Okay, gotta admit I was less than thrilled to hear that Bill White had bought Hapa Grill and renamed it Sushi Blue.
If there were a 10 year moratorium on sushi restaurants in Park and Salt Lake City, I would not be upset.
We have drive-through sushi, half-price sushi, all-you-can-eat sushi. We have excellent, high-end sushi and bottom-of-the-tank grocery store sushi. Where can't you get sushi? I have an uncomfortable suspicion that it's in R&D at McDonald's. (They need to do something to prop up sagging sales, why not a Ronald Roll?)
But yesterday, even as workers were being lifted in cherry pickers to install the new Sushi Blue sign, we dropped in for lunch, and I had to eat my words. If not a lot of sushi.
Of course, the place is great-looking: Would Mr. White have it any other way? The interiors of his restaurants and the look of his events are always original, inventive and fun to look at, its predecessor Hapa Grill opened up and splashed with color. Sushi Blue's sushi bar is set against a wall of iridescent blue tiles, cobalt glass globes hang over the booths, brilliant fish paintings adorn the deep teal walls.
Philosophical question: When you expect to be pleased and surprised by something, how pleased and surprised can you be? So, the interior was great but I expected great.
Here's what I most definitely did not expect from Sushi Blue: The best hot dog in the state.
The. Best. Hot. Dog. In. The. State.
Maybe in the whole mountain west.
It totally blew me out of the water. Excuse the metaphor. A sturdy, grill-crisped bun held a pure beef wiener, split and filled with bacon cooked to a crunch and crumbled. Over that, a ladleful of the house-made kimchi and a drizzle of sauce. Alongside, an Asian slaw of cucumber strings, red onion and slivered cabbage in a sweet-sour-sesame dressing.
You pair this hot dog with an Ichiban and you've got the perfect all-American Asian meal.
Take me out to a ball game, Yu Darvish.
So, Sushi Blue's secret is that it's not just a sushi restaurant, and the part that's not sushi isn't lame-o fusion, although it is a fusion.
Korean Street Tacos: Thick shreds of rich pulled pork with fresh cilantro, avocado and cojita cheese crumbles served with bright red cucumber pickles and kimchi salsa.
Sliders: Crab cakes and avocado slices topped with caramelized red onions and poblano peppers with ponzu citrus mayo.
Yes, there is a list of traditional sushi and sashimi. But at Sushi Blue, you'd be making a mistake if you didn't try the Blue Rolls, a list of apparent weirdnesses that makes sense in the mouth, despite their punny names—"Kimchi Kardashian, "Mike Thai Son," "Tuna Turner."
We tried the Salmon L. Jackson: Spicy tuna, cucumber and avocado topped with salmon.
The dinner menu adds more substantial entrees to the lunch menu–miso-oregano salmon, seared scallops with edamame fried rice, pad thai...
For dessert there are white ginger and raspberry ice cream sandwiches.
Yes, I was surprised by Sushi Blue. And pleased. It's been awhile since Bill White has opened anything new and it's nice to see that, despite the sushi, one of Utah's original innovators can still, um, hit it out of the park.
To reference again that incredible hot dog.
Sushi Blue, 1571 Redstone Center Dr, Park City, UT 84098 (Formerly Hapa Grill)