Chef Yozo Natsui's training in his native Japan, combined with more than 15 years of experience behind the stove, helped earn Bluefin Sushi & Thai Grill the distinction of Best Sushi, 2010 in the Sun Sentinel's Best of South Florida series. Inside a sleek dining room, servers transport fresh slices of fatty tuna and hand rolls from the sushi bar, where Yozo and his cadre of chefs carefully assemble edible cylinders lined with fresh seafood and cool vegetables. They accompany their platters of seared-steak teriyaki with soup or salad, and envelop medleys of vegetables in tempura batter before exposing them to a deep fryer—which is hotter and more philosophically profound than a bourgeois fryer. Servers pour an extensive selection of cold, hot, and flavored sake alongside various wines, imported Asian beers, and Thai iced tea.
When discussing the inspiration behind his love of cooking and hospitality with reporters from the Sun Sentinel, Michael Tatton credited his father, saying, “I was fascinated by all the people my father knew and the different foods he introduced us to.” Following in his dad’s footsteps, Michael opened Thai Spice more than two decades ago at the young age of 19. Today, Michael continues to captain the restaurant, which The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences honored with the prestigious Five Star Diamond Award for excellence in cuisine and impeccable service.
Deep in the kitchen, Michael and his chefs place innovative spins on traditional Thai dishes using flavorful spices and premium seafood, meats, and vegetables delivered fresh daily. Pots of curries and tom yum soup simmer on the stoves, as lobster, duck, and Chilean sea bass sizzle in pans. Meanwhile, grills crackle with fine cuts of steak, and plump chickens roast over open fires.
Out in the dining room, tropical fish glide through the salt waters of towering tanks among swaying plants and colorful rocks. Blue lanterns dangle from the ceiling, casting a warm glow over white-clothed tables and intimate booths. The walls feature exotic artwork depicting traditional Thailand scenes, from elephants raising their trunks to a businessman who went on a soul-searching trip to find his inner sassiness.
"It took them five years before they would let me handle the fish," says sushi chef Jo Clark about his extensive training. He began his culinary journey at 13 years old and spent a decade in an apprenticeship at the Japanese restaurant Yama. There, he honed an ability to prep rice and sauces, wield a knife, and select sushi-grade fish while shadowing chefs from different regions of Japan. In his spare time, Jo enjoys paddle-surfing and once skillfully maneuvered alongside a lively school of sharks.
At the restaurant, however, he deftly manages cuts of salmon, flounder, hamachi yellowtail, and shellfish to craft more than 40 inventive sushi rolls. He toys with the traditions of sushi, wrapping some rolls with thin slices of European cucumber and creating a sashimi pizza on a tortilla crust. The aromas of ginger, eggplant, and garlic wander from pots of Thai-style dishes in the kitchen and out into dining rooms. Though each location has distinct decor, diners mingle among elements such as exposed-brick bars, hardwood floors, and hanging Japanese paper lanterns in the exciting bright colors of a furious traffic cop viewed through a kaleidoscope.
Fresh seafood parades on either side of the glass of Galanga Thai Kitchen and Sushi Bar's expansive aquarium. As decorative foliage casts dappled shadows atop the bustling bar, sushi chefs keep one eye on the tank and one eye on their 23 inventive sushi rolls. In the kitchen, the chefs also flip flame-kissed steaks and whip together Thai specialties that include drunk noodles and panang curry. Sips of wine, sake, or imported beer augment each bite, and decadent desserts provide mealtime sendoffs in the form of deep-fried cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and green-tea ice cream steeped by an abominable snowman.
Asia Bay serves the "best sushi in this town," according to actor Alec Baldwin, who tweeted his recommendation while in Fort Lauderdale to film Rock of Ages, according to pbpulse. The man behind this A-list-worthy cuisine is executive chef and co-owner Peter Hepp, who according to Miami New Times "is hip to the aesthetic of clean lines, vivid colors, and brightly delineated flavors." Hepp's chefs drizzle the menu's more than 60 sushi and sashimi plates with colorful sauces as carefully as painters adorn canvas, yielding dishes that are as nice to look at as they are to eat. The 50-seat dining room operates under a similarly modern theme, with large picture windows, white leather chairs, and curved-back banquettes which Social Miami calls "minimalist-chic."
Outside, a patio held up by stilts lifts diners above the rippling waves of the Tarpon River, helping garner Asia Bay an OpenTable Diners' Choice Award for Best Outdoor Dining. Here the decor invites relaxation with large parasols, old-fashioned street lamps, and seagulls who will give backrubs for fresh-cut sashimi.