When I told a coworker about my choice to pick Marumi Sushi as Best Restaurant in Broward, he was elated (he's a fan). "Of course, I love Marumi," he said to me. "But I also think it's great that you're choosing a tiny, ethnic restaurant as opposed to a typical fine dining kind of place."
To be honest, thinking of Marumi as some sort of ethnic underdog hadn't even crossed my mind.
Sure, the restaurant is fairly humble. It's a strip-mall eatery that
sits a few doors down from a Wing Stop. The interior is not
well-designed (in fact, it's rather homely), and it doesn't have a
fraction of the P.R. blitz of restaurants like Steak 954, 3030 Ocean, or
Cafe Martorano. But if you asked me where I'd choose to eat on my own
dime more than any other place in Broward, the answer would be Marumi
every time. So, to me, the choice was as easy as any Best Of.
The fact that Marumi is an ethnic, authentic Japanese
restaurant isn't a detractor in the slightest. Nowhere else in this
county can you find dishes this passionate, honest, and surprising. I
think it would be fair to call what chefs Teru-san and Tetsu-san's create
"Japanese Soul Food." Their creations are at once rustic and elegant --
wok-fried baby bok choy with black garlic and salads spiked with
slow-braised beef tongue are proof enough of that. This is the kind of
place where you can walk in and eat for $10 or spend $100 and have a
feast that showcases the entire bounty of the sea. Best of all, every
trip I've taken to Marumi (and there have been dozens at this point)
has been a new kind of adventure. I've rarely had the same thing twice,
and that's a testament to the creativity of its owners.
I imagine there are diners out there who won't care for Marumi's
honest take on Japanese cuisine. There are even dishes there I
wouldn't eat again, like briny squid and aged natto beans with scallion
and tuna. I once ordered a bowl of pungent pork intestine stew with
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burdock and carrots there. Although the stew actually turned out to be
deep, heady, and delicious, it sure was a challenge to eat. But the fact that those kinds of foods are even offered at Marumi is something to appreciate. After all, Japanese restaurants litter almost every
street corner in South Florida. But how many of them feature nearly identical menus? How many of them offer anything remotely unique? You could ask the same question about our Thai, Vietnamese, and even Mexican restaurants and end up with an equally small handful.
So, yes: Marumi may be a humble, ethnic underdog after all. But it is one of a kind. And that's why we gave it our Best Of.