Evening dinner review
(Stuart’s note: This review of one of SLC’s most buzz worthy restaurant comes courtesy of our newest guest reviewer Kellie, from the blog randomactsofkelliness.blogspot.com. Take it away Kelli…)
Another sushi restaurant has opened in Salt Lake City: Dojo. But this one is not like all the other trendy, over-priced sushi joints in the city. Thanks to Ted Scheffler’s recent review in City Weekly, last weekend Danny and I thought we’d give Dojo a try. After all, it was Ted’s review that made us give Naked Fish a second chance, and we ended up falling in love.
Dojo Restaurant & Lounge is located on 423 West and 300 South, practically hidden behind the Homewood Suites Hotel (Stuart’s note: I also heard from an employee that Dojo provides room service to the hotel too). The space is small and cozy, dark and intimate, with a good vibe that isn’t too hip. We sat at the sushi bar and were taken care of by the incredibly talented sushi chef, Cedric. We started off with pork belly sliders, flavorful slices of pork belly in a dumpling-like bun, with carrots, daikon, cilantro and a sweet chili pepper sauce. The mixture of textures–soft and chewy bun, crunchy veggies, and tender pork–was a delicious way to start the meal.
We started with scallops (hotategai). Scallops are one of my sushi favorites. They arrived garnished with slivered lemon and a light garlic ponzu sauce. The lemon added a different punch, but I prefer the scallops solo. They were buttery and delicious, although not the best I’ve ever had. Next we had sea trout (umi masu), which the chef compared to salmon. This was like salmon on steroids: it was intensely flavorful while maintaining the melty quality.
After the chef scored with his umi masu recommendation, we took his word on the mackerel (aji), one of the night’s specials. We were given the entire fish–including the bones, deep fried and edible–slices of fish, a tartar, and a cilantro soy sauce with green onions for dipping. I anticipated that it would be chewy with a tough skin, but I was completely wrong. It was lightly flavored, with a melty texture similar to the umi masu. The dipping sauce added a unique dimension to the fish’s flavor. And the deep friend skeleton was incredible: crunchy, almost like fried chicken skin. The chef suggested we dig into the head, which contained little pockets of meat. We even ate the eyeballs. It was all surprisingly delicious.
Next we went for another favorite, sea urchin (uni). The chef prepared the pieces of uni topped with seaweed strips and relish. I liked the papery texture and salty flavor of the seaweed mixed with the richness of the uni. The taste of uni is hard to describe; it’s more of a texture than a flavor. It is rich and melts in your mouth like butter. I think people either love uni or they hate it, and if you are one that loves it, definitely try it like this.
Last but definitely not least, we had the halibut sashimi (hirame). This fish was on the tougher side, and lacked a lot of independent flavor. However, the tiny lime slices and cilantro soy sauce added a kick to the flavor, making the dish quite enjoyable. The chef had also lightly flavored the fish with sea salt, which added a tasty twist.
By the end of the meal, I was convinced that Dojo is anything but another sushi joint. Their dishes are close enough to tradition that they are full of the familiar flavor I crave, yet they stray away enough so that it stands out with a punch. They also have some Japanese staples on their dinner menu, like ramen and katsu curry, that I can’t wait to try. I will definitely be back there soon.
423 West 300 South #150, Salt Lake City, UT 84101