With the booming variety of restaurants in the area, it’s no surprise that many of those originating in the Birmingham area have made their way to T-town. One of the most recent eateries to debut in our area is the Asian-inspired Maki Fresh boasting a variety of sushi creations and other delicacies. As a product of Zoe’s Kitchen originator John Cassimus, the newest Maki Fresh location seems natural with Cassimus’s alumnus ties to the Capstone.
I decided to take my husband along for my first trip to Maki Fresh. Being the kind of gal that likes to look at a restaurant’s website and menu before visiting, I noticed that the eatery has marketed itself as a “fast casual Asian restaurant in a modern and inviting atmosphere.” Though we were the first customers of the day, it didn’t take long for others to start trickling in on what I assumed would be a quiet early lunch on Sunday morning. The cashier was quick to point out that the Hibachi Rice Bowl and the Bubblegum Signature Maki were quite popular. After one more brief glance over the menu and a temptation to get slider burgers with a side of onion rings, we finally went with the rice bowl and sushi recommendations that were first provided.
As part of the same restaurant family, I was quick to observe the aesthetic similarities to Zoe’s Kitchen in furniture form and table set up. Dark wood tables and Asian Dogwood trees painted on the walls added to the subtle Japanese style atmosphere. While waiting on our food, I noticed that the number of indoor tables were maximized for the small space of the restaurant while a good abundance of outdoor tables on the small outside patio provided extra seating. I was pleasantly surprised with the quick delivery of our first dish, the Hibachi Rice Bowl containing flank steak, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers, edamame, and maki spicy sauce. The variety of veggies in the rice bowl worked well to provide lots of color while drizzled in the “spicy sauce.” After mixing everything up for good measure, I noticed that the sauce was not particularly spicy and tasted very similar to a typical shrimp sauce found in other Japanese restaurants. Between the maki spicy sauce and the sweet Teriyaki type sauce that covered the flank steak, I found it difficult to taste the other flavors of the food. However, the rice had a wonderful texture while in contrast with the crunch of the fresh veggies and the flavor of the flank steak. Next came our Bubblegum sushi roll. I was immediately pleased with the visual appeal of the dish and anxious to taste as we opted for the brown rice option rolled in with the crab, avocado, cucumber, ahi tuna, wasabi aoioli, and sriracha listed on the menu. After a small mix and dip of soy sauce and wasabi, I realized that the Bubblegum roll had so much fresh flavor and really didn’t need the addition of wasabi and soy sauce.
According to masters in Japan, the true sushi experience strives to make each bite a ride of color, texture, taste, and presentation. Even in Tuscaloosa, these standards also hold true. I found our sushi to be a deliciously quick and convenient option that we’ve not had in the past. Though the amount of maki spicy sauce in my rice bowl wasn’t exactly my style, I still found the dish to be quite tasty. I’ve already made note in my head to ask for the sauce on the side next time. I consider Maki Fresh to be a great option for lunch or dinner; however, with a price tag of over $25 dollars for the two of us with drinks included, many folks may consider this too steep for lunch. All in all, I give this place two thumbs up with a side of sriracha.
Maki Fresh is located in the Indian Hills area at 1530 McFarland Boulevard and open from 11:00 a.m. till 9:00 p.m. daily. Tweet us @ThePlanetWeekly and let us know where you are eating!
Sheena Gregg, MS, RDN,LD is a registered dietitian and local “Filipino foodie.” Follow her on Twitter @AFilipinoFoodie

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