SANDY — I've often driven by Mizumi and noticed that it's almost always crowded. There must be a good reason for that, I thought.

On the other hand, I'm no fan of buffets, and they usually have tons of customers. But after a few years mulling over this conundrum, I finally found a sushi-loving friend to take along and visited Mizumi for a weeknight dinner.

Even on that night, when the Jazz were playing the Houston Rockets during the first round of the NBA playoffs, Mizumi had a lot of customers. So many, in fact, that we waited nearly 45 minutes as the sushi chefs frantically filled orders.

But we weren't bored, or hungry. For one thing, there was a nice big flat-screen TV up front by the sushi bar, so we kept tabs on the game. For another, we had ordered miso soup, and as the wait stretched on Mizumi's hostess brought us a plate of vegetable tempura on the house.

Mizumi isn't one of those modern sushi places with lots of glass and high ceilings and snooty servers. It's more like eating at a friend's or relative's house, with Japanese touches: fabric curtains depicting fugu and umbrellas, art on the walls — seeming to be placed there as much because the owners like them as for any decorative effect.

That homestyle feeling only intensified as we leaned over our steaming bowls of miso, which gave off a clean, aromatic fragrance. The soup was strong and earthy, a perfect comfort food.

The tempura were lightly coated with batter, so that after cooking they were crisp and crackly rather than bready, with a sweet, dark sauce for dipping. Our plate offered the usual carrots, broccoli and mushrooms, plus more unusual items, such as thick slices of potato. It was just enough to keep us going until the main courses arrived.

We had a mars roll, one of Mizumi's specialty rolls. This precariously rolled delight was tricky to get to our mouths in one piece: the bright-red tuna wrapping its outsides didn't hold things in as well as a good piece of nori, but it looked beautiful.

It tasted great, too, with the smooth saltiness of the fish mellowed by just a touch of tobiko (flying-fish roe), plus sticky rice, thinly spread crab, avocado and, at the center, a crispy tempura shrimp. We dipped it in the accompanying unagi sauce. I'd like each slice to be a touch thinner; we had quite a mouthful each time. Not that that's a bad thing when the mouthful is this good.

To go with our meals, we each had a small salad of marinated cucumber in divine, mouth-puckering dressing.

My favorite part of the meal, however, was the small sashimi mix, a thoughtful and even exhilarating combination. The night we visited, the plate held slices of albacore, yellowtail, ahi, clams, snapper and halibut, plus a single, perfectly pink-and-white butterflied shrimp.

I think the yellowtail, with its assertive tuna flavor and firm but silky texture, was my favorite. Everything tasted delicious, though: the dark, melting ahi; the salty and smooth clam; the meaty and substantial halibut; and the light and mild snapper, cut with the grain of the meat so that it practically melted on the tongue. As my friend Wendy said, as we toured the plate, "Why waste perfectly good fish by cooking it?"

There's a whole other side to Mizumi's menu, and we ordered takeout — steak teriyaki — for my husband. It was beautifully sauced and generously portioned, though the meat was a bit more chewy than I expected.

To finish, we shared three scoops of plum, ginger and green-tea ice cream, all unusual and refreshing, though the pungent ginger and the bittersweet green tea were my favorites.

Appetizers and sides $2.25-$11.95, entrees $10.95-$21.95, nigiri sushi $4.25-$5.95, maki sushi (rolls) $4.50-$9.95, sushi and sashimi combos $16.50-$19.50, sashimi $9.25-$9.50.

Rating: ***

Where: 8391 S. 700 East, Sandy

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Reservations: Accepted

Phone: 566-8001

Wheelchair access: Easy

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: