For a number of years now I’ve been following one of my favorite Utah chefs – Batsaikhan “Soy” Ariunbold around, as he moved from restaurant to restaurant. I first fell in love with his cuisine at Rice Basil in Holladay, before he opened his namesake restaurant, Soy’s Sushi Bar & Grill in Murray, and then Blue Marlin in Sandy, the name of which was changed last year to Mint Tapas and Sushi. And now, there is even more Soy to enjoy as he recently opened a second Mint location, signaling his return to Holladay.
Visiting Mint Tapas and Sushi last Saturday evening, you’d never know there was a pandemic going on. The place was bustling – packed full of enthusiastic diners. And although the Mint staff was masked up, almost none of the customers were. We chose to dine at the spacious sushi bar rather than elbow-to-elbow with strangers at one of the tables, which tend to be close together.
The new Mint is very modern in terms of both decor and cuisine, with contemporary dishes like Chilean Sea Bass with tempura green beans and bell pepper puree; Pork Belly with dill gravy and pickled papaya; and torched Wagyu Beef with green onion puree, avocado, and pickled papaya.
There are close to 30 small plate (tapas) options at Mint, so you could easily construct a meal just of those. One of my favorite Mint dishes is Jalapeño Hamachi ($12), which is sashimi-style yellowtail belly served with a luscious jalapeño vinaigrette. However, we wanted to branch out and try some new things and so we started with Sablefish ($11), which is torched black cod served with a delicious puree of green onion and garlic chile oil.
Next up was a small plate order of three Grilled Scallops ($11). The texture of the scallops was wonderful and I learned that Mint gets their scallops from Hokkaido in Japan. Hokkaido scallops from the Pacific Ocean are popular to use for sashimi since they are sweeter and more tender than Atlantic sea scallops. They are harvested and processed without any chemical additives. At Mint, those scrumptious scallops are lightly grilled, served with scallion puree and habanero sauce, topped with tempura crisps.
The nigiri selection at Mint isn’t quite as robust as at many sushi restaurants, but we still enjoyed a Chef’s Choice 6-piece nigiri platter ($13) with two pieces each of yellowtail, salmon and big eye tuna. Other nigiri choices were tobiko, sablefish, eel and walu. We applauded the fact that our nigiri came with freshly grated wasabi alongside – the real deal, not the wasabi paste that most sushi eateries offer.
Mint offers a selection of wine, sake, beer, cocktails, tea and soft drinks. The wine list is fairly limited, but there are some good options such as Whispering Angel Rosé from Provence and Meiomi Pinot Noir from Coastal California.
Our favorite specialty roll at Mint is called a Halo roll ($11), which is white tuna and cucumber topped with avocado, jalapeño, tempura crisps and jalapeño vinaigrette. But again, we were trying new things and so we opted for an Apollo roll ($12). This was a melange of spicy tuna and shshito peppers topped with seared walu, tempura crisps, and sweet chile sauce. At each of Soy’s restaurants I’ve always been impressed by the management, servers, and kitchen teams he brings together. Staffers like Baki, Inor and Enk are true professionals and run a very tight ship.
Following the Apollo roll we were still a bit peckish and so we returned to the small plates menu for another few bites. I’m not used to seeing tomatoes on most Asian menus and so we had to give the Mahi Mahi ($11) a try. I’m glad we did as it was quite interesting. It was honey-glazed mahi mahi with heirloom tomatoes and chunks of avocado, plus those ubiquitous tempura crisps – a sweet and salty flavor combination that was very unique. I don’t normally think of fish and tomatoes as going together, but I’m starting to.
We finished off the night at Mint with an oddly named dish called Noodle Tuna ($12). I asked if there were rice noodles or something like that in the dish. Nope. It’s called Noodle Tuna because it consists of raw sashimi-grade tuna that is called into long strands that look like noodles. It is essentially a very tasty version of tuna tartare – big eye tuna with avocado puree, tobiko and ponzu sauce, garnished with yummy microgreens.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that Soy has done it again – created another hit restaurant with impeccable food and service. I’ve admired the work of him and his talented team for many years now and the new Holladay location of Mint Tapas and Sushi is a new gem of the Utah dining scene.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Unless he doesn’t like sushi, then you also have to teach him to cook.” — Auren Hoffman
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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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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