Like so many sushi places dotting the tri-state area, we initially suspected that Mizu Sushi located at 34 North Avenue West was miming. That it offered the usual. The avocado-slathered dragon roll with a heaping of eel inside. The firecracker spicy tuna concoction that often comes with a bit of crunchy fried flakes.
Both are true favorites of mine, but I know I grab those at any old Japanese place.
It's true that both those classics – along with the standard salmon, yellowtail wrapped in seaweed and so on – are choices on the menu. Mizu Sushi, however, also rolled out 26 speciality rolls for Cranford's conspicuous consumption.
By far our favorite was the Chilean Sea Bass Roll ($12). Grilled and marinated white meat made for a pleasing combination of salty and sweet. Avocado added a buttery finish. The pale pink soy paper used to wrap it up gave the roll a colorful flair.
The chef also garnished the plate with a fresh, fragrant purple flower.
Mizu Sushi opened for business in mid-December, the 'grand opening' banner flapping in the cold wind. Due to the grand opening happening in the dead of winter – and its location downtown which necessitated a bit of walking – we expected that the place was experiencing slow, creeping business.
However the restaurant itself was almost full on a Thursday evening. And the metropolitan, contemporary atmosphere – warm studio lighting, oak paneling and carefully assembled earthenware sets on the tables – made us feel like we might be in bustling New York City.
In fact, Mizu Sushi is a restaurant franchise that originating in the Big Apple. The chain, which includes four other eateries, serves up what they call 'new style' sushi – combinations of fish rolled up together that purposefully deviate from the norm, explained owner Jian Guo Ciao when we asked.
Just as it probably is in Manhattan, Mizu Sushi is also located on a street jammed with competitors.
The restaurant, located as it is in downtown Cranford, is also flanked on all sides by other eateries – pizza places, straight-up Italian places, the specialty Thai food of Avenue East. After parking it took us a few minutes to find the eatery, as we walked along the sidewalk and waded past sign after sign.
However if the Mizu Sushi model can survive restaurant-heavy, high-rent Manhattan, we have high hopes for the Cranford establishment. They've already gained a thumbs-up from a crowd that has way too many dinner choices.