By: Jason Perlow
If you are expecting an objective, unbiased restaurant review, forget it. You’re not going to get one this time. Don’t even think of this as a restaurant review. It’s not.
In 2010, my wife Rachel and I decided that we wanted to move to Florida. One of the criteria we had for selecting a town to live in was the availability of good local restaurants. My parents, who had been living in Highland Beach for 15 years, told us about the beautiful communities of Parkland and Coral Springs. So we contacted a real estate agent, flew down here from New Jersey, and started looking.
During our home search, the very first restaurant in the greater Parkland and Coral Springs area that we tried was Bluefin Parkland. The sushi and service there was so good that it was one of the reasons why we decided to move to Coral Springs in June of 2012. Rachel and I held our 20th wedding anniversary party there in 2015, with 40 guests.
I have dined at Bluefin Parkland at least 100 times, and I am proud to be one of their regular customers. I stopped counting at my hundredth or so photos of the sushi that I’ve been uploading to Yelp since my first meal there. Everyone, from the servers to the kitchen staff know my wife and me on a first-name basis, and we are always greeted like family whenever we enter. Our preferences are well known: a cold bottle of Ty-Ku Silver automatically arrives to start the evening as we take our regular seats at the sushi bar. The chefs know my habits and preferences so well that I do not even order from the menu anymore.
While there are many local Asian restaurants I enjoy, Bluefin Parkland is my go-to sushi restaurant. It’s a place where I know I am going to be pampered with extremely attentive service.
In the seven years since we moved into the area, Bluefin has not changed its menu in any significant way. While other sushi restaurants would introduce new specials, new maki roll combos, and use all sorts of unusual ingredients to differentiate themselves, Bluefin sticks to its battery of meticulously prepared repertoire. The result is a menu that’s steady as a rock.
Some people might consider this stubborn or even stagnant, but there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and that is how Chef Yozo likes it. A meticulous, deliberate, soft-spoken perfectionist of a sushi chef, he has been at it for 40 years. You might have never heard of him, but you have certainly eaten some of his creations: As one of the originators of South Florida-style sushi, many of the crazy roll combinations you can find all over the tri-county area are often lesser-quality imitations of his many innovations.
If there is an embodiment of the American immigrant success story, Yozo-san would be it, having come to the United States from his hometown of Nagasaki in 1979. Nearly twenty years ago, he opened Bluefin Sushi in Boca Raton. It quickly became one of Palm Beach County’s most popular Asian restaurants. In 2008, he opened Bluefin in Parkland.
His long-tenured employees would jokingly say he is obstinate. But Chef Yozo is not the type who gives in to the latest trends and Instagram-propelled food fads. Indeed his Parkland regulars appreciate the place for its stability and consistency as a familiar place to unwind and escape their everyday burdens. The popular $5 Parkland Roll and Sushi Bomb nights on Mondays and Tuesdays bring some levity to a community that has been through so much in the last two years, and Yozo-san knows it.
I’ve never even considered doing a write-up of Bluefin Parkland. It’s a very successful fixture of the bedroom community, and it does not need any additional promotion. The place is always busy, even on weeknights. But a few weeks ago, over a plate of uzuzukuri sashimi, Yozo-san told me he was toying with the idea of offering ramen noodle soups. He plans to feature them in the overflow dining room that he had renovated in 2014, but had not been utilized much other than for the occasional party, such as our anniversary mentioned earlier.
I told him that it was a good idea. Having heard about his plans to do something different with that space for years, I wasn’t sure if he was actually going to go through with it. But when Yozo-san told me he was going to try something new — to make ramen — an entirely different, specialized discipline from sushi in Japan, I knew that this was something significant.
Weeks after our conversation, I was alerted to the very realness of this ramen plan by a recent Facebook post, depicting the noodle soup in all of its glory. I knew I had to eat it immediately. And apparently, that night, Parkland Talk Editor In Chief Sharon Aron Baron and I became the first customers to try it.
The ramen menu itself has five types of broth on it — Miso, Shoyu (Soy), Tonkotsu Miso, Tonkotsu Shoyu, and Geki Kara.
I asked Yozo-san which two broths he wanted me to have. After some discussion, Sharon and I decided to try The Tonkotsu Miso and the Geki Kara. Both noodle soups are $9, and all proteins are add-ons, ranging from $3 to $7.
Neither of these two ramen broths would be considered traditional. Yozo-san has formulated these himself, looking to differentiate from the myriad of trendy ramen places that have been popping up all over Broward and Palm Beach County.
Tonkotsu broth traditionally is made of pork bones that have been simmered in water for many hours, typically overnight or longer. Yozo-san’s version has both pork and chicken stock in it, with the addition of blonde miso, which is a fermented soybean paste that gives the soup its signature and unmistakable umami flavor profile. It is intensely rich and satisfying, one that true ramenophiles can appreciate. But unlike many ramen broths that can taste overly salty or laden with MSG, Yozo’s tonkotsu ramen manages to be very savory without actually being a salt bomb. That’s a pretty impressive feat.
A ramen soup would not be a ramen soup without ramen noodles and all the condiments on top. Yozo-san uses authentic ramen noodles, which have the appropriate amount of chew and springiness. They are made to be slurped, just like you would at old-fashioned ramen stands in Japan. Gracing the top of the bowl are almost-traditional garnishes, including soft boiled egg, nori seaweed, corn, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and scallions.
We ordered this one deluxe, which came with seafood, including jumbo shrimp, manilla clams, scallops, and slices of fish cake. Everything was cooked perfectly and imparted their flavor to the broth.
The Geki Kara, which in Japanese means “super spicy,” was a style of ramen broth that I never had before. It is a non-traditional broth made with two different types of miso: one blonde, one dark, fortified with Japanese and Korean hot chile peppers. It’s got just the right amount of bite without being overpowering, and it goes perfectly with his home-made chashu — sliced succulent braised pork belly, which practically melts in your mouth.
This is as real as ramen gets, and I fully understand why Yozo-san waited so long to do something with the neglected secondary dining room — now appropriately named the Ramen Bar.
Like everything else he does, he wanted it to be perfect for his regular customers that he knows so well. I can’t argue with that.
6694 Parkside Dr, Parkland, FL 33067
Open 7 days a week, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain's "No Reservations" cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS's ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.