Sapporo Sushi & Asian Kitchen

Have you ever dined at a restaurant and when finished you wanted to shout from the mountaintops, “Eat Here! Everything is Good!” Since we don’t have mountaintops in South Florida, perhaps we can hold signs on Federal Highway or whatever it takes to get the word out. Sapporo is a very special restaurant, not only attractive but clean and comfortable, “with a New York ambiance.” It offers a charming outside patio area with lively DJ music there on Friday evenings from 10pm to 2AM, and a singer in the lounge area on Saturdays and Sundays, all with the added advantage of the full kitchen open late.

The owner, named Song, certainly knows what he’s doing. After coming from Thailand to New York, he ran a family restaurant for over 30 years before moving to Florida. In 2009 he opened his first Sushi Song on Oakland Park Road and A1A. Today he owns 10 successful franchises, all have full kitchens and not just sushi bars, with advertising largely by word of mouth by throngs of satisfied customers. Song owns and oversees everything from the menu to the staff and staff training to his own brand of beer. The beer is a unique Rice Lager that is “brewed and canned with love.” The restaurant we visited in Fort Lauderdale (at 3811 N. Federal Highway) has a huge menu and, again, a full kitchen. The Sushi Song in Hollywood (on Young Circle) and in Key West (Duval Street) also have large menus and receive rave reviews. You can find a Sushi Song near you no matter where you are since there are locations in Oakland Park, Deerfield Beach, South Beach, Wilton Manors, Pembroke Pines and maybe even soon in Las Vegas and Hawaii.

We have to give kudos to the marvelous chefs in Fort Lauderdale since they are from Thailand and, therefore, the food is as authentic Thai cuisine as one can get. Chef RJ has a delightful sense of humor, too. He told the General Manager, Mike May, that he won’t let Mike work in his kitchen until Mike can speak Thai so “he can cuss at him.” There’s an immense amount of talent in the kitchen with Chef RJ, a virtuoso who’s been making sushi for 18 years and Amy, another expert chef who Mike said “has been here forever.” Also with humor and frankness, the owner, Song, told us that there are other authentic Thai restaurants in Fort Lauderdale but “our location is better, we are open later, we are less expensive, and their staff comes here to eat.”

We were delighted that Song chose a few appetizers to start. The “Gyoza” (Pork and Chicken Dumplings) has 5 good size hand-made pieces served neatly on a platter. In contrast to the warm dumplings, next we had a cold appetizer of Salmon Carpaccio, a generous plateful of delicate slices of fresh salmon presented in little mounds, resting in a classic Japanese ponzu sauce of garlic, soy, truffle oil and sea salt with small pieces of scallion decoration on top. It sounds simple but it would be difficult to replicate unless you knew where to ’nd the sudachi, yuzu, kabosu, mirin and dashi ingredients too. Next a perfect partner for the salmon was a Tuna Cake consisting of Spicy Tuna on top of a Jasmine rice cake. We tried one of the 9 Signature Rolls, the “Lobster Bites” which contained wonderful chunks of lobster with dabs of cream cheese rice and jalapeno (optional) rolled into the seaweed.

Be sure to see the list of “Special Entrees” on the menu since “special” is an understatement; they are spectacular. The “Crispy Duck Red Curry” is a must-try since it is served in a sensational sauce made with a red curry paste, coconut milk, basil leaves, bell peppers, peas, pieces of pineapple and small cherry tomatoes. We were glad the dish came with Jasmine rice on the side because we were able to use the rice to scoop up every last drop of that sauce. Next, the “piece de resistance”, the noteworthy and memorable, outstanding jewel of the meal has to be the Fried Whole Fish. The presentation of this large, whole Snapper is simply royal and remarkable. It is raised on a platter and surrounded by a colorful medley of red and green vegetables. The sauce is either a ginger sauce or a sweet chili sauce which is an interesting mix of sweet and spicy if you like more kick. The fish is a marvel being contrastingly crispy and seasoned on the outside yet filled with delicate white meat inside. It is a magnificent, must-have treat that shouldn’t be missed.

If you have room for a naturally sweet yet healthy dessert, opt for the “Mango Sweet Sticky Rice.” The fresh slices of mango are a side companion to a sweet, white mound of sticky rice that makes it a prefect and typical Thai dessert combination of mango-rice-and-coconut milk.

It’s no wonder that we saw a parade of take-out orders all evening. No doubt they’ve tasted the cuisine made by these skilled maestros in the kitchen. We understand how appropriate the quote is on the beer can of Song’s own brand of beer: “Every Day – Good Day.” That’s what it is, if you’re dining at Sushi Song. You really owe it to yourself to have this experience.

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