Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Groovy Sushi at Sushi Groove of Salt Lake City, Utah

Ono Black Eye Roll 
Ono Black Eye Roll (Tasmanian Sea Trout, Tempura
Serranos, Mango, Topped with Blackened Ono, Avocado,
Sockeye Salmon, Green Onion, Roasted Ponzu Sauce)
Hebi (Shortbill Spearfish) Sushi
Coco-Calypso Dessert Roll Served with Nutella Ice Cream
Coco-Calypso Dessert Roll (Tempura-Fried Sushi Rice
and Seaweed Wrapped Around Pineapple, Kiwi, Papaya,
Chocolate Chips and Graham Cracker Bits)

Groovy Sushi in Salt Lake City, Utah

A good sushi bar in Salt Lake City, Utah? Hmm.

One man in the city told me, “I wouldn’t try the sushi in this town. Too far from the ocean for me. I’m from California, so I’m very snobbish about my sushi.”

I am from California too, but I’m the adventurous type.

My adventurous spirit paid off at Sushi Groove of Salt Lake City, a local sushi bar that boasts a tagline, “Fresh Cuts Daily.” With colorful, cartoonish sea creature logos and graffiti-style artwork on its menu and a marquee that promotes its nightly deejays and live music, Sushi Groove bills itself as one of those hip and modern, Americanized sushi bars that features a fun and rowdy atmosphere—with affordable prices (the sign reminds you of “$2.50 Tuesdays,” when hot sake, edamame, and some of their nigiri are only $2.50 an order).

Like most sushi bars, Sushi Groove has a menu that separates everything into categories: Starters, Side Orders, Salads, Basic Rolls (such as the California Roll and the Philly Roll, or the Spicy Tuna or Unagi Rolls). But pertinent to its name and in keeping with its theme, the special rolls here are called “Groovy Rolls,” with names like “Maui Wowi,” “Jersey Devil,” “Pineapple Tango,” and, of course, “Groovalicious.” Some of their more unique ingredients include strawberries (in the “Groovalicious” Roll it’s paired with cream cheese), pineapple (served with coconut shrimp if you want to do the “Pineapple Tango”), and marlin, a fish not so commonly found in most of the sushi bars I’ve visited. But to each state its own, as fish and sushi bars vary by region: in Florida, for example, conch and fluke are frequently found on sushi menus; in Louisiana, crawfish are common.

If you love rice, you can indulge in a Rice Bowl—there are eight choices here, with prices ranging from $7.95 for a Teriyaki Tofu Bowl to $10.50 for a Mixed Seafood Bowl. There is even a Mandarin Pineapple Teriyaki selection, with a choice of beef or chicken with vegetables over rice. If you eschew rice, then perhaps you can opt for a Riceless Roll: there are three choices in that section, from Mount Fiji to Cucumber Crisp and Lip Smacker, the latter as high in price as $16.50, but how often can you get tuna, crab, mango, avocado and strawberries wrapped in marlin instead of sushi rice, and topped with eel sauce and tobiko?

Sushi Groove’s Specials, listed on a chalkboard wall menu, is even rendered with colorful chalk. I opted for the Ono Black Eye Roll for $14.95, because I was drawn to its ingredients of Tasmanian Sea Trout, tempura Serranos, mango, avocado, blackened ono, sockeye salmon, and green onions, with roasted ponzu sauce to finish it all off. This creative roll was not only fresh as the marquee promised, but the unusual ingredients all married together perfectly in my mouth—and there was certainly a crunchy, spicy kick to it because of the tempura-fried Serrano chilis. It’s a gargantuan, eight-piece roll that fills you up quickly.

I also tried the hebi, another fish I had never even heard of, as nigiri; I learned hebi hails from Hawaii, and is also known as shortbill spearfish. Although it tasted fresh, hebi in my opinion is a bit plain. I requested a side of the roasted ponzu sauce in which to dip the hebi, which gave it some more flavor.

Perhaps because it’s such a groovy place, Sushi Groove is well-known for its uber-creative Dessert rolls, which look identical to sushi rolls but actually contain no fish at all. The tempura-fried rolls, wrapped with sushi rice and seaweed (or soy paper), contain fruit, Macadamian nuts, even graham cracker, depending on whether you choose the Caribbean Cheesecake or Coco-Calypso, which are both $7.95.

Both Dessert Rolls contain pineapple, kiwi and papaya, and are drizzled with mango sauce and then served with your choice of ice cream (raspberry chocolate, nutella, chocolate fudge, or the tried-but-true vanilla). While the Coco-Calypso Dessert Roll that I chose didn’t contain strawberries like its counterpart, it did feature chocolate chips and crushed graham cracker, and it was “Coconut-Tempura-Fried,” which meant there were chopped up coconut bits mixed in with the tempura batter before it got thrown in the fryer. The result? Heaven on Earth. I loved the crunchy texture, the coconut-tinged batter, the hot exterior mixed with the cold bite of ice cream, the sweet juicy fruit and hint of chocolate, the crisp cracker texture commingled with it all.

Much attention to detail is paid to everything at Sushi Groove, but it’s obvious they take their desserts very seriously.

I may have chosen the off-season to visit Salt Lake City (famous for its powdery white snow and winter ski season), but I did note that some of the names of Sushi Groove’s sake choices paid tribute to its winter wonderland: the unfiltered Snowflake Flight Sake for $9, Snow Beauty Junmai Nigori ($8 for a small serving or $40 for a bottle); and the cold sake named Winter Warrior Junmai Ginjo ($9 for a small, $45 a bottle).

It’s clear Sushi Groove is a sushi bar that wants its patrons to have fun—enjoy good food with music, appreciate art…and don’t forget the Dessert Rolls.

Sushi Groove
2910 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, UT