Just like fashion, food comes and goes in trends. And while a few decades ago the idea of consuming raw fish may have seemed absolutely absurd to most Americans, today it's one of the nation's most popular staples. But as common as sushi may be these days, not all rolls are created equal. We've all walked into — and then quickly walked out of — a few foul-smelling or sub par fish joints.
For those in search of the best sushi available without a passport, here are the top contenders in Broward County.
1. Sushi Rock Cafe. The key to great sushi is that it has to be fresh: You don't want to go to a place where the fish sits languishing in the fridge. That's never a problem at Sushi Rock Cafe. The tiny Las Olas space is always packed; frequently racking up to 45-minute waits. It's so popular that it once let actor Alec Baldwin leave rather than skip ahead of the hordes looking to get in on some sushi. Sucks for him; he lost out on the chance to sample a menu full of creative and interestingly named rolls. Items range from health-conscious to plain-out crazy, like the Slim Shady cucumber wrap (full of assorted vegetables served with ginger dressing) or the Strawberry Fields Forever roll (made with barbecued sweet eel, avocado, green apple, eel sauce, and roe, topped with fresh, ripe strawberries). It's worth braving the wait, but you can now skip the line with its second location just a ten-minute drive away.1515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-5541.
2. Masamune. A longtime favorite with locals, Masamune is best known for its creative fare. Start with the edamame hummus appetizer or Hawaiian-style poke served with a housemate honey, miso, and mustard-spiked balsamic reduction. Go during happy hour from 5:30 pm to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday and order the roll tasting for $25, your choice of any three signature rolls (minus the lobster). If one of the more than a dozen specialty sushi rolls or 18 hand rolls doesn't entice you, there's always the choice of a Masamune omakase — basically Japanese for "whatever the chef wants to make" — to indulge all your senses. Here, it won't necessarily be all sushi, but the chef's special creations cooked or raw are something to salivate over. Advanced notice and a reservation are required. Even the soy sauce here is something special: a rich house-made variety that is naturally low in sodium is the kitchen's own longtime original recipe, meant to be used primarily for sashimi. 2736 N Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-256-1778, or visit japanspirits.com.
3. Marumi Sushi. It's safe to say most chefs know a thing or two about good food. So the fact that Marumi gets packed nightly with cooks who've just finished their shifts at other Asian restaurants speaks volumes. Broward's late-night Japanese izakaya (a place for beer and small plates) is run by two veterans of South Florida's sushi scene, Teruhiko
8271 W. Sunrise Blvd., Plantation. Call 954-318-4455, or visit marumisushi.net.
4. Sushi One Take-Out. While we're fans of ambiance, it isn't everything. With a no-frills atmosphere, Sushi One Take-Out is still one of Fort Lauderdale's most popular sushi joints. For more than a decade, the spot has garnered a following for its fresh fish, low price points and convenient downtown Fort Lauderdale locale (it's on the corner of Broward and Federal Highway). No wonder it's won several awards and accolades over the years. Menu items include a wide range of cooked Japanese fare (udon noodles and beef teriyaki) and much-loved raw seafood options. Although you can never go wrong with sushi for less than ten bucks, we suggest sticking with us. The New Times roll is a favorite: tuna, scallions, and tempura flakes topped with tuna, spicy mayo, and more scallions. It's piquant and refreshing — just like us. 23 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-761-9009, or visit sushi-one.com.
5. Moon Thai. When it comes to sushi, there are two things that separate the good from the mediocre: the chef and the fish. At Moon Thai, chef-owner Jack Punma makes sure he has the best of both. This Weston eatery has a near encyclopedic menu — two volumes with close to 300 dishes in all; one for Thai and a second for Japanese — offering diners a taste of Thailand that's normally camouflaged from greenhorn Americans. You can start your meal with an authentic Thai dish like larb (spelled "larp" at Moon Thai), a heaping pile of fine-minced meat or seafood seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers, and fine-ground toasted rice. But you'll find an equally traditional approach to Japanese sushi, made using only the best fish (the owner will only buy from the same vendors that deliver to Nobu and Morimoto), premium rice, and chefs who offer precision technique to deliver more than 40 rolls. 2818 Weston Rd., Weston. Call 954-384-7275, or visit moonthai.com.
6. Phat Boy Sushi. The well-composed menu at Phat Boy Sushi — now with two locations in Broward County including the original off Federal Highway — encourages patrons to explore a variety of creative starters, soup, salad, and sushi. The menu opens with innovative appetizers like salty dried
7. Kevin's Sushi & Thai. Looking for supersized sushi rolls for a good price? Look no further than Kevin's Sushi & Thai in Deerfield Beach. Here, you’ll dine in solace, with the chef’s full attention. If you desire the hum of a well-packed dinner crowd, go at night. Chef-owner Kevin
8. Beg for More. Most South Florida Asian restaurants offer the same thing: sushi and some standard Thai dishes. The owners of Beg for More want to change that. Instead, their menu is an amalgamation of American, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese-tinged fare. There's still sushi, of course, and it's good, despite some off-color titles like "Taste Like My Ex-Girlfriend" that will evoke a double take (at the very least) — it's actually a reference to the roll's spicy ingredients, a combination of Thai and Japanese chili peppers may burn you. Then there's the "Fat Ass," a rice-less yet deep-fried roll with tempura salmon and lava cheese topped with crispy bacon. Of course, the most popular specialty roll is also the bar's signature sushi item: the Beg for More, a curious assortment of pear, asparagus, and avocado topped with crispy fried rock shrimp, chopped tuna, and truffle oil. If you're feeling adventurous, order the Mastery roll, an ever-changing mashup combination of the chef's freshest ingredients of the day finished off with some on-the-spot creative inspiration. 2831 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-900-3082, or visit begformorefl.com.
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9. Coco Asian Bistro. Good food is nice even without fancy digs, but things just seem to taste better when they're served in beautiful surroundings. Set in the always busy Harbor Shops, just a hop, skip, and jump from Port Everglades, this Asian restaurant offers a wide range of fare from traditional Thai to Japanese fusion and, yes, sushi. While it's often not a good sign to have too many influences on a menu, it works here; the fare is flavorful and well-prepared. The raw fish tends to sway toward the Thai side with bold and interesting rolls. Longtime favorite, Mike's Roll, combines tuna, spinach, avocado, asparagus, tempura flakes, cucumber, and kampyo rolled in sweet, black, sticky rice and served with the house sweet chili sauce. It might be a bit more expensive than your average sushi spot, but this place is high class. 1841 Cordova Road, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-3541, or visit cocoasianbistro.com.
10. Sasaya Japanese Market. Set in the Gateway Shopping Center, this little market offers all sorts of Japanese and other Asian products: teas, candies,