Sushi Den Is Still One of the Best Sushi Restaurants in Denver

Sushi Den opened in Denver all the way back in 1985 (which seems amazing considering how quickly you see restaurants come and go here). Toshi, who had been a chef in Tokyo and Los Angeles came to Denver to start the sushi restaurant — and it’s since become renowned not just in Denver, but the country: Zagat rates Sushi Den as one of the most prestigious sushi and Japanese restaurants in the USA.  One of the reasons for this is that they fly in the freshest fish from around the world — including Nagahama Fish Market in their home prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu. (You can ask about their Freshest Catch of the Day from Nagahama.)

I’m embarrassed to say it took me 6 years of living in Denver to finally come here — but I’m glad I did. It was only for lunch, but I’ll definitely be back for dinner (or maybe to sister restaurant Izakaya Den next door). I can confidently say that Sushi Den and the newer Matsuhisa in Cherry Creek (from Chef Nobu Matsuhisa) are the top 2 sushi destinations in town.


 

The Food

From the Catch of the Day Menu, the jalapeno hamachi (3 pc) and kanpachi (3 pc) is absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delightful. If you’re wondering whether flying in the fish fresh every morning makes a difference — you can tell when you try this.

A “house favorite” — the crispy spicy tuna is a great combination of textures and flavors: crispy fried rice, spicy tuna, avocado, jalapenos, tobiko, and sauce. And it’s only $12!

If you ever have the chance to try “aburi” sushi — do it. “Aburi” refers to the style: lightly grilled on the outside, raw on the inside — and it’s 2x as flavorful as regular sushi in my opinion. Aoba used to serve aburi sushi downtown until it closed, and I was so excited to see it at Sushi Den. This is the aburi gnomefish below — and I’m excited to try the aburi toro next time.

The miso marinated broiled black cod is a must try as well. I always miso cod whenever I see it on a sushi menu, and this is definitely among my favorites (even at $18). The fish just flakes apart it’s so tender, and the miso adds the perfect amount of sweet-and-savory flavor. I’d be hard-pressed to pick the winner here between Sushi Den and Matsuhisa, to be honest.

Save room for the upside-down pineapple cake, because it’s the perfect ending to a meal — without being too heavy.


The Drinks

Unsurprisingly, the sake menu here is awesome. I was really impressed by the Suijin “God of Water” Junmai (only $19). Light, refreshing, and perfectly dry — so if you’re like me and you prefer sake that isn’t sweet, you’ve got to try this one.

I was in the mood for something sparkling after lunch, so I asked if they had a sparkling sake (I didn’t see one on the menu). Lo and behold, the Hakutsure Awa Yuki sparkling sake! Yum!

 

Bite of the Week (and Maybe the Best Pho in Denver): Filet Mignon Pho at Pho 95

The other day, someone asked me where I thought the best pho in Denver was, and I was embarrassed to say I wasn’t sure. I usually go to Pho-natic on Colfax because it’s so close to my house (and it has pretty good pho, too). I usually don’t drive very far to get pho — but I took it upon myself as my mission to find some of the best pho in Denver for my friend!

Pho 95 has 4.5 stars on Yelp and more than 1,000 reviews — so you know it’s doing something right. The only other comparable rating is Pho 888 in Aurora, which is next on my to-try list for pho.

Just in case you’re curious about why most pho places have a number in their name (like I was), here’s some backstory: in Vietnamese culture, lucky numbers are a huge deal. So many pho places have incorporated numbers into their names — often symbolizing the year the owner moved to America, their street number, a special date in their lives, etc. Denver’s Pho 95 happens to represent its owner having come here in 1995.

Anyway, back to the food. I loved the pho here. I happened to get the filet mignon pho, and if that doesn’t sound F’in delicious, I don’t know what does. I also got some tendon on the side, as I always do, because you need some fatty meat to go with the lean. Trust me on that.

My favorite thing is that they don’t skimp on the meat. I mean honestly, no one is here for the noodles (although theirs were light and delicious). I’m here for some delicious meat and meat broth. And the broth is super flavorful and the meat is tender and plentiful. I barely even ate the noodles, and I almost couldn’t finish all the meat in my bowl (I got a medium). Priorities.


Just a short bit on how to eat pho:

I feel like I’ve eaten pho the “wrong” way for most of my life. And that’s fine. But just in case you’re curious:

  • First, try the broth — and if it’s not flavorful enough, add some fish sauce (or other sauce)
  • Add your basil, sprouts, jalapeños, lime and any other herbs or additions you want
  • Pour some sauce into your mini side dish (usually 50/50 hoisin and Sriracha)
  • If you’re right-handed, hold your chopsticks in your right hand, and your spoon in your left
  • Dip your meat (or chopstick-full of food) into the side dish of sauce before you eat it — this is the part I always missed
  • Use your spoon to drink the broth — or it’s also ok to use your hands to pick up the whole bowl and drink from it towards the end if you want

My Favorite Hidden Caribbean Gem in Denver: Jamaican Grill

I’m that person who loves all kinds of restaurants and all kinds of food. So just as much as I enjoy going to a swanky, upscale steakhouse (STK is definitely going to be one of my next posts) — I also love me a little hole in the wall Caribbean place. And Jamaican Grill has been one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in Denver for a long time. I have no idea why I haven’t written about it until now.

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Denver’s Best Crab & Crawfish Boil: Crawling Crab on South Federal

I face an internal dilemma, because Crawling Crab (781 South Federal Boulevard) is one of my favorite restaurants ever that I go to all the time, and I would really like for it to stay the secret gem it is — but I feel like I must share my discovery. Hopefully, by the time that thousands of you regularly read this blog, this post will be long buried 😉

Crawling Crab has some of the most amazing crab and crawfish I’ve ever tasted — at inexplicably cheap prices. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad they do. If it was a little closer to me, I’d be here every day.

Crawling Crab isn’t a fancy place. It’s tucked into a little alcove off South Federal next door to Pho 79, and inside it looks like what you’d expect a restaurant in a strip mall to look like: a few simple tables and booths, some themed decorations, and flat-screen TVs everywhere (the photo below was taken from their Facebook). So I didn’t really expect much when a friend of mine first recommended it to me. In fact, I was a little skeptical. Man am I glad I came though.

Crawling Crab has some of the most delicious crab and crawfish ever — smothered in a house sauce that’s exploding with spices and huge pieces of garlic — all for about $8-$9/pound (that’s cheaper than most grocery stores!). I would even venture to say it’s better than some of the crawfish boils I’ve had in New Orleans, just because the sauce is so good. I’ve come here with 4 people and stuffed our faces until we couldn’t eat another bite, and left with a $100 tab (beer included).

Note: they only serve a few basic kinds of beer when it comes to alcohol, but that’s honestly what goes best with the food.


What To Get

The menu is pretty simple. I don’t even need to look at it to order. Having tried everything, here’s what I suggest getting (just trust me and go with it).

  • 1-2 orders of the dungeness crab clusters, in the all-in sauce (I recommend the mild version even if you like spicy food, because it will still be garlicy and spicy, but without beating out the flavor of the crab)
  • 1-2 orders of the crawfish, also in the all-in sauce, and throw in a side of sausage and enough baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob to go around
  • 1 order of the clams, in the garlic butter sauce
  • Beer (duh)
  • NOTE: Don’t get the king crab. At about $24/pound, it’s 3x as expensive as the dungeness, but not 3x more delicious.

How It Works

Everything comes in clear plastic bags, filled with whatever you ordered and smothered with your choice of sauce. No fancy plates here, and that’s how I like it. Just make sure to put on your bib and tie your hair back — it’s about to get ugly.

You take all those bags and just dump them out on your table (now all that wax paper “tablecloth” makes sense). If you don’t eat fast, you may want to only dump 1/2 a bag out at a time to keep it hot (but I wouldn’t know anything about that).

And this is what your table should look like when you’re done: a shellfish wasteland.

Enough said.