There once was a day in which people would scoff at the mere mention of raw fish; sushi was considered an exotic cuisine for risky foodies.
Those days are surely gone -- the Japanese staple is now one of the most common food items to be found across restaurant menus in South Florida.
With an image-conscious population like ours, it's no wonder: Raw fish is low in calories and high in nutrients -- and freaking delicious -- a win on every front.
Grille 401 is the newest concept to add a sushi and sake bar to its list of offerings.
Last Friday, the restaurant revealed its new bar as part of a major expansion that will be completed in the next few weeks.
Although the fare and drinks are available throughout the restaurant, management wanted to incorporate new dishes to the concept while drawing attention to the bar.
"We felt that we wanted to add a cool food element to soften up the existing bar," says Andy Fox, director of operations for Brimstone WFG. "What's cooler then sushi? We also wanted an item that we could offer late night after the kitchen closes and that we could do off of the bar, and once again sushi was the perfect thing."
Starting at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, all late-night sushi is offered for half price.
The menu incorporates diverse ingredients for an array of creative rolls, such as espresso rubbed tuna ($17), seaweed salad, crispy wonton, and tamarind reduction; spicy jumbo lump crab roll ($16) with cucumber, jalapeño, and avocado; tuna sashimi ($16) with cucumber salad drizzled with wasabi crème fraîche; and braised short rib roll ($17), shiitake mushrooms, mixed vegetables, and a fresh Asian salad.
Headed by Rick Schwager, the chefs wanted to try out some new and interesting flavor combinations -- the short rib roll being one.
Existing favorites like Osaka-style pressed roll ($16), with tuna, avocado, sticky rice, and spicy tuna, and the coconut shrimp roll ($14), with toasted coconut, jalapeño, and avocado remain on the menu.
To go along with the Japanese theme, the bar has incorporated a wide selection of sake and signature sake cocktails.
"How could we develop a great sushi menu without offering some unique sakes?" says Fox. "Most of our sakes come by the bottle only or in a split. The bottle presentation on the bar has a great look and will be noticed by other guests at the bar. It's all about creating a buzz, and that's our goal."
The signature drink is the Wild Orchid ($12), a combination American Harvest Organic Vodka, Zipang Sparkling Sake, peach schnapps, pomegranate juice, and orange juice.
Straight-up sake include bottles from House of Gekkeikan, such as Zipang Sparkling Sake, Nigori Unfiltered, Black and Gold, Suzaku Junmai Gingo, and Horin "Emperors Sake" Junmai Daiginjo.
Ozeki Traditional Sake and Kikkoman Plum Wine are available by glass or bottle.
Grille 401 is located at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-767-0222, or visit grille401.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.