Thursday, October 10, 2002

Swimmingly good

Posted on Thu, Oct 10, 2002 at 4:00 AM

From the shores of Brooklyn comes Bayridge Sushi, one of the newest entries in metro Orlando's crowded Japanese-restaurant market.

Not that Brooklyn isn't also teeming with sushi and sashimi. Bay Ridge is a tiny neighborhood right on the New York Bay, and to succeed there, you have to be darn good.

Owner and sushi chef Ben Lu was trained by a venerable Manhattan sushi master for many years, and says he moved his restaurant here for the "business opportunities."

Bayridge Sushi is in an odd, slightly cowboy-looking building on the outside, but inside it's thoroughly Far East, with paper screens and blond wood surrounding intimate tables, and the sushi bar up front. There is even a tatami room for those nimble of knee.

Unlike a lot of local Japanese eateries, the menu isn't numbingly extensive, but it narrows the hot dishes down to teriyaki, noodles and tempura, focusing instead on sushi and rolls.

I liked the slightly expensive but convenient a la carte sushi menu, from which you can order single pieces that show off Lu's talents.

The white tuna (shiro, $4.25) is an absolute order; hold the morsel in your mouth and let the buttery fish slowly cook on your tongue.

Eel (unagi, $4.25) is my weakness, prepared here with less of the obligatory sweet sauce to let the flavor shine through.

The tuna is bright pink to dark red, depending on the cut ($3.95 to $4.45), and it tastes of clear water.

My only complaint was the "crab stick" ($3.25) which, like the crab-dumpling appetizer ($4.50) was not real crab, but surimi – you know, that formed whitefish stuff.

A better choice is the slightly pickled mackerel with its bracing vinegar bite (saba, $3.25).

The appetizer that was particularly pleasing was the nasu ($3.25), a small jewel of a Japanese eggplant, split and broiled with a topping of miso and ponzu sauce for a sweet contrast to the deep eggplant flavor.

I'm actually not a fan of rolls, but there's a wide selection of not-too-bizarre combinations. The "rainbow," "California" and "dragon" rolls are all here (and not much different from other local concoctions), but I did like the taste and texture variations in the "Bayridge roll" of tuna, salmon and avocado ($8.95).

Bayridge Sushi is a long way from the Brooklyn shores, but in its new Florida digs is a smart choice for tasty, well-prepared sushi.



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