I’ve gone back and forth a half-dozen times on how to organize this article: start with the best, then add in other honorable mentions, break it up by neighborhood, or simply alphabetize. I decide I want to reward the two spots who have put the most effort, thought, authenticity and quality into their fish: Naked Fish and Takashi. Choosing between the two as best is impossible and I volley back and forth on which I prefer. Fact is, they are both incredible.
But, first, lets run through some sushi basics:
- If it says “All You Can Eat Sushi,” go somewhere else. Or at least remove any expectation for ‘fine sushi.’
- Feel free to eat with your hands – the Japaneese do. Very few pieces of fish require chopsticks.
- Avoid the wasabi and soy sauce concoction, as tempting as it may be. Both are overpowering flavors and are meant to accompany the flavors of the fish, not dominate them. Dip, don’t soak the rice and you might surprise your taste buds rather than shocking them.
- Pace out your order. A good server will do this for you, but a rule of thumb is to start with lighter and more delicate flavors and work your way up to heavier flavors.
- If your friends want to “just order a bunch of rolls,” find new friends…or gently take over ordering responsibilities. The point of sushi is for the rice to be hot and fish cold. If a “bunch of rolls” are being prepped at once everything will be lukewarm. Not optimal. Pace it out, one at a time and mix in some sashimi and nigiri. Adventure!
Ok, on to the restaurants:
1. Naked Fish
Owner Johnny Kwon’s attention to detail and quality is second to none. Case in point: when ordering their Wagyu beef, a birth certificate of sorts for the cow, replete with a nose print is presented to the diner. As for the fish, the composed raw dishes are expert, with multiple tastes in each bite. My favorite came with a syringe to inject a flavorful sauce. Presentation is part of Naked Fish experience, as are cocktails and wine; an on-staff sommelier can bring your dining experience to new heights with optimal selections.
In addition to a myriad of raw fish options, cooked fish and meat dishes are available, ensuring more than sufficient options for diners not quite ready to jump on the sushi boat. I would be remiss if I did not mention the city’s best ramen, available for lunch. Last I heard, they planned on opening a ramen dedicated restaurant downtown and offering sushi for lunch as well as dinner.
67 West 100 South
The eponymous Takashi Gibo is the elder statesman of sushi in Salt Lake, at least in my mind. When I moved to SLC over a decade ago, I assumed my sushi eating days would be limited to trips to the coasts and larger cities. Takashi blows my old favorites, many of which are top 10 sushi joints in NYC, San Fran and Austin, right out of the water. The Beatles themed menu (takashi is a die hard fan and a kick-ass snowboarder) add a unique flair. I usually sit at the sushi bar, watching the chefs ply their craft and order predominantly from the daily specials menu, located on a chalkboard adjacent to the bar. Favorites on the menu are rice-less rolls, wrapped in thin cucumber and the aji sashimi. In season,the deep-fried fish body is presented alongside slices of raw spanish mackerel. Get your instagrams ready here!
18 W Market St
3. Sapa Grill
Known as much for their Pho as their sashimi, Sapa may take the prize for decor and ambiance. The woodworking indoors is intricate enough to be in a cathedral and the outdoor gardens instantly transport you to Vietnam, replete with 300 year-old houses imported from Vietnam. The menu travels from Thailand to Japan and of course, Vietnam. Both the food and decor are strong enough to make a visit to Sapa worthwhile, but together match to create an unforgettable experience.
722 S. State St
4. Sushi Groove
Don’t expect the fine dining and over-the-top presentations as Naked Fish and Takashi, but do plan on a whole lot of groove. Opened by a snowbird resort ex-pat, this neighborhood joint is more PBR than they are unfiltered sake. A really easy-going and refreshing change of pace, Sushi Groove fills a void I didn’t realize existed. The fish is incredibly fresh, prices are reasonable and everyone is in a good mood here. It must be the jukebox.
2910 Highland Dr
5. Aerie at Snowbird
Having undergone a remodel a few years ago and a revamped menu, possibly the highest sushi restaurant I have ever had the pleasure of eaten at deserves high praise. Snowbird sits at 8,000 feet in the mountains, true, but it is less than an hour from SLC International. Fresh fish is not a challenge to find and the chefs have taken advantage of that supply, creating the most unique sushi experience this side of Hokkaido, with soaring peaks serving as the backdrop.
The menu is only about half sushi, so families or large groups can find burgers and mac & cheese alongside edamame and spider rolls. After a day of skiing a burger and wings sounds great, but fast-forward a few hours and sushi can hit the spot and not slow you down the next morning on tram laps.
6. Ahh Sushi
Located in the lower level of a historic building across from City Creek which is also home to Martine (a fantastic restaurant in its own right) Ahh shares space with O’Shucks bar. It seems like an odd pairing: schooners of beer and shelled peanuts on the floor across an invisible line to a sushi bar. But, it works. The menu is typical of what you’ll find at most valley sushi spots and the prices are reasonable. And you can grab a burger and beer on the way out if you didn’t fill up on rolls.
22 E 100 S
The menu here is traditional, with a few specials and surprises, and the fish is fresh with plenty of options from rolls to sashimi and nigiri. Not to take anything away from the cuisine or the chefs, what makes Ichiban a worthy destination is its setting. Built in a historic church near downtown, the food almost takes a backseat to your surroundings.
336 S 300 E
8. Yellowfinn Grill & Susho Bar
Sugarhouse is beginning to challenge downtown for SLC’s dining hotspots, and Yellowfinn is one of the reasons. They certainly get the nod for best patio dining of any sushi bar I’ve been to. The menu doesn’t have many surprises, but they do offer a “Hammer Time” where several rolls are $5. Bonus points for a stellar beer list and friendly service.
1166 E 2100 S
This almost breaks one of my sushi “golden rules” above, but express is not the same all you can eat. Sushi Express has been around for years, has stellar reviews and a solid reputation for good reason: affordable, friendly, fresh and of course, fast. Located in a Sandy strip mall, adjacent to a gas station, the red flags should go up, but trust me, it’s worth a try. The photos of most dishes on the menu make it easy for newcomers and the hand rolls are a great quick snack to go.
7824 S 700 E
9. Yuki Yama
While not in Salt Lake, this Main St Park City restaurant is known for it’s summer local specials (half off most of the menu). Yuki is worth the visit year-round, summer and winter. The Maki rolls are imaginative and you cannot go wrong with any of the half-dozen cold dishes that pair raw fish with herbs, spices and just the right amount of sauce. The hot dishes are standouts as well – Black Miso Cod and the ribs come to mind, but the Wagyu beef takes the cake. Served on a 450-degree block of salt, you sear your own thinly sliced marbled beef. Get two per person, everyone will want a bite at the table.
586 Main St, Park City