In Punta Gorda, of all places, ‘naked sushi’

November 12th, 2010 by Staff

10:44 A.M. — Gabrielle Patchell is a real dish.

The petite 5-foot-6 model lies on her back with her long, blond hair splayed out on a table like an Asian fan. Almost nude but for a thong and strategically placed leaves and artificial blossoms, she remains stock-still as people pluck sushi pieces off of her arms, legs and tummy.

“She’s my platter that I get to put my food on,” says Brian Sung, sushi chef at Torch Bistro, Sushi and Martini Bar in Punta Gorda.

Yes, Punta Gorda, population roughly 18,000.

Long considered a sleepy little Charlotte County hamlet, Punta Gorda has joined the ranks of megacities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami in serving so-called “naked sushi.”

“I hope Punta Gorda is ready for it,” quips Evelyn Keller, a North Fort Myers resident who’d stopped in for a more conventional dinner with friends.

Apparently, it is.

The trio of chefs behind Torch — Shane Federici, Jason Bush and sushi-roller Sung — say they’ve booked at least one full-body sushi party a month since they opened in January. With models costing $100-$200 an hour, private parties can run $300-$400, depending on how many guests attend and how much food is ordered.

Torch also serves Italian cuisine and American comfort food, but the sexy sushi presentation is what’s attracting attention. A travel writer on ranks it second on a list of the “10 Most Outrageous Restaurants” in the world — between the No. 3 California eatery, where patrons dine in the dark, and the No. 1 in Japan, where monkeys are the servers.

The practice formally known as nyotaimori is intended to celebrate female beauty — though male models also are available.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which inspects restaurants statewide, has no laws or license requirements regarding the preparation or serving of sushi.

“Current law does require that all food contact surfaces be smooth and easily cleaned,” says DBPR spokeswoman Alexis Antonacci Lambert.

Torch’s models shower with antibacterial soap and shave before they are made up, painted with Asian symbols and decorated with flowers. The process takes about 90 minutes.

Then, staffers carefully place volcano rolls and spicy tuna rolls on top of leaves or seaweed sheets on the models — the food doesn’t actually touch their skin. Patrons sit around the table, plucking sushi with chopsticks, but aren’t supposed to talk to the models.

It’s nothing new to Patchell, the 24-year-old sushi model, gymnast and graduate student. She once served as the vessel for an ice cream sundae buffet. How does she manage to stay so still when she has lily pads pressed into her armpits?

Yoga skills help.

“I concentrate,” she says. “I don’t hear the conversations going on.”

Stuart Sanchez, 57, and his wife drove down from Sarasota for the special public demonstration.

“It’s fantastic,” Stuart Sanchez says. “I’m so surprised to find it here.”

3 Responses

  1. Chef Anthoni

    Wow! To think that these guy’s are just a complete rip off of our company. I hate to say it but these guy’s have a ton to learn about Nyotaimori. Everyone knows the only place to have this service done is by

    Whats best of course is we let you party hard with our ladies. I don’t know who came up with that no speaking to the model non-sense.

  2. Robert Federici

    Hey Anthony we own a restaurant not a traveling show. Your 3000 miles away don’t give yourself so much credit as the inventor of this (remember Japan). I’ll work Florida and you can have L.A.
    Thanks for the shout out.

  3. Jason Bush

    Anthoni your comment is so funny.. First off I have been to Torch and they opened in 2009. The web site you listed for sushi just opened up so get your timeline first so you can see who the followers are. If you want to boast your ego don’t down successful restaurants to try to build up yours. Keep up the good work Torch. I see all your reviews and feedback and your rocking. Got to love haters!

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