When Ross Restaino was ready to propose to Elysa Applebaum, he knew the perfect setting. A party with friends at Masamune in Deerfield Beach.
Since their first visit to Masamune five months ago, the Coral Springs couple has been dining at the Japanese restaurant every Monday for a special “date night.” When he was ready to pop the question, servers and sushi chefs were in on the celebration.
It’s not like customers pop the question every day at Masamune, but it doesn’t take long for newcomers to feel like regulars. As soon as you sit down, servers bring hot towels and a bowl of noodles. Glass water walls and soothing hues create such a relaxing atmosphere that you wouldn’t guess the place was named after a famed Japanese swordsmith.
Making guests feel welcome is one of the reasons Masamune has been a steady success for 17 years. Owner Hidetoshi Hatayama, a native of Japan, was among the sushi pioneers in Broward, opening the place at a time when a tuna or eel roll was truly exotic fare.
Hatayama keeps the place interesting with new rolls, diner bonus cards and events like a sushi-making class on Super Bowl Sunday (who needs chicken wings when you can have dancing eel?).
Sip chilled Kirin beer or hot Karatamba sake while you navigate a menu that’s well over 100 items. We dived in with one of our favorites, tuna tataki, bracingly clean, sliced thin, served with a citrusy ponzu sauce. On the hot side, go for gyoza (steamed or pan-fried pork dumplings) or edamame.
Sushi clearly stars here. Aside from the tempura, which was light, crisp and quite good, we weren’t as thrilled with hot dishes like skewered chicken yakitori or lobster teriyaki, which was overcooked and overpowered by the sauce.
We did fall in love with the Heart of Japan, a dynamite specialty roll that’s probably the most elegant dish on the menu. Carved into heart-shaped slices, it’s ringed with ruby red tuna on the outside and sticky sushi rice, chopped cucumber and avocado inside and out. With hearts outlined in the sweet-spicy sauce, it’s an altogether splendid affair.
Crunchy tuna looks almost like white snowballs, but beneath the panko crumbs are flavorful tuna rolls with avocado. (Good news: Escolar, which is called “white tuna” at many sushi restaurants, is nowhere to be found here.)
Masamune offers several specialty rolls, but if you don’t want cream cheese or crab stick with your sushi, there are plenty of a la carte choices like wahoo, salmon, eel and squid.
We manage to convince ourselves that tempura bananas has at least some nutritional value, passing up over-the-top desserts like fried cheesecake and tempura ice cream. There are also lighter Asian sweets like red bean or green tea ice cream.
Even sweeter: Stop by on a Monday evening and you’re likely to see Applebaum, 23, and her fiancé Restaino, 27, enjoying their date night.