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Erin Go Raw… McGuire’s Sushi

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McGuire’s Irish Pub has been a Destin fixture for years. I’ve always enjoyed the food there, along with their assortment of house made beers and their excellent root beer. The menu there has always been pretty eclectic, so I guess there was no reason to wonder when they opened a sushi place next door to the pub.


Is sushi Irish? No, and there’s no attempt here to make Japan’s most famous culinary export fit into an Emerald Isle theme. On the contrary, McGuire’s Sushi looks like a straight-up sushi bar and restaurant. With the exception of the children’s menu, I didn’t see even a hint of green about the place. The decor is red, black and varnished wood, a slick-but-restrained minimalist atmosphere that sets off the prettiness of all that freshly prepared sushi.


The walls are dominated by large framed posters of films, ranging from Seven Samurai to Ocean’s 11 and Hang ‘Em High, with assorted martial arts, sci-fi and western epics in between. There’s a sushi bar with stools for those who like to look and point, as well as tables. For music, it was neither Japanese nor Celtic that day, but good old Motown, blues and doo-wop. Ray Charles goes perfectly with Japanese fare.


McGuire’s Sushi menu offers a few starters, and sushi available as nigiri (raw fish on small cakes of vinegar-seasoned rice), chirashi (raw fish arranged on a bed of vinegar-seasoned rice) and rolls, in which fish, vegetables and other ingredients are rolled-up with rice in dried seaweed, then sliced. When I first tried sushi in New York in the mid-1980s, rolls were not that common. Now, the roll is king, and the mainstay of many sushi menus.


My wife and I decided to get miso soup and an order of nigiri to start, and to get our daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) her meal—non-Japanese pizza, with fries and a drink. The place was filling up, and sushi takes time to make, so you might want to get your kid fed early.


TD got two slices of hot pizza (loaded with cheese) and very tasty fries that reminded me of souffled potatoes. Lemonade and a Rice Krispy treat added to her joy.


Among the nigiri offered were octopus, tuna, fatty tuna, squid, sea urchin, mackerel, and others. I ordered mackerel.


The roll menu listed around 22 choices. We decided on three to split—a Destin roll (tuna, avocado and green onion), Spider roll (fried softshell crab, crab stick and cucumber) and a Crunchy Shrimp roll (tempura shrimp, crab stick, and cucumber).


The mackerel came, two cakes of rice with generous slices of silvery mackerel. Mackerel’s strong taste and oily texture make it a polarizing fish, but serving it raw mutes and softens that. A little pickled ginger cuts the richness.


The rolls came. They’re a little messy, with sweet soy, spicy mayo and crunchy tempura flakes, but it’s worth it just popping a whole bite at once and letting the elements work. You get sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, chewy and smooth all together. If maneuvering chopsticks isn’t your thing, use your fingers. There’s the added pleasure of explaining to your child why it’s okay this time not to use utensils.


Other rolls included McGuire Roll (lump crab salad and crab stick), prime rib roll, Boston roll (crab salad, cream cheese), Canadian roll (smoked salmon and bacon), California rolls A and B, Dragon Skin roll (smoked eel and crab stick), Eel roll, Caterpillar roll (eel, crab, avocado), Philadelphia roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese), Rainbow roll (crab salad, tuna, yellow tail, salmon and other fish), Spicy Tuna/Ultimate Spicy Tuna rolls, Vegetable roll, Seaweed salad roll, Volcano roll (crab, crab salad, fish roe spicy sauce), Ultimate Salmon roll (smoked and fresh) Yellow Tail and Red Dragon roll (softshell crab, spicy sauce, roe and tuna).


McGuire’s Sushi offers wine, sake, and its renowned house brews. I got a root beer, which may not be what one orders with sushi, but I never pass it up.


I noticed on the kids menu that there’s a chocolate brownie a la mode and a root beer float. We passed this time.


Realizing that the miso had not come, we told the server, Wes. He duly took it off the bill and offered us a takeout serving on the house. We declined (we weren’t going home right away), but I really appreciated the gesture. Wes did a great job taking care of us and a lot of other diners that afternoon.


35 Harbor Blvd.
Hours: Open Daily at Noon
Reservations: Not Necessary
Children’s Menu: Yes
Dress: Casual
Not a leprechaun in sight, but you’ll find plenty of choice in sushi and rolls. Sit at the bar and watch the masters at work, or grab a table and study the Japanese-language movie posters that adorn the walls. Tasty, generous-sized rolls include the McGuire’s, Dragon Skin, Volcano, Spider, Caterpillar, Rainbow and any number of variations. Beer, wine and sake. $6-16.
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