With the exception of Bocata in the food court – which I like a lot – I’ve never thought of City Creek Center as much of a dining destination. I mean seriously: Cheesecake Factory? I don’t think so. But I had to refine my position on that somewhat when AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi opened last December, bringing upscale dining to the downtown mall.
AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi is an original culinary concept created and operated by Ascend Hospitality Group (AHG), a Black-and-female-led restaurant group with locations in Utah, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona.
And it’s an eye-popping restaurant with a lounge vibe and some 11,000-square-feet of dining and sushi bar space. There’s a sushi bar nestled into the rear of the restaurant, a beautiful private dining room, a “tree room” with views into the grill, and Art Deco-inspired design elements including murals by local artists and Seattle muralist Dozfy.
So, there’s a lot of glitz at AQUA TERRA, but how is the food? Well, my wife and I explored some of the menu recently and came to the conclusion that AQUA TERRA is a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene. While we perused the menu – which as you might have guessed features mostly steaks and sushi – we sipped a tasty cocktail called a Pink Palette ($13). It’s made with 360 Huckleberry Flavored Vodka, huckleberry juice, and lemon sour. AQUA TERRA also features an array of classic and sake cocktails as well as a curated wine list.
Appetizers on the dinner menu include temptations such as Bison Tips ($23) with chimichurri; Steak Crudo ($26) with capers, shallots, robin egg and crostini; Ahi Poke ($21); Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($13); and Spicy Garlic Edamame ($9). We opted to share a plate of Hamachi Crudo ($13), which was terrific – sushi grade hamachi tossed with roasted garlic kewpie, ponzu, fried scallions, microgreens, and sesame seeds.
There is a separate Sushi Bar menu in addition to the regular dinner menu which features rolls, nigiri and such. AQUA TERRA also has a half dozen crispy rice rolls including Salmon ($13), Tuna Belly ($29) Ahi Tuna ($15), and three others.
Nigiri: Hamachi, Black Cod, O-Toro
To be honest, the sushi selection at AQUA TERRA is fairly limited: 10 choices of nigiri/sashimi and five rolls. It’s not exactly Takashi and there’s not really anything available in terms of fish that you wouldn’t find at any average sushi eatery. We did enjoy our nigiri, however. As is the case at most sushi spots, nigiri comes as two pieces per order and we loved the O-Toro ($22) which is melt-in-the-mouth fatty tuna, as well as Hamachi ($11), and lightly torched Black Cod ($11). Rolls from the Sushi Bar menu include a Skinny Salmon Roll ($18), Ultimate Tuna Roll ($21), Miso Black Cod Roll ($20) Spring Garden Veggie Roll ($19), and Rocky Mountain High Roll ($20).
Steak & Scallops
AQUA TERRA is really much more about steak than sushi, and the carnivore-friendly menu includes a dizzying array of meats. There’s Frenched Lamb ($48), Double Cut Pork Chop ($38), Kansas City Bone-in New York ($52), Filet Mignon ($59), Boneless Rib Eye ($64), Bone-in Rib Eye ($75), Tomahawk Rib Eye ($175), Top Sirloin ($45), Rock Salt Roasted Prime Rib ($64), Bison Filet ($83), Elk Tenderloin ($75), Bison Burger ($22), and even Braised Wild Boar Pappardelle ($36). Something for each and every meat lover, indeed. I decided to go with a surf & turf-style dish of Steak and Scallops ($67), which was a perfectly seared medium-rare filet with a couple of sea scallops, ponzu butter, garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus.
Seafood aficionados might opt at AQUA TERRA for Blackened Steelhead Trout ($38) with citrus Cajun cream sauce; Prawn and Scallop Linguine ($46); Baked or Grilled Oysters ($21/$24); or perhaps Pacific Northwest Salmon with lime basmati rice, grilled asparagus, and Champagne beurre blanc. Although you can barely see the large fish fillet in the photo above, my wife did really like her gluten free entree of Black Cod ($43) smothered with cherry tomatoes, shaved fennel, bok choy, garlic and ginger, with a side of basmati rice.
There’s a trio of desserts available at AQUA TERRA and include a Deconstructed Key Lime Panna Cotta ($15); Sweet Tree ($23), which is fried pastry tossed in cinnamon mix, served with three dipping sauces; and the scrumptious Chocolate Tarte ($17) with coconut cream, powdered sugar, toasted coconut slivers, and fresh berries which we devoured. In addition there is Mak-n-Jax’s Milkshake Bar and a selection of after dinner drinks like Port, Madeira, Grappa, and Cognac.
Lunch Menu Items
Our server, Connor, was excellent and informative throughout the enjoyable evening. And speaking of service, AQUA TERRA Steak + Sushi just recently began serving lunch Monday through Saturday with a menu that includes some dinner items, but also sandwiches, fish and chips, a bento box, quinoa bowl, steak frites, and other lunchtime dishes, as well as the full sushi menu.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter, and in wine.” – Polish Proverb