It amazes me how sushi has become such a food staple in America during the past couple decades. Not only does nearly every city and suburban block seem to have a dedicated sushi restaurant, but you can find sushi at most supermarkets now, and all-you-can-eat sushi has gone completely out of control.
Now, I’m not much of a fan of supermarket sushi and even less so of all-you-can-eat sushi joints. Both are usually of inferior quality, attracting guests who emphasize quantity. And most of these places have the same, predictable rolls and such. I mean, you can get a spicy tuna roll and caterpillar roll just about anywhere. But to indulge in the freshest and more unique sushi options, you’ll need to visit a restaurant that gives sushi the respect it deserves. It is, after all, an edible form of art, where each kernel of rice is every bit as important as the fish and other ingredients. Here are five such restaurants that are well worth your hard-earned sushi dollar.
For many years now, Olympus Cove has been a dining destination for the most discerning sushi aficionados around town. That’s because it’s where Kobe Japanese Restaurant is located, and where superb sushi chef/owner Mike Fukumitsu practices his trade. The fish used at Kobe is of the highest quality – Fukumitsu gets deliveries from Tokyo’s renown Tsukiji fish market twice weekly. We love to try sushi made with fish we are unfamiliar with, as well as well as tried and true favorites like bluefin tuna, hamachi, kanpachi, and walu.
My wife and I can’t resist the Dream roll at Kobe, and frequently get it and other rolls to take home to enjoy when the restaurant is crowded. It’s a delightful uramaki roll made with spicy tuna, avocado, mango, jalapeño, and Japanese shiso leaf topped with seared escolar, togarashi, sesame oil and a spicy citrus sauce. Keep in mind that Kobe not only serves excellent sushi, but outstanding homemade ramen as well, both in their Millcreek and Jordan Landing locations.
For many years we’ve been following one of our favorite chefs around town and we were thrilled when Batsaikhan “Soy” Ariunbold opened his own place in Sandy, called Mint Tapas and Sushi. Well, now Soy has three mint locations: two newer eateries in Holladay in addition to the original Mint in Sandy. The popularity of all three restaurants give you an idea of how talented Soy is and how terrific his food is. With nearly 30 small plate (tapas) items to select from on the Mint menu, there is truly something for every appetite. My wife and I love to start a meal at Mint with the delicate and refined Sablefish, which is torched black cod served with a delicious puree of green onion and ponzu sauce.
We always order nigiri in sushi restaurants and Mint features a six-piece Chef’s Choice nigiri platter which, on our most recent visit, was two pieces each of yellowtail, salmon, and big eye tuna. We appreciated that our nigiri came with freshly grated wasabi alongside – the real deal, not the wasabi horseradish paste that most sushi eateries offer. We also really love the Apollo roll at Mint, a marvelous melange of spicy tuna and shshito peppers topped with seared walu, tempura crisps, and sweet chile sauce.
In Park City, Yuki Yama is an excellent choice for fresh, delicious, innovative sushi dishes. Co-owner Matt Baydala and Chef/Co-owner Kirk Terashima have created a warm and inviting spot to enjoy sushi, cooked dishes like the stupendous Wagyu beef tataki, rockin’ ramen, and more, all served up in a vibrant atmosphere. Yuki Yama has an outstanding array of sashimi and nigiri options, as well as well as maki rolls like the zippy Chiller Roll: tuna and cucumber topped with albacore, paper thin lemon slices, tempura scallion, serrano chiles, red pepper threads and jalapeño vinaigrette.
A sensational starter to share at Yuki Yama (or, keep it all to yourself) is the Suzuki Crudo. It is slices of raw, sushi-grade striped bass sashimi which are rolled around fresh black mint with citrusy habanero tangerine kosho and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. A fine way to kick off a meal at Yuki Yama, indeed.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to come across super sushi in Layton. But I did – at the recently opened Blue Fin Sushi. The staff – from servers to the sushi chefs themselves – is super friendly and helpful. A nice, light place to start a meal is with a nigiri order of ama ebi (sweet coldwater shrimp). The tender, sweet tasting shrimp comes unadorned, on perfectly cooked sushi rice and is excellent. A friendly server named Noriko advised us to dig the cooked meat out of the fried shrimp heads which were included. My wife and I liked the rich tasting shrimp head meat even better than the shrimp nigiri.
Whatever else you indulge in at Blue Fin Sushi, be sure to give their signature Blue Fin Roll a try. It’s spectacular and every bit as delicious as it looks. It is a chef’s choice of fresh bluefin tuna – in our case otoro with avocado – more tuna on top, as well as masago, all served on a bed of shredded fluorescent blue daikon, with fresh wasabi and ginger on the side. It’s a rad roll.
Well, I’ve saved the best for last. In my opinion – and there are plenty of local sushi fiends who agree with me on this – Takashi isn’t only Utah’s best sushi restaurant, but one of the best in the country. I’ve been singing the praises of Takashi Gibo for a couple of decades now, since I first encountered his culinary artistry when he was at Shogun restaurant on Main Street in SLC. In 2004 he and his wife Tamara opened Takashi’s namesake restaurant and there isn’t a night that goes by that there isn’t a line of savvy sushi folks waiting in line for a table or coveted spot at the sushi bar when the restaurant opens for dinner at 5:00.
I never, ever pass up the opportunity to indulge in ankimo when I dine at Takashi. This is a delicacy that tastes much like foie gras, albeit more subtle. It is monkfish liver that is salt-rubbed, rinsed with sake, and then rolled into a cylindrical shape and steamed. Takashi serves the ankimo salad style with fresh daikon, cucumber, radish, tobiko and scallion. It is every bit as delicious and artful as anything I’ve eaten in a 3-Star Michelin restaurant.
There is so much that is so marvelous at Takashi that it is hard to zoom in on one or two favorite dishes. However, we fell in love with an amazing maki roll that was a featured special one night, and I’ll bet Takashi would make it for you if requested. It was called an Asayake roll. Asayake means “sunrise” in Japanese and this was indeed a bright, sunny-tasting sushi roll made with sockeye salmon, avocado, Fuji apple, habanero, masago (capelin roe), yuzu, and tobiko (flying fish roe), sprinkled with toasted white sesame seeds on top. The Asayake roll was an edible work of art, like most of what you’ll find at Takashi.
Do you have a favorite sushi spot? We’d love to hear about it.
Main photo by Mahmoud Fawzy on Unsplash. All others by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “Making sushi is an art, and experience is everything.” – Nobu Matsuhisa
FOR MORE RESTAURANT REVIEWS GO HERE.
THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
Subscribe to get the latest Utah Bites news and reviews
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.
SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS: click on their logos to visit their website