To the uninitiated, raw fish, rice and seaweed may not seem like the most appetizing building blocks for dinner. But when placed in the hands of an accomplished sushi chef, something magical happens. The ingredients mix into an alchemic blend of gustatory bliss. While there’s certainly no shortage of quality sushi in West Michigan, the following restaurants are must-tries for newcomers and sushi snobs alike.
#3. Maru Sushi and Grill
927 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
Located in the midst of a culinary hotbed on Cherry Street, Maru Sushi holds its own as one of the most innovative, trendy sushi joints in town. The décor is reminiscent of an ultra-hip big city sushi restaurant. The plates mirror modern abstract masterpieces, and Maru works with fresh, local and organic ingredients.
The menu boasts some of the most eccentric, but tasty, sushi options you’ll find in West Michigan, from the Papa Crema (featuring smoked salmon and sweet garlic potato salad) to the Sexy Bacon (sushi with hickory-smoked bacon). Of course, they also offer a few more conventional items for those who like to stick with the tried-and-true. In any case, every dish is served with a heavy emphasis on both display and taste, locking in Maru at our No. 3 spot on the list.
#2. Ju Sushi
1144 E. Paris Ave. SE, Ste. 9. Grand Rapids
Ju Sushi is one of those places that just makes you feel really frickin’ fancy. As soon as you walk in, you’re directed to the dining area, the sushi bar or the lounge. Once seated, you’re presented with drink and appetizer choices, which include an impressive array of cocktails, wines, imported beers and local microbrews, as well as dishes like the Spicy Crab Pizza (a must have).
Then it’s time for the main event: sushi. Ju’s sushi menu resembles the most detailed, delicious Excel spreadsheet ever made. You order by taking a little golf pencil and marking off which items you want. While they feature plenty of tasty classics like the Philadelphia and California rolls, our favorite item is the Playboy Roll with spicy tuna, cream cheese, asparagus and shrimp, all served atop a flaming platter. Or just close your eyes and mark off random items on the menu, because everything’s absolutely delectable. It’s easy to rack up a big bill with all of these options, but hey, you’re allowed to splurge every now and then in the name of good taste.
#1. Tokyo Grill
4478 Breton Rd. SE, Kentwood
From the outside, Tokyo Grill may look like standard strip-mall sushi fare, but if you judge it based on that, you’d be sorely mistaken. Step inside and you’re transported to a relaxing environment with authentic Japanese décor, some of the most courteous wait staff you’ll ever encounter and, of course, plenty of out-of-this-world sushi.
As for seating, patrons have a number of options: There are plenty of booths and tables, a stunning sushi bar where you can watch as the sushi chefs meticulously construct your meal, or the tatami room, a traditional Japanese styled dining room with recessed floors, low tables and no shoes allowed.
Once you’re seated, it’s time to get down to business. Tokyo Grill’s menu has all the standard a la carte sushi fare, and even includes beginners’ platters specifically designed to familiarize newcomers with various sushi flavors. For those more attuned to traditional Japanese sushi, they offer Chirashi (a bowl filled with rice, topped with an assortment of raw fish and vegetables), Heu Dup Bap (much like chirashi, but with a sesame or spicy sauce added) and Tekka Don (tuna over sushi rice). Of course, they also have their own signature concoctions, like Joe’s Maki (deep fried crab, diced conch, asparagus, and more) and the Volcano Maki (a spicy tuna and scallions roll with spicy salmon and more scallions).
And at the end of dinner, you’re presented with a bill that defies logic (as in, this sushi is hella affordable). So not only does Tokyo Grill have delicious, fresh authentic Japanese dishes, courteous staff and beautiful décor, they also have the best value – and the number one spot on our list.
Honorable Mention: Sushi Yama
146 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids
Tucked away in a basement on the corner of Monroe Center and Pearl Street, it’s easy to miss Sushi Yama, but it would be a travesty to do so. The dining atmosphere is far more laid-back and smaller than any of the other selections on our list. If you’re in a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of mood, but still want quality sushi, this is the spot. Plus, literally every item on the menu is top-notch, and according to loyal patrons, the Mango Roll is a must-try.