Despite our proximity to the ocean and the nearby bounty of fresh catches we South Floridians can find year round, attempting to find fresh sushi in our tropical paradise can still be a challenge. But it can be done.
And what we might lack in nationally esteemed sushi joints, we make up for with variety. We've got everything from creative chefs that light up our taste buds with downright indulgent omakase experiences, to menus rife with specialty rolls — even buffet-style spaces that churn out sushi and sashimi on a rotating conveyer belt. But which among them are the best in Palm Beach County?
To find out, we did some sampling. Yes, our pockets have been emptied — and our mercury levels are slightly elevated — but it was worth it.
10. Kontiki Wine & Raw Bar
13860 Wellington Trace, Wellington. Call 561-296-0404, or visit kontikiwellington.com.
Despite its remote location in the heart of Wellington, this Asian tapas and sushi house is worth the trip if you're in the mood for some creative rolls served in a fun, funky atmosphere. Aside from the varied list of sushi, sashimi and specialty rolls, the menu offers one of our favorite finds. The Kontiki sushi bomb is a highlight here, a tempera-style roll stuffed with tuna, salmon, whitefish, avocado, asparagus, scallion, sesame and masago that is deep fried and topped with the house spicy bomb sauce. It comes in a lobster version, too, if you're feeling extra fancy.
9. Sushi Jo
319 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-868-7893, or visit sushijo.com.
With three locations across Palm Beach County — West Palm Beach, Juno Beach, and Boynton Beach — Sushi Jo has a long history of serving up some of the best sushi in the area. Born and raised in Miami, owner Jo Clark started working in restaurants at the age of 13 and served his sushi apprenticeship for a decade at Yama in Lake Worth, where he worked with chefs from different parts of Japan. Clark says it took five years before they would let him even handle the fish, but he learned everything from cutting vegetables to preparing rice and sauces, as well as how to expertly source the highest quality fish. He opened his first Sushi Jo at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, and the rest — as they say — is history. Celebrate with happy hour every day from 4 to 6 p.m., where you can order $5 rolls.
8. Sushi Simon
1614 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Call 561-731-1819, or like them on Facebook.
A nondescript Boynton Beach strip-mall just before the Woolbrite Boulevard bridge may be the last place you'd expect to find good sushi, but that's the deal with Sushi Simon. The eatery has earned praise from hardcore sushi fans for its ultra-fresh fish, and on off nights you'll often find some of the area's top chefs dining out here. A three-page list of specialty rolls can get rather pricey — including the 2005 roll with Maine lobster — but are still worth it. Its real specialties, however, are the daily specials featuring a number of fresh-off-the-boat fish cut expertly into sushi and sashimi (or paper-thin usuzukuri), then lavished with a robust ponzu, spicy kimchi sauce, or fresh herbs.
7. Pat Gogo
1649 Forum Place, West Palm Beach. Call 561-440-4687, or visit patgogo.com.
Located in a tired old strip mall near Indus and Nature's Way Cafe you'll find two-year-old Pat Gogo, what has become one of the best-kept sushi secrets in West Palm Beach. The restaurant — owned and operated by a young, hip Thai-Japanese couple — offers up some of the most inventive Thai and Japanese dishes around. This includes tuna pizza and a tuna tower topped with torched foie gras. The super-fresh, Americanized sushi rolls are some of the best around and include a number of traditional selections and odd-ball items from the Deluxe Salmon Roll (salmon, cream cheese, and asparagus topped with avocado, seared salmon, tobiko, and a wasabi cream) to the Chicken Teriyaki roll (chicken teriyaki with lettuce and avocado topped with eel sauce).
6. Thai Haru
6901 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-689-1830, or visit thaiharu.com.
This new sushi spot located off Okeechobee Boulevard in the former Thai Room location is where it's at when it comes to fresh, affordable sushi in West Palm Beach, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the downtown strip. Just over a month old, Haru — Japanese for "spring" — offers guests generous portions for fair prices. The main plates offer exceptional selections from volcano duck and curry lobster to garlic tempura soft shell crab. But you've come for the sushi, and executive chef-owner Jirawat Chaijirawat does not disappoint with rolls that offer up fresh, simple combinations like the Key West Roll (shrimp tempura, krab, avocado, and asparagus topped with masago) or the Lobster Bomb (lobster tempura, avocado, and asparagus topped with baked spicy lobster and volcano sauce).
5. Palm Sugar
340 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-820-9206, or visit opendining.net.
Sushi is one of those things where you don't want to go cheap, and although we'd all love to be able to afford a weekly sushi splurge or omakase spread, most of us don't have that kind of cash. Lucky for West Palm Beach lunchers, that's no longer the case. The new express menu at Palm Sugar in West Palm Beach offers appetizers and sashimi, sushi and soup, and full-size entrées priced under $10 each. That includes a dozen or so small plates like a pair of plump, pork-stuffed Chinese char-siu buns, a sashimi salad starter, and steamed shrimp shumai. Of course, the menu also includes more than 15 specialty rolls, most priced $4-$6 each. There are options for every taste, everything from a vegetarian-friendly roll to hamachi jalapeño and a tuna-topped California roll. The priciest option is the Buddy Roll — a combination of spicy tuna, cucumber, and scallion topped with seared salmon and named for one of the restaurant's sushi chefs.
4. Sushi Yama Japanese Restaurant
7050 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton. Call 561-362-6416, or visit sushiyamaonline.com.
While there are tons of great sushi spots across Boca Raton — including longtime establishments like Yakitori Sake House — if you want some of the best around, try Sushi Yama. Established in 1996 and located in the Royal Palm Plaza, the restaurant has become a Boca Raton landmark and a sushi destination for Palm Beach County residents seeking a solid selection of Japanese cuisine. Known for serving traditional dishes (at two additional locations in downtown West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens), the extensive menu offers a number of daily fresh-catch appetizers and entrees. The menu also has more than two dozen specialty and signature rolls, as well as an extensive offering of rice-free cucumber rolls served with the house ponzu sauce.
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230A Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach. Call 561-802-4222, or visit echopalmbeach.com.
This high-class sushi restaurant is part of The Breakers resort. It's a hip, modern space with a large outdoor seating area, but the place to be is the long, theater-style sushi bar where master chefs are on display as they put together rolls and plates with efficient precision. Here, it's all about attention to detail. Forget wood chopsticks. You'll get stainless steel for an upscale touch, instead — a perfect match for the dishes coming from behind the bar. Ask your server for a side of specialty sauces, including a tart yuzu, savory garlic soy, sweet ponzu and a spicy kimchee sauce. You'll also find a rare treat: cobia. Commonly referred to as black salmon, the fish is served over sliced cucumbers with cilantro and garnished with yellow pea shoots. After your meal, meander over to the nearby Dragonfly Lounge and choose from an innovative array of cocktails, sake, domestic and imported beers, and an impressive wine list.
2. Sushi Bang Bang
1050 E. Gateway Blvd., Boynton Beach. Call 561-292-3705, or visit facebook.com.
This sushi spot, located in Boynton Beach's Quantum Town Center off Gateway Boulevard, is truly unique. Owned and operated by local couple Tom and Renee Dowd, you could say the sushi here isn't your average offerings. If you're hungry, the $30 Bang Bang Boat will get you seven pieces of the restaurant's master sushi chef's choice of top grade sushi and nine pieces of their freshest sashimi (plus a Big Eye tuna california roll). Or try one more than 10 specialty rolls and 13 or so house rolls with high-quality and inventive ingredients like Alaskan king crab, whole lobster tail, and Big Eye tuna or housemade toppings like a jalapeño chili garlic or Mac Daddy sauce (don't ask, just order). There's also a wide assortment of ever-changing fresh sushi and sashimi available a la carte.
350 S. County Road, Palm Beach. Call 561-833-5522, or visit imotopalmbeach.com.
Owners Sam Slattery, Piper Quinn, and chef-owner Clay Conley have created a sushi house worth salivating over with Imoto. The restaurant name means "little sister" in Japanese, and with its quaint location on Palm Beach Island, it stands as the Asian extension of Conley's highly-acclaimed nearby restaurant, Buccan. Just like its older sister, Imoto's atmosphere is beautiful yet unpretentious. The menu features cold sushi rolls and special sashimi with out-of-the-box ingredients like the tuna with mango, avocado mousse, and yucca. Not in the mood for the standard menu options? The omakase chef's tasting will keep you surprised as chef Taiki serves you his personal delicacy of Asian flavors with an off-menu specialty you can't find anywhere else. Make it during the weekday happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and you can get half-priced nigiri, sashimi, and rolls (as well as cocktails and beer, wine, and sake).
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.