Swanky sushi spot in the Arena District offers just the right mix of beautiful atmosphere, food and people

People are passionate about their sushi. Even after you get a sushi lover to admit there's decent sushi to be found in Columbus, they'll typically insist their favorite restaurant is the only place you can find the good stuff.

One name that frequently pops up as a preferred sushi spot is Tyfoon, sister to the also-popular Shoku. The pair of stylish Asian eateries is owned by local restaurateur Dae Oh, who also helms Black Olive. And while I'd argue there's a quite respectable sushi scene in the Capital City, I'll concur that Tyfoon is the place to pick if you're trying to wow someone. The swanky restaurant is situated in the center of the see-and-be-seen Arena District, and several of the groups dining there on a recent Saturday night looked to be gearing up for a night on the town.

Tyfoon's sign, one of my favorite in Columbus, is a wavy metal banner stretching the length of the building. Through the vast front windows, you catch a glimpse of the striking dcor inside -- seats with impossibly high backs, earthy stacked-stone walls and blown-glass pendant lights casting a warm orange-y glow over everything. Golden statues of Buddhist gods round out the decor, in just a small nod to typical Asian restaurant kitsch. The lights are kept low and the music is just loud enough to drown out outside conversations, making Tyfoon an ideal date destination.

My date (OK, my husband) and I started our meal with the Sweet & Spicy Shrimp appetizer. The intriguing dish consists of breaded and fried shrimp meat speared onto skewers, sitting on a bed of daikon salad. The shrimp-on-a-stick can be dipped into either a spicy soy sauce or a traditional Chinese sweet-and-sour one. The end result was sort of like fair food meets upscale Asian cuisine, and it was fun.

But I had come for the sushi, and the menu is extensive. I always get a kick out of the locally named rolls, and here you'll find the sporty Blue Jacket (eel, cucumber, yellowtail, tobika) and Buckeye (eel, tuna, cream cheese and onion ring). For the house Tyfoon Roll, spicy tuna is paired with cucumber, then topped with avocado, crispy tempura batter and a sweet mayo-like sauce.

I liked the Spicy Scallops Roll even better, even though it didn't actually include any raw fish. This time, a California roll was topped with baked scallops in an addictive spicy/creamy sauce. A cloud of light and crunchy tempura flakes covered everything, adding some textural creativity.

Sadly, we didn't order enough sushi for it to be brought out on a bridge, which Tyfoon does for massive spreads. But we did try the Buddha Feast, an amazingly hearty vegetarian entree teaming tofu with pecans. It's one of a number of Asian-fusion dishes, from pad Thai to a Korean bibimbap, on the main dinner menu. The tofu was lightly fried until just crispy, the pecans lightly roasted until their flavor intensified. Topping those and some steamed fresh vegetables was a tart and tangy fruit sauce.

Sushi and sake go together like peas and carrots, and Tyfoon serves the Japanese rice wine both by the glass and in martini form. The Melon Ball, a sake/lychee juice/Midori combo, was enticing, as was the similar Lycheetini, which substituted vodka for the Midori. My Saketini, a quite potent combination of sake and Three Olives vodka garnished with a cucumber spear, was a delightfully no-nonsense cocktail that paired well with the rich and creamy sushi rolls.

I also sampled the Passion Martini from the traditional cocktail menu, another Three Olives concoction. This one was made with passion-fruit vodka, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine, and I was equally enamored. And a tiny bit tipsy.

There's no dessert menu at Tyfoon, but you can pick from either mango or red-bean ice creams. The bright-tasting mango was a refreshing endnote to a delectable evening.