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ST THOMAS — Caribbean-inspired Japanese cuisine makes its mark at Buddha Sushi Lounge & Grill in St. Thomas. This funky yet simply decorated Asianthemed restaurant has been known as a must-visit spot on St. Thomas for fresh sushi, delicious Asian entrees with a Caribbean twist, and full-service bar to complement your meal.

Owner Taj Siwatu always knew he wanted to be a chef. At the tender age of 12, he secured his first job in a local restaurant. As a student at Charlotte Amalie High School, he learned more about running a business when he took hotel and restaurant management classes and interned at local eateries to learn the ins and out of restaurant operations. Armed with his culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, Siwatu returned home to put his knowledge and skills to use. In 2009, he took ownership of the restaurant he managed when the owner decided to leave the island. Buddha Bar became Buddha Sushi and as they say, the rest is history.

Buddha Sushi’s menu has something for everyone, from the avid meat eater to the health-conscious vegetarian. Try the Sugar Stick Sushi Roll, made of cream cheese, cucumber, and smoked eel, and topped with white tuna. A sprinkle of sugar meets the flame of a butane torch to create a crème brulee-style topping with a noticeable crunch. The saltfish paté roll is an ode to one of the Virgin Islands’ most popular treats, making it a popular choice amongst locals. The restaurant also offers several entrees off the grill, including grilled Caribbean lobster tail, Japanese teriyaki, and his infamous Rock City Tofu — a spicy fried tofu made with fried rice and sautéed vegetables with Chef Taj’s “Rock City Sauce.” The restaurant hosts special events such as weddings, birthdays, and corporate functions and even offers sushi classes for those wanting to try something new. Using seasonal ingredients remains at the core of Buddha Sushi. For instance, summertime means mangoes galore, and Siwatu created a mango sorbet using fresh, local mangoes.

Siwatu has competed in several competitions locally and internationally, building his brand along the way. His two most notable first-place wins include the 2019 King of the Wing — an annual chicken wing competition held at Magen’s Bay — and the 2019 National Wing Festival held in Buffalo, New York, an international competition featuring more than 60 entrants from around the United States mainland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Italy, and the Virgin Islands. Buddha Sushi restaurant was also voted “Best of the VI” by the Virgin Islands Daily News in the categories of “Best Sushi,” “Most Creative Cuisine,” and “Best Seafood Dining.”

Head to Buddha Sushi at 114-3 Estate Frydenhoj in Charlotte Amalie. For reservations or takeout, call 340.714.3474. Visit their website at or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by Anquanette Gaspard