Sushi joints are a dime a dozen in South Florida, even in Boca Raton, where kosher delis and Italian restaurants seem to hold sway. It takes a bit of creative leverage to stand apart from the sea of places following the standard sushi-Thai model.
"Everything's so Americanized (in South Florida). We wanted to do something more authentic," said Lixii Sun, general manager for Ninja Spinning Sushi Bar, which opened late last year in Boca Raton.
The centerpiece for the business is a sushi bar encircled by a revolving kaiten zushi "conveyor belt" of floating dishes. Sushi rolls, sashimi, dim sum, and small bites float by on little boats and diners grab whatever they fancy. The cost is calculated using a color-coded system of plates (red plates are $4, yellow plates are $7, and so on) and the staff maintains freshness by dumping any unsold dishes every 20 minutes.
The concept, based on a Japanese fast-food model, is popular in California and New York, but has yet to make a wave in South Florida.
"We're offering a modern, sexy twist to the Japanese fast food approach," Sun said.
If the team behind Ninja seems familiar, it's because they also own Yakitori Sake House (271 SE Mizner Blvd.), located in Royal Palm Place, just a stone's throw from Ninja. That restaurant is equipped with a traditional yakitori grill, sushi bar, and a sake bar. Sun said the two concepts are different enough that they won't cannibalize one another's business. Where Yakitori is more upscale and traditional, Ninja offers a cheeky take on dining out with a "lower price point."
Sun believes Ninja will appeal to a younger crowd (including local Florida Atlantic University students) in part because of the option to buy smaller bites (a four-piece roll versus a ten-piece roll) at a lower cost. The playful ninja theme -- shirts, designed by Sun and available for purchase, carry slogans like "Miso Hot" and "Wassup My Ninja," and "Wanna Roll?" -- probably won't hurt the cause.
The restaurant was previously occupied by Blues FortyOne and Sun said the renovation required a complete gutting and overhaul of the space. The project took longer than expected, pushing back the original opening date from fall to winter of 2012, but the final product captures the desired modern aesthetic.
A tatami room -- available for intimate gatherings and small parties -- has several ninjas painted on the walls. There are plans to enlist a local artist to create a mural on the west wall of the restaurant, but for now, decor is kept mostly to a minimum, with lots of reds, white, and black.
Sushi happy hour is offered nightly from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and after 10 p.m., select drinks are priced two-for-one. There is a full liquor and sake bar, specializing in Asian-infused drinks. The restaurant is one of few in the area to stay open late into the night -- they close at 1:30 a.m., offering an option for nearby bar and restaurant employees to grab a post-work drink and meal.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Follow @ CleanPlateBPB