The art of Japanese cuisine is flourishing in Maryland restaurants. Sample sushi (raw fish atop lightly vinegared rice) and other Japanese favorites at these restaurants.

AE (American Express), DC (Diners Club), CB (Carte Blanche), MC (MasterCard), V (Visa) and C (Choice). "Free parking" indicates the establishment has a parking lot; otherwise expect street and commercial parking. "Full bar" indicates the restaurant is licensed to serve beer, wine and spirits. "Children" indicates the restaurant will serve smaller portions at reduced prices. Restaurant specialties and price ranges are noted.

Ichiban, 637 N. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, 670-0560. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Cards: AE, DC, CB, MC, V, C. Free parking. Full bar. Reservations recommended on evenings and weekends. Price range: $5.95 to $8.50 for lunch, as well as $6.95 for an all-you-can-eat luncheon buffet; $6 to $19.95 for dinner. Specialties: Japanese and Korean dishes, including sushi, sashimi, tempura, sukiyaki, teriyaki, negimaki (thin slices of beef rolled in scallions and a special teriyaki sauce), shrimp tempura udon (a fried shrimp and noodle soup served with fish cakes), and Korean beef, chicken or pork barbecue with rice and vegetables.

Japanese Sakura Palace, 7926 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. 587-7070. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday. Cards: AE, MC, V. Free parking behind the restaurant. Full bar. Reservations recommended for dinner. Entree price range: $6 to $25, with a wide variety of appetizers that range from $1.75 to $8. Specialties: sushi, sashimi or sukiyaki, tempura, teriyaki, live lobsters and a wide variety of fish.

Kanpai Sushi Carryout, in the Glen Echo Seafood Market, 7307 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 229-2526. Hours: noon to 7 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Cards: MC, V. Free parking. No dining facilities. Entree price range: $4.95 to $9.95. Specialties: sushi assortment platter, California roll, bluefin tuna roll, sushi and sashimi combo, chirashi (an assortment of sushi and vegetables), party platters for five to seven people, as well as special catering orders. A complimentary cup of miso soup is served with every order, Monday through Thursday.

Matuba, 4918 Cordell Ave., Bethesda. 652-7449. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Cards: AE, DC, MC, V. Free parking behind the restaurant. Beer and wine only. Reservations recommended on weekends. Entree price range: $4.25 to $7.50 for lunch, $8 to $10.30 for dinner. Specialties: sushi, combination sushi/sashimi dish, tempura, sashimi (tuna, flounder, octopus, scallops, and a fish cake with rice), teriyaki, negimaki.

Nara Restaurant, 7756 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. 986-9696. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Cards: AE, DC, CB, MC, V. Street and commercial parking. Full bar. Reservations recommended for dinner. Children's portions are available. Entree price range: $4 to $8.50 for lunch and $8.50 to $13.50 for dinner. Specialties: sushi, teriyaki, sukiyaki, tempura, sashimi, miso soup and bean sprout salad served with most entrees, quail eggs, and a wide fish selection.

Ocean Garden Restaurant, 8739 Flower Ave. (in the Flower Shopping Plaza), Silver Spring. 587-3833. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Cards: MC, V, C. Free parking. Full bar. Reservations recommended for evenings and weekends. Children's portions available. Entree price range: $2.50 to $3.50 for a la carte items; regular entrees are $13.95 to $17.95; from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the early-bird special is $7.95 for each main course order, which includes an entree, soup, salad and fruit. Specialties: sushi combination specials, fried or steamed whole fish (red snapper, rainbow trout, sea trout, bluefish and flounder), tempura, and swordfish, salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallop, beef or chicken teriyaki.

Sushi Bluefin, 1488-C Rockville Pike (in the Chesapeake Plaza), Rockville. 231-0606. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. Cards: AE, MC, V. Free parking. Beer and wine only. Reservations recommended on weekends. Entree price range: $3.95 to $8.95 for lunch and $5.95 to $13.95 for dinner. Specialties: sushi, tempura, steak and salmon teriyaki, sashimi, salmon shioyaki (grilled salmon with a dash of salt), miso soup, avocado/miso and bean sprout salads.