Tag Archives: John Lee


24 Dec

Koja Sushi at the Jacksonville Landing excels at presentation of its Korean and Japanese fare, as well as taste.  My favorite is this wooden boat laden with sushi, sashimi and various rolls.

Owner John Lee says the restaurant has five sizes of boats and the one above is considered a medium size that holds enough sushi for about two to three people.  He said his most loyal customers often have him create an extra-large sushi boat for Jaguars tailgating that he wraps in plastic wrap.

I had specifically requested no squid on my boat, but forgot to mention the eel. Good thing because my companion loved it and gobbled down most of it.  My favorite was the Dynamite Roll which  is tuna and salmon deep-fried with spicy shrimp sauce and hot sauce on top at $8.95. The sauce is indeed dynamite hot.  (With red stripe shown at right.) The wasabi for the meal was made into a dragon head, also shown at right.

Before the sushi boat, however, we received a few appetizers. First up was a special sample just for us of Shrimp Tempura , six for $8.95, and Beef Yaki Mandoo (deep-fried dumplings) with mandoo sauce, six for $7.95. The shrimp tempura was especially light and delicious.

The appetizer winner, however, was the Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura that comes with six shrimp and an assortment of veggies such as large onion rings,zucchini, mushroom, red pepper and broccoli for $13.95.  We especially liked the tempura red pepper, but kept thinking the onion rings needed something gooey and fattening to dip them in. This was one of those dishes that we wouldn’t let the waiter take away in case we had room left to go back to finish it. (We would have if not for the dessert.)

With our appetizers there was sake, of course.  We recommend going straight to the premium sake
Sho Chiku Bai Gingo which was well liked. Ginjo is a special reserve connoisseur class of sake with a silky-smooth, rich and fruity flavor. The house sake can be warmed, and the premium sake is better a bit chilled. It comes beautifully presented in a clear plexiglass wine cooler for the bottle.  I was also delighted to see Kendall Jackson Chardonnay as a house wine.

Another favorite was Kall Bee, grilled beef short ribs marinated in sweet sauce with red pepper, onions and mushrooms. Sizzling when brought to the table, we couldn’t get enough of these. They come with two small marinated vegetable side dishes. Kimchee is made with cabbage, carrots, yellow onions and daikon radishes and marinated in a special spicy sauce. The Cucumber Kimchee is milder and made with cucumber, yellow onion, red peppers and marinated in combination of sugar salt and fish sauce. These can be purchased in a pint or quart, although not on the menu. I could easily eat a pint of the Cucumber Kimchee in one sitting it was so addictive.  While our dish came with the Kall Bee on one plate, it is usually ordered in one of Koja’s well-loved signature Box Dinners as a Kall Bee Box. This comes with the short ribs, steamed or fried rice, fried potato, tempura shrimp, crab cake, the Kimchees, two California roll pieces, steamed vegetables and an orange slice for $16.95.


Below is one of Koja’s signature box dinners, this one the Chicken Box with chicken glazed in teriyaki sauce for $12.95. The chicken was quite wonderful and tender.  Lee says the restaurant makes its special teriyaki sauce by simmering whole chickens for ten hours, removing the chickens and adding choice vegetables until everything solidifies, then removing the veggies and adding sugar and soy sauce.

 By far the most interesting dish we tasted was a traditional Korean specialty called Beef Dol Soet. $10.95  It comes layered in a hot stone pot, with marinated beef and steamed vegetables over steamed rice mixed with spices and topped with a raw egg. Once at the table we mixed everything immediately with the heat from the other items cooking the egg.

Dessert was a combination of Fried Ice Cream Balls and Fried Cheesecake. I found the fried cheesecake especially good and also liked the cold inside of the cheesecake mixed with the warm exterior made of a rice flour burrito type of cone-shaped wrap. Either dessert comes individually or as a combination for $5.95.

Dishes we want to come back to try include the interesting soups such as Soon Doo Boo, with silk tofu, vegetables, shrimp and clam seasoned in fish broth with slight spices and egg.  $9.95  Also Spicy Seafood that includes shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, vegetables and angel hair noodles. $28.95

Then there are dishes on the menue that are not on my wish list, however there are others who will be surely be thrilled to know Koja Sushi offers Squid Salad $5.50 and  Baby Octopus Salad $5.50.  (I had octopus once at a luncheon on a Greek oil tanker and that was enough.)

John Lee has owned and operated Koja Sushi at The Jacksonville Landing for eight years. Prior to that his restaurant was on University Boulevard near Memorial Hospital. He came to the United States from Korea at age seven, began working in his mother’s restaurant at age fourteen, and got serious about the restaurant business in his early twenties. He says one cannot be in a proprietary restaurant business such as his without a passion for it.

Koja Sushi offers special events, such a wedding rehearsal dinners on its waterfront balcony area. Parties can also be arranged.  The restaurant also caters to the downtown crowd after performances at the Florida Times Union Center, Florida Theatre and other events.

Koja Sushi on Urbanspoon

Serving Lunch & Dinner
Monday – Friday 11 am -9:30 pm
Saturday 5 – 10 pm
Sunday 5 – 9 pm

Open New Year’s Eve  and New Year’s Day 3 pm – 2 am

 2 Independent Drive
Jacksonville, Florida
904) 350-9911