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Big In Japan (In Naples)

Updated: Oct 24, 2023


8847 Tamiami Trail N,

Naples, FL 34108

In the land of the stupid, this sentence is king:

Sushi is not pizza.

Yes, Mr. Bites, and trees are not alligators and cars are not pudding; so what is your point? Well, in conversations about food, nothing seems to generate more pride, animosity or food-based aggression more than pizza. But sushi, sushi is kind of the opposite. I don't believe I've ever heard caustic vitriol about sushi. Living in Los Angeles, I recall everyone having their personal favorite neighborhood sushi joint, but no one was like "hey man, yours sucks, mine rules." It was more like "hey, cool, let's try it sometime; you order me your favorites and I'll do the same next time at my spot"

There's probably a decent anthropological study in this dealing with pizza's roots being in the more...aggresssive Northeast and sushi's being from the laid back West Coast.

While sushi's roots maybe on the aforementioned West Coast, there's something about Florida sushi I've noticed that doesn't make much sense to me. People seem afraid to have a "sushi only" restaurant. I'm not just talking about a Japanese hibachi joint that has sushi offerings. I've seen the oddly ubiquitous Sushi/Thai combo (which culinarily speaking might as well offer Sushi and Italian) to ...Sushi and Italian...huh?

Thankfully, tucked away in a Publix-anchored strip mall (aren't they all?) in North Naples, is Namba. Namba is what I personally love sushi/Japanese restaurants to be. There's not some giant menu of gloopy sauced-rolls with names like Dragonfoot, Rainbow and Walter. There's only four maki rolls on the menu and they are all pretty simple and traditional; two tunas, a crab (NOT KRAB, NEVER KRAB) and spicy salmon. The rest is a mix of high quality nigiri, some delicious sushi-based dishes like the classic spicy tuna crispy rice, and some traditional Japanese hot food like karage chicken and Boogs' favorite, Ramen.

I think what separates good sushi from mediocre isn't the rolls, or style or even the ambiance. It's the quality of fish. It's probably why most of the best sushi spots I've been to tend to be non-descript spots in strips malls. Those fancy "big night out" sushi joints that are packed on the weekends tend to be more about style than the fish-quality. It's why I generally avoid places with names like Sushicano, Sizzlefish or Toro To Die For. Heck, Jiro, the godfather of sushi and subject of the sublime documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, has his joint in a subway station.

That all-important fish quality is Namba's strongest suit. I've been told that Mr. Namba goes to Miami every day to pick out his fish, which explains why the quality of his fish is superior, by a lot, to anything else in town. It's also the only true traditional restaurant of its kind in town.

As someone who is critical of anyone who ends a sentence about a restaurant with "...and it's not even close," Namba is, by far, the best sushi restaurant in Southwest Florida..and it's not even close. Next time you want to try it, let me know...I'll show you my favorites.

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Glad to see you’re still alive ! I agree with your pizza analogy, Chicago has the best pizza & if someone doesn’t agree with that then there is no reason to continue the conversation!

I’m no fan of sushI.

The California Roll is ok, but I couldn’t imagine making a meal out of it.

Anyway, I enjoy reading your blogs & glad to see you’re back.

Joe T

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