Sushi-Rama Now Open in RiNo

Sushi Rama Conveyor Belt

Jeff Osaka brings conveyor belt sushi to Denver

After opening two Osaka Ramen shops, Jeff Osaka ended a very busy year by opening a third restaurant—Denver’s first Kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi)—Sushi-Rama {2615 Larimer Street, Denver; 720.476.4643}.

Kaitenzushi restaurants can be found throughout Japan and are essentially the Japanese equivalent to fast food, where guests can enjoy quality sushi without the time and expense associated with a full-service restaurant.

In the U.S., some consider conveyor belt sushi gimmicky and people fear that the fish may not always be fresh. Osaka’s goal is to overcome this misconception, and bring his guests a fast-casual dining environment with high-end ingredients that can be offered at a reasonable price.

The Sushi-Rama space

Walking into Sushi-Rama feels a little like a scene from the 1970s cartoon The Jetsons. Brightly colored saucers of sushi fly around a conveyor belt and diners, seated on stools or bright red leather banquettes under space-age lighting, take whatever strikes their fancy.

Liv Studio, which most recently designed Bar Fausto and Biju’s Little Curry Shop, created a clean, brightly colored space that is simultaneously futuristic and retro. The main dining room, which features a giant, brightly colored “pop art” sushi wall, seats 24 with an additional 20 seats in the upstairs mezzanine.

The menu

Chef Jesus Silva, who joined forces with Osaka when the two opened Osaka Ramen last year, will be in charge of the kitchen. Silva is no stranger to the intricacies of sushi making; he was the sushi chef at Sushi Sasa for eight years. The fairly small menu offers rolls, nigiri, and small hot plates.

Diners in the mezzanine can order off the à la carte menu while guests downstairs have the option of pulling their selections straight from the conveyor belt. The polished Tamanashiki rice is hand packed so that it falls apart slightly as you eat it. Osaka’s Hama Rama roll features crab and scallop with cucumber, topped with yellowtail, kaiware (radish sprouts), shisito peppers, and Macho sauce.

Small plates include Yakitori, Black Mussels, and a Spicy Rock Shrimp tempura with spicy garlic aïoli, and green onion that can be wrapped in lettuce leaves and eaten as a wrap. Conveyor belt dishes range in price from $3-$5 indicated by the color of plate. Guests are welcome to pull off whatever they choose and the empty plates will be tallied and added to their check.

Drinks at Sushi-Rama

Libation offerings are constantly changing and, in the case of wine and sake, the producers are not even listed on the menu. Instead, guests can select a white, red, or plum wine chosen to pair with sushi, or a Honjozo, Junmai, or Nigori sake (hot sake is not available). There are seven beers to choose from–four Japanese beers and three Colorado craft brews. Cocktails are served from a rolling airline beverage cart and are kept very simple. The menu reads: “Tight Quarters keep us from making many drinks. The drinks we do make are pretty damn good.”

Sushi-Rama is not the last project that Osaka and Silva have up their sleeves. The duo plan to open Central Fish Market inside Osaka’s much-anticipated Central Market, which will open this summer in the old HH Tammen Building just down the street from Sushi Rama. The fish market will provide most of the seafood for the restaurant but will also serve as a kitchen for the preparation of all the sushi, freeing up space in Sushi-Rama’s diminutive kitchen for additional menu items.