Dining Influencers: Ichiban Sushi

Tuna Tsunami

“Eek, a raw octopus.” That’s how Peggi Whiting recalls some of the early Utah reactions to sushi. Of course, sushi is everywhere now. In Salt Lake City, you can find half-price sushi joints and all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants as well as meticulously brilliant high-end sushi bars like Takashi. Sushi bars are attached to Chinese restaurants, sushi is on the appetizer lists of many American restaurants and pretty much every grocery sells sushi. But it was not always so. The early ‘80s saw the sushi tsunami roll in to the United States—that’s when raw fish and rolls became all the rage. Naturally, Salt Lake was slightly behind that curve, but Peggi Whiting was making sushi here in 1985 when a supporter arranged for her to go to Tokyo and learn sushi making with Sushi Master Inou at Hama Sushi—a master who ignored the traditional wisdom that women can’t make proper sushi. When she returned to Utah in 1987, she opened Ichiban Sushi in Park City. The restaurant changed location several times—by 1997, she had moved the business to an old church in Salt Lake City. Whiting, now chef at Kyoto, says hers was not the very first sushi restaurant in the Beehive, but it is the place where many people remember learning to enjoy raw fish.

Fun Fact:  Traditional Japanese wisdom says that women’s hands are too warm to make sushi.

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