St. The restaurant has an expansive indoor bar, plenty of tables throughout that can be reserved online and even some outdoor seating that lines the sidewalk. While they do not have a designated parking area, street parking can be found on Central and the surrounding streets. We visited Bohemios on an early Saturday evening on a holiday weekend and had no issue finding a two hour parking spot one block from the restaurant. Bohemios in St. Pete has only been open for under a couple of months but this isn’t their first location – their original location is actually in Sarasota. From the time we arrived until the moment we left, the entire staff at Bohemios went above and beyond. We did not make a reservation and opted to sit at the bar where Basha provided us with exceptional hospitality. Additional staff members also checked on and conversed with us throughout our meal as well, including the chef. It’s the simple touches like that that truly make a difference in a dining experience. Lucky for us, we popped into Bohemios during their Friendly Hours, which occurs every day from 3:00PM – 6:00PM and all day on Sundays. The specials include $6.00 white and red sangria, $6.00 house wine, $3.50 domestic beers and six different tapas for $7.95 each. It’s a fantastic deal that I highly recommend. We took full advantage of Bohemios Friendly Hours and ordered one of each of the six tapas, the white and red sangria, champagne and the house Chardonnay. The six tapas on the Friendly Hours menu are: tequeños, empanadas, pataconcitos, mix ceviche, calamari and meatballs. The wine and sangrias landed in front of us moments after ordering them. It was a hot May afternoon in Florida and each of the sangrias were crisp and delicious without being overly sweet. The chardonnay that my mom ordered arrived in a chilled wine glass which we highly appreciated – it’s a great touch. Shortly thereafter, one at a time, our tapas began dropping in idyllic fashion. Our first taste of Bohemios was in the form of their pataconcitos with beef. Pataconcitos are deep fried plantain cups with ground beef. This happy hour rendition is comprised of three bite size cups and we absolutely loved them. They’re savory with a touch of sweetness from the plantains. We couldn’t have asked for a better bite to start our meal. The meatballs were the next to arrive in their pool of red sauce with a generous side of grated parmesan. These meatballs are on the smaller side and are quite tender. They’re great for sharing between a few people. After our last bites of the meatballs were consumed, the beef empanadas, calamari and the cheesy tequeños were placed in front of us. It’s important to note that each of the Friendly Hours items comes with three pieces (with the exception of the empanadas – they come with two). This was perfect for our group because each of us was able to enjoy one bite of everything without having the temptation to indulge in more (which we easily could’ve done). The tequeños were, without a doubt, the fan-favorite. These fried delights of dough and queso are served with a cilantro sauce and are essentially an elevated cheese stick and I mean this in the best way possible. We could’ve devoured an obscene amount of these. Cilantro sauce is served alongside a few of the tapas and this truly helped to cut the rich nature of these dishes. The empanadas are one of said dishes and while the dough and filling of the empanadas were both exceptional, the cilantro sauce elevated the bite. The calamari was good, but not as memorable as the other tapas on the Friendly Hours menu. The rings of squid are sliced thin, breaded and of course fried. If you’re a calamari fan, you’ll enjoy this version. Bohemios has a bruschetta section on their menu and the pan con tomate was 100% a must order. It’s one of my favorite dishes because the flavor that it delivers with its array of simple ingredients. It’s a dish that proves less is more when quality ingredients are involved. Tomato, olive oil, garlic and herbs served on crostini – need I say more? We were humming. This is something that I make regularly at home and I appreciate when it’s executed well at a restaurant. Croquettes also had their own section on the menu and when we noted that, I knew that we had to order at least one. I was set on the Manchego croquettes but Basha swayed us when she mentioned that the Iberian Ham rendition was a must order. We followed her lead and needless to say, we were extremely pleased. These croquettes are stuffed with serrano ham and seasoned potato and we simply went crazy over these. The last of the six Friendly Hour tapas to arrive was the mix ceviche. This ceviche has shrimp, fish, scallops, cilantro, sweet peppers and plenty of citrus and is served with plantain chips. It is a vibrant offering and we appreciated it after […]

  • May 17, 2024

    Chef Jason Ruhe and wife Hope Montgomery are opening their third restaurant in June 2024. Their first two eateries have consistently been given high marks – Brick & Mortar Kitchen + Wine Bar in downtown St. Pete, and Sea Worthy Fish + Bar in Tierra Verde have been open nine and four years respectively. The new Pulpo Kitchen & Lounge is located in the hip Grand Central District at 2147 Central Ave. Pulpo Kitchen + Lounge will serve Latin-American inspired cuisine in an indoor-outdoor atmosphere with two full-liquor bars and live music. The menu will include, “childhood favorites that I grew up with from my Spanish Cuban heritage”, said Ruhe. There will be raw dishes such as ceviche and crudo and the cuisine will be inspired by the cultures of Peru, Mexico and more. Paella, grilled octopus, and grilled meat skewers are a few of the dishes. Dylan Ruhe, Jason’s cousin is the GM and Beverage Director with Hope in charge of the wine program. Chef Marcos Bernal from Sea Worthy will be the Chef de Cuisine. The live music and co*cktails will fit the theme of the venue. Pulpo will be open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

  • May 17, 2024It’s Always Sunny in St. Pete and at Little Philly

    Recently Kevin, Lori and I had a St. Pete Foodies night out, eager to explore one of the newest additions to our city – Little Philly. Located at the corner of Central Ave and 21st St N in the Grand Central District, it’s a great spot for various occasions, whether it’s a pre-game meal before a Rays game, a casual lunch spot, or a quick bite after a busy workday. Little Philly is co-owned by Renaud Cowez and Chef Sean Ford, who have previously partnered on other restaurants in the St. Pete area, including Tryst and Tropez. Chef Sean is originally from Philly and wanted to share his home town food with St. Pete. Ordering at Little Philly might initially confuse those unfamiliar with Philly cuisine, but the staff is more than happy to assist, making the process simple. The “Plain Cheesesteak” and “Cheesesteak” are essentially build-your-own options. The menu does not clearly state that, which is apparently how it is in Philly too. From there, you can pretty much choose anything you want to put on it; from building a classic (or at least what I would consider a classic… honestly, I am questioning my knowledge of a Philly Cheesesteak after visiting) with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and whiz to ordering, as I like to call it, a Lindsey Cheesesteak (more on that later). They do have a little sign that can help guide you through the basic options. Pizza sauce anyone? We were lucky enough to have Renaud help us decide on our meals and tell us about the restaurant. One of the most important things that caught my attention was Little Philly’s dedication to quality. All meats are sliced in house from the deli meats for the hoagies, to the ribeye for the cheesesteaks—sliced fresh off of a full ribeye sub-primal. (Some places use frozen, pre-sliced beef for their cheesesteaks.) The hoagie rolls, which are a crucial part (possibly just as important as the meat) of the authentic Philly Cheesesteak experience, are exceptional. It took many hours of tweaking and experimenting to get them perfect. Chef Sean is working with a bakery in central Florida. He started with his family recipe, but with the differences in the Florida climate and water, several tweaks had to be made to get them perfect. The rolls are soft and pillowy on the inside, have an awesome chewy crust on the outside, and are packed with flavor. Fresh baked rolls are delivered everyday. You will never get a day-old roll here. The Texas Tommy Hot Dog is served with crispy bacon and American cheese. Despite its humble appearance, this large hot dog, nestled in the same soft bun as their sandwiches, boasts a rich smoky flavor that delights the palate. I quite enjoyed the combination of the smoky hotdog with the salty, fatty bacon and the American cheese. I am a believer that Phillies should be messy to be delicious. It shows that without even having your first bite, you already know that it’s going to be moist and satiate your taste buds. We ordered the Philly Cheesesteak with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and whiz. And let me tell you this one came out messy and delicious, to the eye and the mouth. The South Philly Cheesesteak is what I would say you should order if you want to *pretend* to be healthy. The South Philly comes with ribeye or chicken, spinach, provolone, and peppers. The combination of toppings really makes you feel like you are eating a fresh healthy meal while also indulging. I think I preferred the toppings with the chicken, but that might just be my bias on wanting a gluttonous cheesesteak when using ribeye meat. Little Philly’s Loaded Chicken Cheesesteak is a surprising delight, blending chicken, mushrooms, American cheese, pizza sauce, peppers, and fried onions. While the combination may seem unconventional, the result is a symphony of flavors that surpasses expectations, leaving taste buds tingling with delight. The Italian Hoagie comes with capicola, soppressata , salami, prosciutto sliced in house, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, and vinegar, and served on their soft hoagie bread. I realized later that this didn’t have mayo or mustard on it and the fact that I didn’t realize it or miss it really stands as a testament to the restaurants commitment to quality. I enjoyed my meals so much the first time, I decided to go back a week later. I ordered what I’ve dubbed The Lindsey Cheesesteak – my special way of getting it extra messy with extra provolone, mayo, peppers, and onions. It came out just perfect, maybe the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t want Kevin and Lori to have to deal with all the extra cheese and mayo, so I kept it to myself. The macaroni salad at Little Philly is a classic favorite, offering a tasty and satisfying side dish that perfectly complements their hearty sandwiches. Not too heavy, yet full of flavor, it’s the ideal accompaniment to any meal. While it might not normally be at the top of your list when visiting a Philly Cheesesteak restaurant, the chicken tenders are a not-to-miss menu item. They are juicy, tender, crispy, mouthwateringly perfect chicken tenders. I think Lori may have mentioned they were at the top of the list of items we tried and maybe even some of the best tenders she’s had in St. Pete. Little Philly’s menu is a delightful exploration of Philadelphia’s culinary heritage, with a dash of innovation thrown in. As we wrapped up our meal at Little Philly, I couldn’t help thinking about what I would order next time. With promises to explore their ribeye burgers and upcoming specialty items, we left with full stomachs and eager anticipation. Little Philly had won me over with its dedication to quality, variety of menu offerings, and welcoming atmosphere, ensuring that it would become a restaurant I frequent for many years to come.

  • Ikigai with a Taste of Saigon: Where Sushi Meets Vietnamese (2024)


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