If it feels like the kitchen at Sushi-Rama is turning out its artful seafood plates on a conveyor belt, well, it’s because it is. Literally.
This is Japanese fare that Henry Ford would approve.
Chef-owner Jeff Osaka, who also owns two Osaka Ramen noodle shops in Denver, was inspired by the fast-food conveyor setups in Japan.
In this small and shiny room at 2615 Larimer St., the crew assembles sushi rolls, sashimi and nigiri in the semi-open kitchen, arranges it on ceramic plates that are topped with see-through plastic bubbles, and loads them onto a conveyor belt that snakes past patrons at the 14-seat bar, plus a trio of booths.
Small cards identify the dishes — salmon tartar, grilled yellowtail, shrimp and poke, tuna tataki and the like. You pull a dish, dig in with fingers or chopsticks, and at evening’s end the waiter tallies the color-coded dishes and hands you the tab.
The approach is akin to dim sum, with the conveyor belt subbing for the wheeled carts loaded with bao buns and dumplings.
While it lacks the aesthetic of a sushi master assembling your rolls right in front of you, the novelty is hard to beat: Point, grab, pop the plastic top, enjoy.
Two recent visits made for fun evenings and tasty dining. Sushi-Rama won’t make Denver diners forget Sushi Den or Sushi Sasa, but that’s not the point. It’s an entertaining concept for couples and groups, or even lone post-work diners channeling their inner salaryman. Hai!
Somewhat oddly, the motion of the 3-inch-wide stainless steel conveyor is hypnotic, even soothing, functioning as a sort of mechanical shot of cocktail consolation.
Plates generally please.
The Chrysalis offered color and flavor. There was a lot going on: shrimp tempura, crab and cucumber topped with unagi, avocado and the rather novel addition of kiwi slices atop the roll.
Salmon New Style featured salmon tartare with avocado and cukes topped with smoked and unsmoked salmon. This was a spicy number — sort of a Southwestern take on the sushi roll — thanks to flecks of jalapeño and a chipotle ponzu.
Hama Rama featured crab, scallop and cucumber topped with yellowtail tuna, doused in a spicy sauce. A petite grilled shishito came on the side.
The yellowtail also starred in in a crunchy solo version. A softshell crab tempura boasted a bite of Bibb lettuce, avocado and cucumber, wrapped in daikon.
Nigiri, including tender octopus and a savory unagi, the freshwater eel so popular at sushi bars, pleased.
Much less successful was the Hot Pico, a spicy poke roll topped with pico de gallo — actually, just long slivers of peppers — plus crispy leeks and some cilantro sprigs that had seen better days. There were four slices, and they all fell apart.
Not everything arrives by conveyor.
Salads and soups are ordered from the kitchen and brought out by the waitstaff. That includes miso soup, properly salted and rich with umami. Osaka has a way with broths, as anyone who has eaten at Osaka Ramen can attest.
The cocktail program is strong, with a variety of beers and wines by the glass, plus sakes.
Osaka has come up with a winner, with big points for cleverness and the overall execution of the food. It will be interesting to see how long the novelty of the conveyor delivery will last.
But for RiNo club and bar hoppers, Sushi-Rama offers a welcome place to stop and watch the world — and plates — go ’round.
William Porter: 303-954-1877, firstname.lastname@example.org or @williamporterdp
2615 Larimer St. 720-476-4643; sushiramadenver.com
Atmosphere: Bright, colorful and compact room
Service: Fast and friendly; they stay on top of the considerable busing they must do.
Beverages: Beer, wine, cocktails
Plates: Nigiri, $3.50-$6; rolls, $7-$14; soups-salads, $2-$4
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- 9.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, noon-8 p.m.
Details: Street parking
Our star system:
**: Very Good
Stars reflect the dining reviewer’s overall reaction to the restaurant’s food, service and atmosphere.
LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE: https://www.denverpost.com/2016/04/19/at-denvers-sushi-rama-a-novel-way-to-bring-plates-to-the-table/