Fresh Sushi To The Rescue In Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

For Stephen Young, a relative newcomer on the Fort Lauderdale scene, the argument for spending a birthday weekend with family from the Northeast included all of the reasons why people enjoy Florida: Sunshine, beach time, and balmy nights. But a consistent flow of rain managed to hamper all of the above. 

To be this close to the sea and not experience fish would have simply been a crime. So, with family gone, but long time girlfriend Leslie with him, they set out to experience fresh fish via sushi by chef Subin Chankesorn, at SAIA Sushi Asian Grill.

Here it is in his words:

Immediately upon entering the restaurant, we felt the beach inspiration thanks to SAIA's modern open air design, backdrop of palm trees, and the crisp white interior to reflect it all. The grill and sushi chef are located in plain view right on the dining floor, which adds to the flavor of an outdoor summer experience.

Gazing at the menu, I realized that there is but one place to start on a date night: with the "Starlet Collection."  Choices include Norma (Shearer), Bettie (Davis), Elizabeth (Taylor), and my personal favorite Grace, as in Kelly: a Hangar One raspberry vodka, triple sec, fresh lime juice and simple syrup concoction. Leslie went for one of the signature collection drinks: "Blushing Lemonade," made of soju (similar to vodka), Bombay gin, fresh blackberries, lemon and sparkling sake. Both drinks were deliciously refreshing due to the crispness of the alcohol and the freshness of the fruit. The Grace is especially appealing to a sweet tooth. But the "Ruby Foo" was the one that stole the show. Made with fresh basil, strawberries, sake, vodka and topped with ginger ale, it was a perfect emulsion.

Maki Sushi: Chef Subin really showcases his talents and creativity here. Making a choice is like getting to travel the world at his side, while seated in Fort Lauderdale.

With much to choose from, we narrowed it down to three rolls. First stop: Thailand, via the "Fire Dragon Roll," which included shrimp tempura, avocado, snow crab, spicy tuna, masago topping and a very special thai spice is what makes this roll shine. The lightly fried shrimp tempura pairs perfectly with the exoctic spice of the tuna, followed by the cool and sweet advacodo and snow crab, with a small  burst of fresh masago. Next stop, to the Caribbean via the seared scallop, mushroom, shiso, cucumber, spicy miso topped with salmon & mango, otherwise known as the "Tropical Roll." Umami, the Japanese world for pleasant, savory taste is definitely the appropriate response for a such as flavorfully amazing roll that is indeed a must try. Coming home to Florida with the "Ocean Blue Roll." While eel, avocado and imitation crab always play nicely together inside of the usual rice and seaweed, the star of the show was the addition of boursin cheese inside a tempura fried roll.This rich, yet light creamy texture in association with the light crunch of the tempura and the burst of flavor from the eel, crab and advocado will cause you to order this one over on every revisit.

Entrées: Everything comes family style at SAIA, so be ready to share. We ordered three amazing dishes: Mongolian barbeque lamb lollipops from New Zealand, miso filet, and shirome spice. The lamb had a deliciously sweet barbeque glaze, while the filet was one of the most tender I've ever had, thanks in some small part to the 24 hour marinade and a side of miso paste that made me almost forget about Leslie. Last but not least, the shirome spice — a fish dish with bell pepper, onion and shitake mushroom, sweet and spicy chili garlic sauce on top — would be better titled "spice love." The chef's meticulous balance of the sweet and spice made this a winner.

Sweet Endings: Is there any better way to cleanse the palate after a great meal than dessert? Of course not. And SAIA's white chocolate crème brulée martini was the perfect finale. Bacardi Rock Coconut, Godiva white chocolate and simple syrup with whipped cream and sugar torched to a caramel is the stone that killed two birds (the tummy and the head) with one drink.