Sushi Rock chef Noboru Umino presents a plate of custom rolls.
Not many restaurants would keep actor Alec Baldwin waiting for a table, but Sushi Rock faced that predicament last summer when scenes for Rock of Ages
were being filmed in Fort Lauderdale.
Baldwin, who has a starring role in the movie, arrived at the popular Las Olas restaurant on a typically busy night. Sunny Yuthasunthorn says she wanted to seat the celebrity, but didn’t want to anger patrons already waiting in line.
“So I told Alec Baldwin it was a 45-minute wait,” says Yuthasunthorn, whose parents, Luke and Suwanee, own the restaurant.
He left. Everyone else stayed — in line.
It’s confirmation that Sushi Rock caters to locals, even on touristy Las Olas. Come early or you’ll find yourself in a line that’s out the door, especially on weekends. You might be able to grab a Kirin beer or white peach saketini while waiting. The place is tiny, with about a dozen tables, so seating gets pretty cozy.
Yet no one seems to care. They’re too busy devouring fresh, fun rolls like the Michael Jackson (eel, crab, tamago and orange roe) and the Beastie Boys (eel, crab, avocado and tamago omelet drizzled with eel sauce). Then there’s the Milli Vanilli roll with, well, “imitation” crab.
Sushi Rock’s music theme extends to the décor. The walls are lined with vintage album covers, and black lights give the room a purple glow. The background music is from the ’80s and ’90s — the crowd may suddenly start singing along to ’N Sync or The Cranberries.
The Yuthasunthorns opened their first Sushi Rock in South Beach two decades ago and sold it before moving to Las Olas in the mid ’90s. In the fall, they’ll open a second location in Wilton Manors.
The family’s Thai heritage is reflected in a twist on pad Thai made with ramen noodles, but the menu focuses on sushi and Japanese classics.
We started with one of our go-to standards, tuna tataki, which is terrific here. Sesame seeds dot barely seared, ruby slabs of fish brightened with chopped scallions and a splash of ponzu sauce. Another version uses panko-breaded, flash-fried tuna for extra crunch. The skin on the accompanying sliced orange is shaved into a Mohawk — you’ve got to love sushi chefs with a sense of humor.
You’ll find lots of sharing options like steamed shrimp dumplings (with a creamy mustard dip), perfectly salty edamame and grilled skewers of tender yakitori chicken. Servers have to move fast here, but will help you navigate a menu of more than 150 items.
Purists can order pristine sushi by the piece including sea urchin, quail egg sushi and squid. If you’re into rich rolls, the Fugee offsets its mixture of cream cheese, salmon and crab with a wrap of crisp cucumber ribbons. Any roll can be made with rice or soy paper instead of seaweed.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers roll packs a wallop with its spicy tuna, jalapeños, scallions and tempura flakes.
The sushi menu is the draw here, but you’ll also find Japanese entrees like chicken yakisoba (other proteins available) with stir-fried noodles and vegetables in a sweet and savory soy-based sauce with a tang from Japanese plums. The Rockin’ Fried Rice was a bit dry, though.
For dessert, we skipped the over-the-top Puff Daddy splurge of tempura cheesecake puffs in favor of Green Day green tea ice cream and the scrumptious Banana Rama — tempura banana fingers with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
After a night at Sushi Rock, you’ll be ready for an encore.