Rise Sushi works to find its level at new site

Pop­u­lar eatery’s food sat­is­fies, but ser­vice is un­even

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - DINING - By Michael Mayo

Mov­ing a pop­u­lar restau­rant car­ries risk, and the ques­tions own­ers must ask be­fore em­bark­ing on such an am­bi­tious course are: What’s the up­side, and is it worth it?

In the case of Rise Sushi, own­ers Vi­vian and Mike Tsang de­cided that af­ter 10 years they had sim­ply out­grown their space in a strip mall on South­west 18th Street west of Boca Ra­ton. Whether the move to big­ger and nicer digs a mile to the west in a ren­o­vated shop­ping plaza is ul­ti­mately boon or bur­den re­mains to be seen.

The chance to de­sign and build a restau­rant nearly quadru­ple the size of the orig­i­nal was ob­vi­ously tempt­ing for the Tsangs. Af­ter a decade of suc­cess, they fig­ured loyal cus­tomers would find their way to the new lo­ca­tion in Board­walk Plaza, and that all that space — 150 seats in­side and nearly an­other 100 on the ter­race — would also han­dle new­com­ers. There’s a koi pond near the en­trance and glider ta­bles out­side over­look­ing a man­made lake. The in­side has a sleek bar in the mid­dle, a sushi bar in the rear and an 800-gal­lon aquar­ium with trop­i­cal fish.

Rise made the move in March, and more than six months later it still has some grow­ing pains. Ser­vice is un­even. A few days af­ter my sec­ond visit, some­thing went wrong with the aquar­ium and it had to be drained. On my first visit, a week­end lunch, work­ers ham­mered and drilled as they built a canopy over the deck. I never dined at Rise’s old lo­ca­tion, so I can’t say if any­thing has been lost in the tran­si­tion. All I can say is that big­ger is not nec­es­sar­ily more com­fort­able, par­tic­u­larly not on a Fri­day night at ca­pac­ity, when each sec­tion of the din­ing room felt cramped and the nar­row path along the bar lead­ing to the rear sushi counter was so The shrimp and meat crispy noo­dle from Rise Sushi. Af­ter 10 years, the pop­u­lar pan-Asian eatery moved to more spa­cious digs with out­door din­ing over­look­ing a lake at the new Board­walk Plaza in west Boca. tight that pa­trons had to walk sin­gle file and some­times had to back up to avert col­li­sions with servers.

I can see why Rise does well. Its food is fresh, well-pre­pared and mostly tasty, with large por­tions at rea­son­able prices. The kitchen and sushi chefs knock things out with re­mark­able ef­fi­ciency, al­beit a lit­tle slop­pily, even at peak times. The pan-Asian mish­mash — Ja­panese, Thai, Chi­nese, sushi, sal­ads, cooked dishes — ap­par­ently ap­peals to many South Florida diners.

The menu is 10 pages long, and when I waded through it on my first visit, I didn’t know if I had been handed a Novem­ber bal­lot (all those amend­ments??!!) or if I had stum­bled upon the Asian ver­sion of a New Jer­sey Greek diner, poly­glot places where one can or­der matzo ball soup, mous­saka and chicken Parm. At Rise, one can have tuna tataki, lob­sterand-shrimp siu mai and chicken pad thai. So many coun­tries, so lit­tle time. The seafood cu­cum­ber salad

I have no idea why it has be­come stan­dard for South Florida sushi restau­rants to also in­cor­po­rate Thai and Chi­nese dishes (or vice versa). I am one of those eaters who prefers a nar­row­ing of fo­cus, but at Rise I went with the flow and or­dered a bit of ev­ery­thing. On my first visit, I even or­dered Tom Yum Won­ton Soup ($7), a hy­brid of Thai fla­vors (lemon­grass, lime juice, Thai basil) with Chi­nese shrimp-and­lob­ster dumplings. The won­tons didn’t quite work with the sour­ish broth. I or­dered the soup with medium spice, but it came out bland, prob­a­bly be­cause my serv-

Rise Sushi

6853 SW 18th St., west of Boca Ra­ton. 561-392-8808 or Face­book.com/RiseSushiFine AsianCui­sine Cui­sine: Asian/sushi Cost: Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon­day-Thurs­day; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri­day; noon-11 p.m. Satur­day; noon-10 p.m. Sun­day Reser­va­tions: Ac­cepted Credit cards: All ma­jor Bar: Noise level: Loud when crowded in­side, pleas­ant out­side Wheel­chair ac­cess: Ground level Park­ing: Free lot er per­formed that an­noy­ing trick of try­ing to mem­o­rize our en­tire lunch or­der with­out writ­ing it down. (Sure enough, our fi­nal print­out check read, “Not spicy” be­neath the soup or­der.)

But my com­plaints were more with ser­vice and other is­sues than with the food. A Satur­day lunch at a glider ta­ble over­look­ing the lake started off pleas­ant, but our peace was shat­tered when work­ers re­sumed the pa­tio project. I didn’t mind the noise as much as the server who dis­ap­peared when we fin­ished our main course. Af­ter 15 min­utes, we looked dis­tressed enough that an­other cus­tomer three ta­bles down sent her server our way to bail us out.

The lunch had its re­deem­ing qual­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly a fine tea ser­vice of blue­berry pomegranate white tea ($4.50) in a clear pot with a heat­ing ele­ment that kept the tea hot through­out the meal. Spicy conch salad ($10.50) was re­fresh­ing, with thin, white slices of mostly ten­der conch atop a heap of spaghetti-like, shred­ded cu­cum­ber in pi­quant kim­chi sauce.

Choos­ing from the dizzy­ing se­lec­tion of sushi rolls (more than 50) was a chal­lenge. We set­tled on a jazz roll ($15.50) with shrimp tem­pura, spicy tuna, cu­cum­ber, avo­cado and bar­be­cue eel (the eel sauce was a bit sweet) and a rain­bow cu­cum­ber wrap ($10.50) that used rolled cu­cum­ber in­stead of seaweed and rice around tuna, salmon and hamachi. They were fine, as was stan­dard salmon sushi ($3.50 each).

A Fri­day din­ner visit also yielded good food, noise (this time in­side, where ter­razzo floors and low ceil­ings cre­ate a ca­coph­ony) and un­even ser­vice. Vi­vian Tsang later ex­plained to me that the restau­rant has had staff turnover and in­con­sis­tency since mov­ing, an area she is work­ing to ad­dress.

At din­ner, we en­joyed a fine tuna-caviar tower ($17.50) with minced raw tuna topped by black to­biko, served with fresh taro chips and pleas­ant wasabi cream. We or­dered crispy duck with basil sauce ($24), and our duck came out crispy and naked with a side dish of sliced onions, green pep­pers and car­rots (no basil). Sauce or no sauce, it was de­li­cious. Miso-glazed baked sea bass ($36) was but­tery and ten­der, served with a mound of fresh sauteed veg­gies. Chicken pad thai ($14) was am­ple and had good umami, with a nice hint of tamarind and fish sauce mixed with flat noo­dles, scal­lion, bean sprouts, chicken and crushed peanuts.

Our server seemed to be more con­cerned with quickly turn­ing over the ta­ble for the next cus­tomers than with serv­ing the ones in front of him. To­ward our meal’s end, we saw an­other server de­liver whipped-cream topped desserts to an­other ta­ble. A few min­utes later, our server boxed up our leftovers and said, “The check?” We asked about dessert. “No dessert,” he said. We gave him a look. “All we have is ice cream,” he said.

We took the hint, paid our check and went on our way.

MIKE STOCKER/SUN SEN­TINEL PHO­TOS

Mod­er­ate. Soups, sal­ads and ap­pe­tiz­ers cost $4.50-$24, sushi pieces and rolls $2-$28, noo­dles and rice dishes $12-18, en­trees $14-$36. Full liquor with beer, wine and sake

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