Pull up to the Shoppes of Wilton Manors on a Friday night and the party crowd spills out into the parking lot. The main attraction is the popular gay club Georgie’s Alibi, but there’s also a line out the door at the nearby restaurant, Tee-Jay Thai and Sushi.
The 83-seat space looks unassuming from the outside, but step inside and the decor is either very cool or over-the-top depending on your style. The interior is glowing with purple and blue lighting (we love the multicolored lights shaped like jellyfish at the sushi bar), but to add warmth, there’s wood furniture, orchids and decorative Thai skeleton leaves.
Open since February 2011, this new, sexier sibling to Fort Lauderdale’s Tee-Jay offers a mix of regular tables and low tatami tables — these Japanese tables have a hole in the center for more comfortable seating, but if you plan to have a few sake bombs you might prefer a table.
Tee-Jay, named after two cousins, is owned by six family members, including longtime restaurateur Khrua Wan — who also owns Thai House 2 in North Miami Beach and Tamarind in Deerfield Beach — and her daughter Winnie Gebhard.
Tee-Jay has an extensive sushi menu and a huge selection of Thai and Japanese dishes, but the friendly staff will offer recommendations if you’re stuck. Our server’s suggestion of Thai dumplings, dubbed “mama’s recipe,” was on target. The four, silky steamed dumplings are delicious, stuffed with ground steamed chicken, shrimp and shiitake mushrooms. We gave into a craving for something fried and crunchy and chose kimono shrimp, an alternative to spring rolls. The roll was a treat, with small shrimp, chicken and surimi (which is made from Alaskan pollock and often referred to as fake crabmeat), stuffed into crisp rice skin wrappers.
For a bracing, refreshing start, try the seaweed salad, lightly tossed with vinaigrette and sesame seeds.
Our sushi bar starter was a terrific tuna tetaki, thin ruby red gems that are lightly seared and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Dip into ponzu sauce but the taste of the fresh fish is enough to make you happy.
Their sushi selection includes cucumber-wrapped rolls, an array of boats and basic choices for the purists. If you like your sushi on the rich side, there are plenty of options, like the Tee-Jay roll, an opulent choice made with shrimp tempura, cucumber, asparagus and cream cheese, served inside out, topped with tuna, salmon and a drizzle of a spicy mayo. We didn’t like the Atlantic Roll, however, which we later realized was made with escolar — it lists the fish of the day, and we should have asked first.
Tee-Jay’s lengthy entree list skips from tempura to Thai curries, plus pad Thai (including a version with lobster), with plenty of stir fries and rice and noodle dishes. We love their Thai-style chicken fried rice. It’s a simple dish, but the jasmine rice is fluffy, not at all greasy, tossed with a fried egg, sweet onions and scallions, flavored with a light soy sauce typical in Thai cooking and a choice of proteins.
Most dishes are also available with tofu, beef, pork, shrimp, a mix of seafood or a combo (prices vary).
The aromatic chicken panang curry is rich, sweet and creamy, with its peanutty flavor, bathed in coconut milk with bell peppers — ours had a slight kick, but it’s spiced to your preference.
For dessert, you can’t beat these fried bananas, ultra light in rice skin wrappers, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and a fittingly decadent end to a meal at Tee-Jay.