For many years now, I’ve been following the restaurant fortunes of Mai Nguyen and Sean Dang. They are the couple who first opened the now closed Pho Green Papaya in West Valley City – one of the first pho outposts in Utah where now there are many.
The husband and wife team would go on to open Sapa Sushi Bar and Asian Grill – a beautiful addition to the SLC dining scene with food to match the pretty scenery – and then Bucket O’ Crawfish, a down-and-dirty, get messy, suck-the-heads crawfish joint that’s tons o’ fun.
In 2013, Mai and her family opened Fat Fish in West Valley, an eatery that combined Japanese-style sushi with Vietnamese fare like pho. And now, a second Fat Fish location has arrived – this one in Bountiful, occupying the space that was previously home to Ho Ho Gourmet Chinese Restaurant. Like me, you’re gonna love what they’ve done with the place.
I don’t recall too well what Ho Ho looked like inside, but I know it didn’t look like Fat Fish. The owners spent a ton of beans spiffing the place up, including building a full-service bar with wine, beer, liquor, cocktails and the like. The lighting and decor is all new and there’s a large sushi bar now where customers can get a close-up view of the talented Fat Fish sushi chefs. Even the restrooms are upscale and snazzy.
The denizens of Bountiful have definitely discovered Fat Fish judging from the crowds that assemble there, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. But the place is large and sprawling, and so there’s not usually much of a wait for tables, even on very busy nights. Perusing the menu while waiting to be seated, I noticed that Fat Fish follows the overall modus operandi of Mai’s other restaurants, which tend to be pan-Asian. She’s a self-described Vietnamese “boat person,” and her restaurants tend to feature a mix of Asian cuisines, skewing towards Vietnam. At Fat Fish, it’s sort of the best of all worlds, with Vietnamese pho sitting comfortably on the menu next to sushi & sashimi, bento boxes, and Chinese-style wok entrees such as garlic noodles and wok-fried rice dishes.
At sushi restaurants I always like to begin with nigiri – raw fish served atop rectangles of sushi rice. As at most sushi restaurants, Fat Fish nigiri consists of two pieces, all priced at $5. I especially liked the fresh, simple and unadorned flavors of the hamachi and escolar nigiri.
Sashimi, by contrast, is raw fish served without rice – the purest form of raw fish enjoyment, in my book. The sashimi at Fat Fish is $10 per order for four pieces, will choices like ono, hamachi, maguro, unagi, sake, bincho maguro and ocean trout. There’s also small (nine pieces) and large (twelve pieces) sashimi combination plates priced at $18 and $20, respectively. The sashimi and nigiri options aren’t nearly as varied and exotic at, say, a restaurant like Takashi in Salt Lake City, but the fish is very fresh tasting and professionally prepared.
A lot of people think of sushi as raw fish. But actually, sushi refers to the rice. So, nigiri is sushi; sashimi is not. Fat Fish has a range of sushi rolls ranging from basic rolls like the California roll for $6 to their “Fat” rolls – specialty rolls priced at $12 each.
The sushi chefs at Fat Fish excell at producing gorgeous sushi rolls that look like edible works of art. The spicy White Rabbit roll ($12) is one example. It’s seared ahi with escolar, green beans, scallions, avocado and onion, topped with bright orange masago – the roe (eggs) of small fish called capelin, a member of the salmon family.
Another top-notch sushi roll is the Blazing Jazz ($12), a delicious roll made with salmon, albacore, yellowtail, thin-slice onion, cucumber, cilantro and topped with a creamy, spicy sauce.
Of course, being a lover of the Vietnamese soup called pho, I couldn’t leave without trying Fat Fish’s. One of my favorite pho spots in Utah was the aforementioned Pho Green Papaya, which closed a few years back. But the pho at Fat Fish brought back memories of that fave pho. Subtle flavors of clove, star anise and cinnamon waft up from the big, steaming pho bowls at Fat Fish. There are a number of pho variations available, including a vegetarian one. I ordered Tai Chin ($11), which had lean, thin-sliced steak and brisket with thin rice noodles, onions and, for me, no cilantro. It was pho-bulous!
Fat Fish in Bountiful is just a teensy jog off of I-15. So the next time you’re wondering where to dine in Davis County, I recommend thinking Fat.
Culinary quote of the week:
In Japanese, sushi does not mean raw fish. It means seasoned rice. — Guy Fieri
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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