My wife and I had dinner at Scream’n Tuna Sushi in Lakeland recently. They have not been open a long time, less than a year. The interior of the restaurant is smaller than we expected – that’s not a complaint, just an observation. We arrived a little earlier than most people eat dinner and were the only customers there when we arrived. By the time we left, however, the majority of the tables were occupied. Other than appetizers and a few soups and salads, the menu is almost entirely sushi. I actually like that concept because it tells me they are focused on one thing.
About my only real complaint is the decor. It just felt a little cold and sterile to me. I’d prefer that they dress the place up in warmer colors to feel more inviting. There are a few tables outside, but we were there on kind of a blustery day. Some reviews have commented on service issues, primarily reviews from the first few months of operation. Our server was quite friendly and attentive through the entire meal, and very helpful in answering questions about the menu. We give them an A+ for service. There was some strange noise from the front of the restaurant for a short while after we arrived – it sounded like either a TV or radio turned up to a very high volume. Thankfully that got resolved and the music afterward was some light jazz at a reasonable volume.
To drink, I had hot green tea and my wife had the house sake. The green tea was in a mug rather than a pot as I’ve had at most Japanese restaurants. Although I prefer a pot of tea, it’s not a major complaint, just something to be aware of when you’re ordering. My wife thought the sake was quite good for a house sake. We started dinner with an appetizer of crispy calamari – it was not on the menu but offered to us as a special that evening. We liked the calamari but can’t say we were thrilled about it. The perfect shapes (we expect our calamari to look like this) and texture gave us the impression it was frozen. It tasted pretty good, but we prefer fresh calamari when eating out.
For the sushi, we ordered 3 rolls to share between us. Based on the photo above, we ordered a Tokyo roll (front left), a spider roll (front right), and a fried bagel roll (rear). The Tokyo roll had smoked salmon, shrimp, and cream cheese, topped with “crab dynamite,” something I had never had before. It’s primarily imitation crab in a spicy mayonnaise. I think the Tokyo roll was my favorite of the three rolls. The crab dynamite was quite good, with about the maximum spiciness I want in food (and I’m pretty wimpy on the hot food scale). The spider roll had soft shell crab, asparagus, avocado, scallions, with eel sauce. I didn’t sample this roll but my wife was very happy with the flavor. The fried bagel roll had salmon and cream cheese, then was deep fried. Deep fried is probably not a way I would order sushi on a normal basis, but it was fun to try and tasted good. The breading was light and it wasn’t cooked too much, so it still tasted like sushi inside. I would have liked a little more pickled ginger with our meal.
So it wasn’t perfect, but we were happy with the sushi and the service. With tip, our total came to about $55 (it never hurts to revisit Polk Eats’ tipping policy). This is slightly more than we paid for a comparable amount of food at Sumo Sushi, while Sumo Sushi just has a more welcoming decor, and booths that wouldn’t be practical in Scream’n Tuna’s space. There are a number of sushi restaurants in Polk County, and our favorites (so far) are still Sumo Sushi and Thai Oishi. But Scream’n Tuna was a good experience overall and we love their location, in the Nobay retail and residential complex on Bay Street downtown. We like that they focus on sushi instead of trying to offer a comprehensive menu of Japanese cuisine. Changing some of the details I mentioned above (warmer decor, fresh calamari, etc.) would add a lot to the experience for us. I’m also noticing that I’ve written more for this post than the typical Polk Eats post. Like Fish City Grill, while there were some misfires, the restaurant also gave me a lot to think about in terms of all the decisions restaurant owners have to make. For that reason alone, I look forward to returning to Scream’n Tuna Sushi.