About a year ago, I was dismayed to learn that Longmont’s Ichiban was suspending its sushi and sashimi service, as this was perhaps my favorite spot for variations on the raw fish theme. I was out of sorts until learning that a retooled version of Ichiban reopened late last fall with sushi Sensei John back at the helm. Ichiban’s new iteration features updated décor and an expanded menu, although ala carte faves like rice bowls are still available, under a new name, Sushi Kaiten.
What’s in a name? In Japan, Kaiten refers to an establishment offering sushi served on a conveyor belt. Diners at the bar simply pluck off what they want from the belt, and at the end of the meal, the waitstaff tallies up the color-coded plates to calculate the tab. Unfortunately, this service method can lead to hijinks, like when a friend and I didn’t let a single piece of salmon elude our grasp, much to other diners’ consternation.
At dinner with friend Amy, we staked out prime real estate at the front of the sushi bar. The $4 poke on cucumber slices was the first thing off the belt. Poke is Hawaiian sashimi, tuna lightly marinated in oil and seaweed, with a smattering of pepper. While decidedly spicy, the seasonings permitted the sparkling taste of fish to shine through. Next up was a $4 variation on a California roll differentiated by the addition of seared tuna. While I enjoyed this roll, I’m still partial to simpler, made-to-order preparations.
For example, one of the finest sushi creations I’ve ever experienced is Kaiten’s $4 spicy salmon handroll. The savory counterpart of an ice cream cone, this treat consists of textbook crisp nori wrapped around luscious salmon chunks lightly drizzled in creamy yet peppery sauce. A couple of these creations and a cup of sencha tea would make for a perfect Japanese meal. Another can’t-miss is the $5 house-smoked salmon dusted with green tea powder. Possessing a meatier texture than lox, this preparation masterfully balanced salt, smoke and a whisper of sweet. Salmon, in any form here, is of uncannily consistent high quality.
Timing is crucial at Kaiten, and one is best served by getting the tempura-fried calamari and scallops as soon as they hit the belt. Missing my opportunity for these seafood morsels, I asked gracious John for a $7 platter of fried smelt. A marked improvement over the Chinatown deli product of my youth, this fish was covered by a gossamer-thin tempura crust. Inside, the fish was moist with a subtle flavor resembling soft shell crab.
The evening’s piece de resistance was the $10 toro with jalapeno slices and a sprinkling of yuzu and wasabi dressing. This fatty tuna had a decadent flavor profile more akin to prime-grade steak than anything from the sea. In lesser hands, the pungent and citrusy dressing and pepper would overwhelm the fish; in this case it provided a finely balanced complement.
Sushi Kaiten is the rare restaurant where I can’t recall having tasted a single item that I’ve regretted ordering. This strip-mall establishment is one of the few restaurants that I’ve actually thought about not writing about so that I can keep it all to myself. But that would be selfish, and unfair to the legions of sushi aficionados.
Sushi Kaiten 2055 S. Ken Pratt Blvd., Unit A, Longmont 303-485-9848
Clay’s Obscurity Corner
Blues benefit for Japan
It’s impossible to think of Japanese cuisine without contemplating how one can help in the aftermath of the recent disasters that have befallen the Asian island nation. Local bluesman, friend and dining companion Jack Hadley has teamed up with fellow musician Doug Yoshimura to put on a benefit performance supporting Red Cross relief efforts for Japan. Blues for Japan takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 26. The venue is the Edgewater Coffee Company, located in Edgewater at 5224 W. 25th Ave., near the intersection of Sheridan and W. 25th Ave. The phone number for the venue is 303-237- 4383.