Overall impression: Restaurants that offer Japanese and Thai cuisine are not unusual in South Florida, but one that can present both with a combination of sensitivity and artistry — and do so in a tasteful, relaxing environment — is a cause for celebration. Bluefin Sushi Thai Grill in Boca Raton is such a place, and an evening spent there is rich in all the elements that make for a gratifying dining experience.

The tastefully decorated interior combines leather, wood and metal, and is dominated by a sushi bar along one side of the room. The food presentation is enticing, and the service is friendly and efficient. Clearly, someone gave a great deal of thought to what makes dining out special, and applied that philosophy consistently and successfully throughout Bluefin Sushi. It only makes sense, therefore, that the cuisine should be superlative in its own right.

Starters: The menu, while lengthy, is not daunting, because it's so well organized. It's divided into Japanese and Thai sections, with subdivisions for hot and cold appetizers, various types of sushi and entree items in both cuisines. We chose to begin with some traditional Thai dishes: satay chicken, summer roll and spicy beef salad (all $10). The chicken, as is customary, consisted of thin pieces cooked on wooden skewers accompanied by peanut dipping sauce and another, sweeter sauce. It was simple but satisfying. More spectacular was the summer roll, which was presented as a mound of large slices wrapped in rice paper and nestled in a landscape of iceberg lettuce leaves. Inside were stuffed rice vermicelli, prawns, basil, carrot and a generous amount of fresh mint, which contrasted perfectly with the peanut dipping sauce. The spicy beef salad (which was spicy enough, even though we chose the "mild" option) had thin seasoned beef slices that had been marinated in fermented fish sauce and tossed with cucumbers, tomatoes and scallions. It was also attractively served in a natural bowl of lettuce leaves. The overwhelming impression left by these dishes was not just their intriguing taste, but their freshness.


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Entree excellence: There's only so much you can do with sushi. It has to be extremely fresh, the combinations of ingredients have to be imaginative and work well together, and the presentation has to be a harmonious feast for the eyes. A great sushi chef once said, "If a diner says about your sushi, 'It looks so beautiful, I don't even know where to begin,' you've failed." That's not a problem with Bluefin's sushi. It's fresh, and gorgeously prepared and presented. In the case of the bluefin roll (a combination of bluefin toro, yellowtail, squid, pickles, avocado and scallion rolled inside-out and sprinkled with masago for $17), the dozen or so slices were laid out in a broad crescent on a long, thin plate that, when read from left to right, provided the perfect point of entry.

On the Thai side, we couldn't resist a dish titled "World of Seafood" ($26), which did not suffer from false advertising. The waiter unfurled a foil bag to reveal a panoply of steamed shrimp, lobster tail, crabmeat, scallops, squid and mussels, all on a bed of vegetables. The fascinating thing about this dish was that it started out on the bland side, but as you worked your way through it, the subtlety of the flavors, particularly the hint of ginger, began to poke through and enhance the natural flavors of the seafood that had been trapped by the bag. It's a great dish for those people who fear Thai cuisine because of its spiciness.

Another standout was the lobster ginger ($27), a full lobster tail sauteed with onions, scallions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Lobster tail is available also as lobster curry and "volcano" style, which involves chili sauce. But go with the ginger version, which doesn't overpower the meat's delicate flavor.

Sweet! What you would expect: fried cheesecake, fried ice cream ($6), green tea and red-bean ice cream ($5), among other items. It's all perfectly fine, but it's an afterthought.

Service: We'll put it this way: The wait staff is unobtrusive, but your server makes a point of keeping his station under constant surveillance. A raised brow and eye contact has him heading straight to your table. How rare that is these days, and how wonderful.

Bluefin Sushi Thai Grill

861 Yamato Road, Boca Raton

561-981-8869, Bluefinthaisushi.com

Cuisine: Japanese and Thai

Cost: Moderate-expensive

Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner nightly

Reservations: Recommended

Credit Cards: All

Bar: Beer, wine, sake (hot and cold)

Sound level: Moderate

Outside smoking: Yes

Kids: Separate children's menu, booster seats and highchairs