Yes, Denver sits in a landlocked state, in the middle of the county. But Elon Musk is landing rockets on shipping freighters in the middle of the ocean, so importing fish from Japan to anywhere in the world within 24 hours isn’t all that impressive anymore.
Yes, good NBA basketball can happen in Oklahoma. Yes, Donald Trump can secure a Presidential nomination. And yes, really good sushi can happen in Denver. Embrace the absurdity that is life and set yourself free.
Here are 15 of our favorite wasabi hot spots around town.
The best sushi restaurant in the city, and arguably one of the overall best restaurants in the state. As one of the very first sushi bars in the United States to buy directly from markets in Japan, you won’t find fresher fish, or a fresher atmosphere. A seat at the sushi bar overseeing the knife work and roll prep is as entertaining as it is delicious. And the omakase play here is a must-do at least once, especially if you live in Denver.
If your idea of a great sushi dinner includes good toro and a half-dozen sake bombs, this is your spot. Hai is the move for birthdays or big groups looking to get a little rowdy at dinner, and really rowdy after dinner. It’s basically the perfect spot to make you and your obnoxious friends feel a bit distinguished before you go make a mess of yourselves later on. They have one of the most expansive sushi menus in town, but somehow manage to maintain a really high level of quality regardless of what you order.
We know you’ve been waiting patiently for a good reason to upgrade to that Uber XL ride downtown, and here it is. Sasa is the ultimate fancy, intimate Denver dining destination when it comes to sushi in this town, and a real special occasion power play. The fish is lights out and the staff is just uppity enough to make you behave yourself, even after four or five fancy cocktails. If the full-on dinner experience is too intimidating for you, stop in for their happy hour, when a handful of fancy dishes and drinks are on special. Just try not to spill soy sauce on your shirt.
Izakaya is basically the Lebron James to Sushi Den’s Michael Jordan when it comes to raw fish at a Mile High. Both are amazing in their own special ways, and both sit a few steps higher on the talent ladder as compared to other sushi spots around town (and they both get their fish from the same place). If you want Sushi Den-quality food, but in a more hip and lively environment, Izakaya is your play.
This is strip mall sushi at its finest. Namiko’s is unassuming and delicious, and our favorite stop for lunch when we want to sadistically eat fish while seated next to a giant aquarium filled with other fish (fish we can only assume have developed some pretty sociopathic tendencies). Namiko’s takeout game is one of the best in town, and The Line of Fire Shrimp appetizer is a must-order.
Most people think of ramen when we mention Tokio. And yes, the hot bowls are absolutely worth noting. But we think the sushi here might outshine the noodles - especially when it’s this hot out. All the pieces come in big cuts, so don’t freak out when you see the prices - it’s all worth it. Saunter up to the bar and let the guys in the back do all the work for you. We’ve never been led astray when ordering the chef’s choice option from the menu.
With multiple locations around the city, all smack dab in the middle of great neighborhoods, Hapa is basically Chipotle in sushi form - very easy, and very useful, if not the greatest thing you’ll ever eat. Hapa is good, affordable food and there’s usually one nearby when the mood strikes. You’ll find a nice mix of healthier stuff, raw protein, and fatty/creamy/fried gluttony, and they’ve done a nice job calling their food with entertaining and risque names... pretty amazing roll playing, so to speak.
Starch up the collar of your best button-up/step into your tallest heels, and finally fulfill that dream of ordering a $700 bottle of Saki. This is the see and be seen place in Denver right now. They also have really good fish. As part of the Nobu franchise, it’s a given that you’ll get a great meal here. Just be prepared to pay a lot for it.
Sushi Bay is like the sushi version of The Little Engine That Could. It sits on Tennyson St., and even though it looks a little rough on the outside compared to other shiny spots in the area, they keep pace with quality eats at really reasonable prices. Just know that the take-out here leaves a bit to be desired, which is a little confusing because the dine-in experience is so good.
Another newer spot getting a lot of attention, which we think is valid. But - and that’s a big but - you have to order right. The menu includes a large number of cooked or seared options, which aren’t that great when compared to the cold menu. Stick with the raw/uncooked stuff and you’ll be happy.
This is where you want to go to have a good time in LoDo and eat cheap but high-quality fish. The space resembles the lobby of most W hotels, or Kylie Jenner’s closet - lot of mirrors, lots of shiny stuff, and a lot of Steve Aoki playing on repeat. Their happy hour includes $3.50 saki bombs from 10:30 - midnight, so it’s a great place to grab a second wind before moving on to the more debaucherous part of your night. Same deal from 3 - 6:30 p.m. if you’re looking to get loose a little earlier.
Full disclosure: there are better places to eat sushi in the same area, but the Rama is all about the experience. We love the little conveyor belt service that wraps the tables and delivers your food. Just sit as close to the front of the belt line as possible, or watch people in front of you ruthlessly snipe the fresh stuff before it gets to you.
Shiso is basically your run-of-the-mill Denver sushi stop Monday - Saturday: good, but nothing special to write home about. Come Sunday though, things get interesting with their all-you-can-eat-$25-per-person-deal. We know the all you can eat feature isn’t new, or unique to Shiso - but Shiso does it the best in Denver. Make sure at least one or two the people in your group can put away a ton of food - you pay extra for whatever you order and don’t eat.
We have to give it up to Ototo. It sits right next to arguably the two best sushi spots in town, and still manages to fill seats night after night. An uneducated guesser might argue that this place just serves the spillover crowds from the more famous Dens just up the street, but we don’t think that’s the case at all. Ototo offers a much more laid-back atmosphere in a much smaller space. We actually prefer it to the Dens on nights when we want to eat some good fish but avoid scenes and crowds. And it’s one of the best under-the-radar date spots in the city.
Our favorite casual sushi spot in the city. Okinawa has a nice blend of common rolls you’re used to, and seasonal premium rolls you’re not. Regardless of your preference, you won’t be disappointed by anything here (other than being too full to order more).