LoHi — The warm still nights of mid-October begged just a few more outdoor dining experiences. With the glass accordion doors fully opened onto Umatilla at 30th Avenue, this sushi restaurant’s light and airy interior provides a quiet and enjoyable setting in which to eat creative and fresh sushi.
The patio seats a few tables on Umatilla, but it is as if the front half of the restaurant is almost outside. The sushi chefs’ kitchen takes up the north half of the room and large windows bring in light. Deeper back in the room, a long bar fills the space which glows from the orange and yellow of the built-in lights along the front edge of the bar. It’s a warm design element that made the choice of back bar or sushi counter a difficult decision.
I visited once, so while the bar seemed cozy, it seemed best for the review to sit and chat with the chef at the sushi counter. After a lively day with 120 middle-schoolers, it was a joy to sit and watch the knife work of the sushi chefs. They sliced thin pieces of tuna and yellowtail for a special roll that arrived beautifully plated. The plate looked like a delicious flower upon a swirl of savory and slightly sweet sauces – wasabi, mango, and peppers. From the inside of the rolls, a bouquet of herbs gave height to the colorful arrangement. This Mukosuke roll, $ 18, not only looked beautiful, but the sauces and the rice and fish made me pause to eat each bite slowly to appreciate the flavors and textures.
Chef Cory Baker grew up in Denver. When I asked him where he learned his trade, he replied, “Here in Denver.” At 17 he began work at Sushi Den. He then worked at several sushi restaurants in North Denver including Sushi Hai and Sushi Sasa, before returning to Sushi Denver where he says he embraced the intimate style of the Omasake dinner. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to open this charming spot on the backside of the Olinger development known as the “LoHi Marketplace.” He now rubs shoulders with other fine restaurants in the complex like Linger and Lola.
My husband was working late, so I bought him a Sushi Set, $ 25 to go. This dinner comes with a generous bowl of miso soup, complete with lovely squares of white tofu and seaweed. The set also comes with a garden salad, a nice mixture of dark greens, tomatoes, and other veggies. The sushi itself consisted of seven pieces of the chef’s selection of Nigiri and one Hosomaki roll. A slightly sweet and vinegary dressing came with this set. Perhaps it was for the salad, but both my husband and I enjoyed dipping the simple rolls and Nigiri into this flavorful mixture. Two of the seven Nigiri had dabs of sauces. It seemed a little strange that each piece did not have some, or a least a little to share in the container would have seemed more generous. The Hosomaki roll was smaller than I expected and by design contained only the fish and the rice within the Nori. Overall, the set pieces all seemed a bit small for the prices, but we did enjoy their freshness and their flavors.
After several surprising flavors, I wished I had had the time and company with me to enjoy the Omakase dining approach. I would have loved to experience the different ways Baker and his team would have presented the seven-course tasting menu. On his website, Baker describes the Omakase way of eating sushi as, “a momentous interaction of trust and conviviality that a chef has the privilege of creating. I have devoted my craft as a chef to deliver truly unique experiences one meal at a time. Sushi Ronin is about removing the rigidity of traditional Omakase and providing that exclusive experience for every customer.”
The music, lights, friendly service, and delicious flavors that first pleased my eyes, and then my taste buds soothed me. With more time and more company, I will definitely be back to try the Omasake dinner.
Sushi Ronin | 2930 Umatilla Street | 303.955.8741
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