Food that practically explodes with flavor along with a view no other restaurant in Baton Rouge can match has made Tsunami Sushi a hit with diners since it opened in 2005.
Whether on the rooftop or inside the restaurant at the top of the Shaw Center for the Arts, 100 Lafayette St., diners can look out on a wide expanse of the Mississippi River as it rolls past the bridge and out across the downtown part of the city.
The restaurant's cozy confines offer another great view — you can easily check out what everyone else is eating.
Right now, that view is through screens set up for coronavirus precautions, but Assistant General Manger Will Monceaux said there's still plenty of room for diners to peek around and speak to each other.
"The screens will come down once we're back to 100% capacity," he said. "The restaurant can seat up to 387 people, and the restaurant just looks so open and clean with just the tables. We'll bring all the tables back to where they were, and then everybody will be able to celebrate."
And share a conversation, which has made Tsunami as much a social experience as a dining one.
Those conversations take place over a sushi roll favorite, such as Black & Gold.
"It's got big crawfish, it's got shrimp, and we do a crunchy batter on top of it," Monceaux said. "There's also things like the Hung Lo, which has seared tuna, snow crab and shrimp and combines it with cream cheese, jalapeño and crispy onions.
"A lot of our rolls are actually named after our chefs," he added. "Sometimes the roll names may sound a little risqué, but they're actually named after the chef that created them."
Another favorite, the Dragon Roll, brings together snow crab and avocado topped with tuna and shrimp garnish. The Big Easy harmonizes crawfish, snow crab, krab stick, crunchy shrimp, cucumbers and scallions and tops it with crunchies, cilantro and Tsunami, tsurai and sriracha sauces.
And then there's a popular healthy alternative, the Dynamite Roll where diced tuna, white fish, fresh salmon and avocado all play nicely together.
The fish ingredients in these dishes are raw, and that has caused people to have some misconception about it, Monceaux said.
"The type of ingredients we use in sushi is on a grade scale," Monceaux said. "It's not like going into your backyard and catching a catfish. Sushi is made of certain types of fish and certain qualities of fish that you can only get from certain vendors."
The fish also are graded by their flavor.
"You know, here in south Louisiana, we're all used to white fried catfish, some redfish flounder, things like that," Monceaux said. "But there are fish like escolar, which is a really light white buttery, flaky fish. When you combine it with a little bit of smoked salt, it's divine. And if you try this, you might enjoy this a lot more than you think."
Tsunami is reworking its menu a little to include things customers ordered during the coronavirus lockdown when the dining room was closed.
"We added a new small plate-style thing to the menu and got rid of some of our larger items, but when COVID hit, that took away from having things plated together," Monceaux said. "So we did a lot more of shareable style meals.
"When we do sushi, we typically made family-style meals specifically for the purpose of everybody trying a little bit of this and that. So we are currently redoing the menu again with some of the small plates ideas still in mind, but in shareable meals."
In a small way, COVID-19 helped the restaurant, he said.
"It was good for us because it helped us to change things from the way we've always done it," Monceaux said. "We're actually probably going to have different winter setups versus summer setups, so it's helped us to improve areas as well and change things in a positive light.
Tsunami, owned by Michele Ezell, Fred Nonato and Toon Nguyen, is a sister restaurant to the original Tsunami Sushi in Lafayette, which opened in 2000, and Tsunami Sushi in New Orleans, which opened in 2017. Allyson Mayeux is the general manager of the Baton Rouge restaurant.
As a sign of things slowly nudging back to normal, a live DJ is again entertaining guests on Friday nights from the rooftop terrace with its incomparable view.