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 New Favorite Ramen Restaurant: Osaka Ramen in RiNo

Osaka Ramen calls itself “Denver’s Best Ramen Shop” — and so far, I have to agree. You may have heard of chef-restaurateur Jeff Osaka from Twelve — an amazing restaurant that was once located on Larimer Street, between 22nd and Park Ave (and where Butcher’s Bistro is now). Personally, I was very sad when it closed, but I’m happy that Chef Osaka now has another restaurant.

Osaka Ramen is a really cute underground space in the middle of the quickly-growing RiNo neighborhood — with a casual atmosphere and fun, playful artwork (like the mural of Godzilla trudging through Tokyo). And it always smells like delicious ramen 🙂

Osaka Ramen inside

And if you sit at the counter, you might just see Chef Osaka overseeing the kitchen. Plus, you’re closer to the amazing smell coming from the huge ramen pots.

Osaka Ramen chef osaka


The Food

One of my favorite things about Osaka Ramen is that, unlike almost every other ramen place I’ve been to in Denver, the food isn’t ridiculously over-salted (except Bones — I love their Lobster Ramen).

I also loved the shishito peppers here (and I’ve had shishito peppers pretty much everywhere). They’re just lightly blistered, so they still taste light and fresh — and the bonito flakes are awesome.

Osaka Ramen shishito peppers

The ramen bowls here run $12-$14, and there are 5 options to choose from. I had the Spicy Miso ramen below (pork and chicken broth, aka miso, sesame, bean sprouts, garlic, spicy pork, soft egg). I would say this actually wasn’t very spicy, but there’s also Sriracha at every table, so that was easily remedied. Otherwise, it was incredibly flavorful and perfectly balanced between all the ingredients.

Osaka Ramen spicy ramen

I would normally never think to order vegetarian anything (because what’s the point, right?). However, the vegetable ramen here is actually really good. It’s probably the thai green coconut curry — which is good enough to make me forgive the tofu.

Osaka Ramen vegetable ramen

Leave some room, because the desserts here are fantastic. The $7 “My Wife’s Donuts” (mochi donuts, kinako sugar, salted butter) was one of those things dreams are made of. They’re definitely some of the best donuts you’ll ever eat.

Osaka Ramen donuts