Fish Way out of Water

By Yeti Jan 28, 2016
Although Utah’s snowy heights are far above sea level, fresh ocean fish quickly ascends to mountain sushi bars.
Fish Way out of Water

"Getting fresh fish in Utah is easy because planes fly very fast."

In mere hours, West Coast powder hounds can hop a plane to Salt Lake City and be skiing one of Utah’s 14 resorts—about the same amount of time it takes for a fish pulled from the Pacific to land in a Park City restaurant at 7,000 feet above sea level. How, you ask? Simple logistics, says John Bowen, general manager of Fog River, a distributor that started in the ’80s when Utah had only three sushi restaurants. Salt Lake City International Airport’s Delta Air Lines hub is the key, says Bowen, making shipping from anywhere a snap. “From the auction in Honolulu we have freshly caught fish delivered to Park City within 24 hours.” Talk about fish out of water. 

Fog River brings in coastal specialties as well, such as live uni from California, a Friday favorite of Takashi Gibo, owner of Salt Lake City’s Takashi, a no-reservation joint where the chef’s innovative creations are worth the wait. The mussel shooters are delicious works of art. The nearby Sugar House neighborhood holds three gems, beloved for different reasons. Kyoto is known for its old-school décor, style and authentic Japanese flavors. Zagat- rated, Kyoto just hired Peggy Ince-Whiting, a bit of a celebrity chef in Utah for 30 years.  

Minutes down the street is Tsunami, where the daily special menu—whole aji, madai, live softshell—makes you drool and the Sunshine and Executive Suite rolls are a must. Next, literally less than five minutes away is Sushi Groove, a chill neighborhood joint where it’s all about “fresh cuts”—fresh nigiri, graffiti art, live music and DJs. The rolls are playful, many with a lot of sweetness like strawberry or mango. Try the Groovalicious and you’ll get the vibe. Further east on the way to Big Cottonwood is Kobe. The Summer Breeze roll featuring yellowtail, jalapeño, cilantro and honey is addictive.

Getting fresh fish in Utah is easy because “planes fly very fast,” jokes Kirk Terashima of Yuki Yama Sushi in Park City. Yes, he says, they get the same fish they serve in L.A., the same day, and receive it four times per week. But his 20 years as a chef have enlightened him to vast possibilities in fish preparation such as—wait for it—dry aging bluefin toro from Spain. For the genius dishes coming from Terashima and his team—and for its chic space in the heart of Park City’s Main Street—Yuki Yama is the bomb. And a little inside secret­­­—owner Matt Baydala is as likely to chat about your ski day as the sushi on your plate. If you ask, he’s been known to point you towards the best powder in the state. Trust us, he knows from experience, averaging 120 days on his skis each winter. 

North of SLC is one of Utah’s best fresh fish spots: Tona, located in Ogden, less than 30 minutes from three resorts. Tona has a huge following because of Chef Tony Chen’s culinary wit. Chen sources local and seasonal ingredients and supports sustainable fishing. Try the New Style Ahi Poke with Maguro sashimi, jalapeño, Fuji apple, wasabi cheese and microgreens.