By Rochelle Koff
Marumi Sushi in Plantation may be a simple storefront in an ordinary strip shopping center, but it's transformed into a culinary experience by passionate chefs Tetsu Hayakawa and Teruhiko Iwasaki who prepare elegant, well-executed dishes and sweet servers who guide you through the menu and get excited when you try something new.
Prices are so reasonable (most items are under $10) that it's easy to be adventurous -- look for the most intriguing dishes on the board brought to your table. If you prefer familiar fare, you can stick to standards like tempura, stir-fries, noodle and rice dishes and a long list of rolls. There are lots of vegetarian options, including nine of tofu and natto (fermented soybean).
Unique fare: We tried Florida scorpion fish, an ugly creature with nasty poison in its fins that our server assured us would be delicious (and safe) as prepared by chef Iwasaki. She was right. Served with daikon radish, shiso leaf, Kaiware sprouts and a dab of yuzu ponzu, the scorpion was beautifully presented as usuzukuri, transparently thin slices of sashimi that were silky, sea-salty and so fresh it might have leaped from the ocean to our plate.
What worked: The star attraction is the fresh fish and seafood, usually grouper, hog snapper, triggerfish and lobster. Have it your way or give the chef free reign. Options are sashimi, steamed, fried, grilled, nitsuke (in a sweet soy sauce) or a combination of preparations. At $1.20 an ounce, one fish can easily be a two- or three-course meal.
Food arrives when it's ready, so expect a parade of dishes. Be sure to try the crispy, flash-fried baby bok choy (''borrowed from the Chinese'' says our server) with garlic soy sauce. Delicious gyozo dumplings stuffed with garlicky, onion-studded ground pork are another crowd pleaser. Also, plump Florida rock shrimp, battered and perfectly deep-fried tempura-style, with spicy mayo, and black pork belly, bacon-like though uncured. Each morsel of Marumi's toro sashimi, a cut of tuna belly (Hayakawa says he uses wild big-eye) is lush and buttery.
Desserts: They show cross-cultural creativity. A creamy pana cotta gets an Asian accent from distinctive green tea powder, crepes are filled with red bean paste, and banana tempura, our favorite, is served with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.
Marumi Sushi, 8271 W. Sunrise Blvd., Plantation; 954-318-4455; www.marumisushi.com.
Hours: 5:30-p.m.-1:30 a.m. daily.
Prices: Soups and salads $2.75-$8.50, appetizers $4-$7.50, tofu-natto (fermented soybeans) $3.50-$7.50, entrees $8-$12, noodles and rice $7-$12, rolls $4-$4.75, sushi and sashimi $15-$32 (combos), desserts $3.25-$6.50.
FYI: Beer, wine and sake; corkage $10. Free parking. AX, MC, VS.
Chefs Tetsu Hayakawa, left, and Teruhiko Iwasaki from Marumi Sushi. Photo: Andrew Uloza