DEN - Sushi Sasa
One word: WOW!
Wow, as in, "Wow, I can't believe this considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Denver". I've dined at sushi restaurants around the country, with some of the better ones being furthest from the coasts, so I was optimistic after reading reviews here about Sushi Sasa. While not the worst sushi I've ever had, it certainly doesn't deserve the raves I've read about. Sushi Den was much better, albeit way too large and noisy.
I started with sashimi of Razorback Scallops. The scallops were ice-cold (a no-no) and had clearly been in the low-boy for a couple of days. The delicate sweetness of a scallop was lost amongst the slightly fishy/stale taste of the accumulated absorption that had taken place during storage.
Next were several pieces of nigiri: Salmon, Uni, and whitefish, and line-caught Aji. The salmon, I was told, was farm-raised (though Sasa claims all their fish is flown in from Japan - seems odd that you'd buy farm-raised fish from 12,000 miles away), and it tasted like it; bland and firm. At least it wasn't half frozen. The whitefish was passable and the Aji was good. The uni was quite bad, borderline nauseating.
I let my chef (Jesus......yes, Jesus) talk me into a roll of some variety which was mostly krab topped with tuna tataki. It was a good enough roll, if I was at happy hour at a sports bar.
The menu showed no innovation or creativity (seriously, do we need another miso black cod?). The staff was friendly and service was very good. the atmosphere was a bit contrived for me, given the location.
Maybe Denver has no good sushi? There's nothing wrong with that. New York city has lousy barbecue. If anyone can point me in a different direction in Denver, I'll give it a whirl.
Hmm...I can only write this off as some odd, off night, because Sasa is the best Sushi spot in Denver. Sushi Den is good if you can handle the crowds and noise, but Sasa has never failed me. Sashimi with jalapeno; Shake, Hamachi and Unagi Nigiri that are almost always perfect; an excellent dynamite; and I've done Omakase there a couple of times and been nothing but completely pleased. Really...really....it had to be fluke night.
No pun intended (fluke, heh). As for the miso black cod, correct me if I'm wrong, fourteen, but the chefs at Sasa are Sushi Den expats, & probably some of the first folks to be making miso black cod in town. Aside from that, I'm pretty shocked to hear you didn't find it innovative—the omakase is among the best I've had.
I moved here from Boston a few months ago and felt I was experiencing no downgrade in quality whatsoever at either Sasa or the Den.
I would check out Hapa's (in the Cherry Creek Mall or on Pearl St in Boulder). It's my favorite sushi place in the area. Try the "multiple orgasm roll" for a unique take on sushi and the salmon sashimi (for some reason Hapa's is the only sushi place I've seen around here with wild salmon). Good luck!