Rise Sushi works to find its level at new site
Popular eatery’s food satisfies, but service is uneven
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-
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.
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