Shiso Crispy Fans Celebrate as the First St. Pete Storefront Opens

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Shiso Crispy Fans Celebrate as the First St. Pete Storefront Opens

Famous for their posse of food trucks serving up Japanese and Asian Fusion around the Tampa Bay area, Shiso Crispy’s first brick & mortar is here. The soft opening was two weeks ago on April 26, and even though there were equipment failures (that’s what soft openings are for), this team led by Ronicca Whaley have their craft honed to perfection. They should. Ronicca and crew have been slinging gyoza, baos, and rice bowls since 2019. As of this writing they are technically still in soft open phase, and still awaiting their beer and wine license.

Shiso Crispy has built up a fiercely loyal following with their creative takes on Japanese-Fusion dishes, Ronicca’s magnetic and energetic personality, and their surprise specials that pop-up, disappear, and then return to unexpected delight. For the animal proteins, Shiso Crispy has always used meats broken from their whole source. They process their pork, beef, and tuna from primal and sub-primal cuts. Many of the most popular items are also available in vegan-friendly form.

This new location is a brick and mortar for diners with indoor and outdoor seating, and a food truck for the chefs. There is no kitchen inside. There is sidewalk seating, backyard outdoor seating by the truck, and indoor seats which will come in handy in the “Florida summer”.

We made a nearly full sampling of the menu, and some of the specials. Shiso Crispy is well-known for their gyoza (the Japanese word for dumpling) and their “dirty rice” – more on that name when we come to it.

Truffle Gyoza
Truffle Gyoza

The Truffle Gyoza has potato, oyster mushrooms, black truffle mushrooms, Manchego cheese, and truffle cream. The outside has a nice chewy bite with some crispness and the inside is creamy, melts in your mouth and is full of umami. This was a previously discontinued item that has been revived exclusively for the St. Pete location.

Szechuan Mandu
Szechuan Mandu

A delicious vegetarian option is the Szechuan-Mandu with cabbage, vermicelli, sweet onion, crushed pea, and garlic chili oil. They are aromatic with a sweet and savory taste. I’ve heard that all of the vegetarian items are so good that even non-vegetarians love them.

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Something that is smart and efficient when it comes to food service is to have ingredients that can be used across several dishes. Some of these that we had at Shiso Crispy are ahi tuna, short ribs, sticky rice, gyoza and some of the sauces.

The ahi tuna was Lori’s favorite protein. It is just so fresh and light, but savory at the same time.

The short ribs are my favorite protein. They are slow-braised for eight hours. They are super moist, fall-apart tender and packed with flavor. They have such a great smokey taste that I asked if they are braised on a smoker, but the answer was no. Had Ronicca said yes, I would have believed her.

Ahi Tuna Bao
Ahi Tuna Bao
Short Rib Bao
Short Rib Bao

The Ahi Tuna Bao and the Short Rib Bao are each topped with gochujang sauce, toasted sesame honey slaw, scallions, mint, and sesame seeds. They are a little bit messy, but that is half the fun. The buns are made fresh every day, and they have the pillowy softness that you would expect. The contrast between the puffy buns, crunchy toppings, and chew of the meats is just delightful.

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Ahi Tuna Dirty Rice
Ahi Tuna Dirty Rice
BBQ Beef Short Rib Dirty Rice
BBQ Beef Short Rib Dirty Rice

Next we had the quite substantial servings of Ahi Tuna and Short Rib Dirty Rice – sticky rice with gyoza sauce, gochujang sauce, fried onions, scallions, and sesame. These are of course luscious, and I dare you to try to eat the whole thing.

I had to ask Ronicca about the name “Dirty Rice” because it is different than what one normally thinks of as dirty rice, which is usually dark and greasy, and Shiso’s seems quite clean and healthy.

In this case, “dirty” is being used as slang to describe it as amazingly good, similar to lit, dope, rad, or bangin’. I wish you could have been there as it was a laugh-out-loud moment when Ronicca answered in her mock street voice accent saying, “I was testing out some recipes and I tried this, and I was like, ‘Damn! That rice is DIRTY!‘”

The dirty rice dishes are craveable, and you can’t stop eating them. Do you know how when you are eating a bag of chips and you can’t eat just one? You just keep going and keep having more and more. The food industry’s little secret on that is MSG. When something has that ingredient, it makes it hard to stop eating.

So I had to ask. The answer was, “No! People freak out about that.” “The reason you can’t stop eating it is because everything is sweet and salty, and perfectly balanced out to hit every area (of your palate)”.

Bang Bang Chicken
Bang Bang Chicken

On my next visit I also had the Bang Bang Chicken option for the dirty rice. The chicken has a glazed, crunchy coating where the texture reminds me of the Chinese dishes orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken – just the texture, not the flavor. Contrasted with the moist and juicy meat on the inside, these are addicting.

Other options for the dirty rice are BBQ Jackfruit and Vegan Bang Bang Chicken. You can also have it without a protein.

Lobster Rangoon
Lobster Rangoon

How do you make Crab Rangoon better? Make it with lobster! The Lobster Rangoon at Shiso Crispy has cream cheese, lobster, dijon, key lime juice, garlic, chive, honey, and white pepper. Lori said it was the best rangoon she ever had in her life. I have to agree. There is also a Vegan Garlic Chive Rangoon.

French Onion Soup Dumplings
French Onion Soup Dumplings

I got real excited when I saw on Shiso Crispy’s social media that French Onion Soup Dumplings would be on special the day I was going for my second visit. I love soup dumplings and I love French onion soup. These include house sausage, cabernet, beef stock reduction, caramelized onions, and torched gruyere.

My first thought was “what a great idea!” However, the Soup Dumpling experience gets lost when the torched melted cheese is added to complete the French Onion Soup concept. Picking up the pouch, making a whole and slurping the broth out before eating the rest doesn’t happen here. They still taste good, and they sold out the day I was there.

In the below photo taken from Shiso’s social, you can see that they look like regular soup dumplings before the cheese is added on top. Maybe get the cheese inside somehow?

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French Onion Soup Dumplings before the torched cheese
French Onion Soup Dumplings before the torched cheese (Photo: Shiso Crispy)

 

Pork Gyoza
Pork Gyoza

The Pork Gyoza with charred cabbage, garlic, ginger, and chive is the perfect example of a Japanese pork dumpling, and the dipping sauce gives it the final touch of excellence. The charred cabbage is a nice touch too.

The dough for all of the dumplings is made fresh daily, and dumplings are also sold wholesale to different restaurants in the area.

Ronicca-Whaley---Owner-of-Shiso-Crispy
Ronicca Whaley the Charismatic Chefpreneur Behind Shiso Crispy

In Abby’s review of the first Shiso Crispy food truck, she mentions that Ronicca has three culinary degrees. I’ll elaborate by listing them – Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Hospitality Management.

“Shiso Crispy is a ‘Tampa Bay Times ‘Best of the Best’ winner in 2020 & 2021, featured in The New York Times , and (Ronicca is) a 6-time contestant on Guy’s Grocery Games”. – from Shiso’s website about page.

Shiso Crispy Menu
Shiso Crispy Menu
Shiso Specials Menu
Shiso Specials Menu

Occasional off menu specials
Stone Crab Bao
King Crab Leg dumplings
Wagyu white cheddar jalapeño dumplings
Garlic chili dumplings
Pork dumplings
Guava (dessert) dumplings

The Ubiquitous Maneki Neko
The Ubiquitous Maneki Neko

The ubiquitous maneki-neko (beckoning cat), true to its name and contrary to popular belief—is not actually waving. In Japan, unlike in Western cultures, the way to beckon someone over to you is palm forward, fingers pointing down.

Here are some shots of the space.

Shiso Crispy Storefront and Sidewalk Seating
Shiso Crispy Storefront and Sidewalk Seating
Shiso Crispy Vitale Bros Mural on the Inside Wall
Shiso Crispy Vitale Bros Mural on the Inside Wall
The Food Truck Out Back is the Kitchen
The Food Truck Out Back is the Kitchen
Really Cool To Go Bag
Really Cool To Go Bag

The next St. Pete brick and mortar will be at: 1050 58th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33710 in the Tyrone Garden shopping center.

New Shiso Crispy food trucks are coming to Palm Harbor, Siesta Key, and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Tribute to Employee #1
Tribute to Employee #1
Shiso Crispy
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    4.8 / 5 (16 )
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  • Shiso Crispy
  • (727) 607-0706
  • Japanese Fusion, Gyoza, Bao
    • Sun - Thu 11:00am - 12:00am
    • Fri - Sat 11:00am - 3:30am
  • 1431 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33705, US

Famous for their posse of food trucks serving up Japanese and Asian Fusion around the Tampa Bay area, the long awaited St. Petersburg brick and mortar location is now here.

DISCLAIMER: Kevin, Lori, Abby, Haley, Lindsey & Mahika do not dine anonymously (this would be impossible) and we sometimes get free food (though never expected). However, we dine with the locals and we support our own. You will always get honesty in a respectful manner. We do not include any large national or regional chains in our ratings and reviews. We focus on independent locally owned eateries exclusively.

PLEASE NOTE: Reviews reflect a certain moment in time. Some restaurants stay extremely consistent over many years, and some change for the better or worse. Some things that may change are: chefs, recipes, food suppliers, ingredients, philosophies, ownership, etc. We always hope that you have the same good, or great experience we had.
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