Sushi Mara

Lafayette has only one sushi bar. Fortunately, it's a good one. Not just good, but creative. And not just creative, but intelligently so -- which, when you're dealing with a cuisine as rigidly structured yet infinitely adaptable as sushi, is even more necessary than good rice. Sushi Mara's sushi bar is generally staffed by two guys who both came from Hapa Sushi in Boulder, bringing with them a lot of Hapa's nouvelle-fishy gimmickry. They also offer fried shrimp heads, shumai, infused tobiko and Philadelphia rolls that are like the Devil's maki -- evil in both conception and execution, a kind of lowest-common-denominator roll for people who don't really want to be eating fish but wound up in a sushi restaurant anyhow. They serve their edamame chilled, which is a nice touch, and also feature ika sansai -- a squid salad I became addicted to in Albuquerque, of all places, when a pre-packaged version was accidentally delivered to a Mexican restaurant where I was working.

The real precocity of Sushi Mara, though, lies not in its food, but in its design. Since all cooked orders go straight to the Magnolia kitchen next door, the sushi bar has no kitchen overhead, no kitchen space, no real estate jammed up by separate coolers and walk-ins and all that jazz. In terms of restaurant design, it's like the food just appears magically on the tables -- like it's all coming in takeout, with no fuss and no muss. Which means that the sushi chefs behind the bar can concentrate all that creative intelligence on your sushi order.


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