The Salt Lake dining scene is dimming, it’s true. And the future looks dusky, too. But there is one blindingly bright spot that, unfortunately for it, opened at the beginning of the pandemic. Nohm outshines nine out of ten Japanese restaurants in town but so few of us have been dining out that it’s still somewhat a secret.

Right next door to Water Witch, in the old Meditrina space on Harvey Milk Blvd., (formerly known as 900 South), Nohm is quietly designed, the main alteration from its predecessor being an open kitchen and sushi bar.

It’s hard to describe ambiance in the time of Covid—every place is quieter than it used to be and, frankly, that’s nice. Nohm is subtle, modern and serene. In a recent essay about how Covid is changing the restaurant business, Stuart Melling remarked he didn’t miss going out to eat as long as he could get restaurant-quality food; I don’t share his feelings. I like to enter a new place and I like to eat in a space designed to complement cuisine. I know this may not be true for boomer-bashing young people who think the ambiance of their mother’s basement is fine as long as the screen is lit. And I certainly appreciate the option of dining on my own table. But Covid has made eating out the special occasion it once was and when you’re eating food as fine as Nohm’s, a respectful atmosphere is warranted.

I went to Nohm with regulars and was guided through the menu with their help and the enthusiasm of David, the owner of the restaurant. I haven’t eaten Japanese food this good since the days of Naked Fish: Every dish beautifully presented with flavor combinations from rigorously traditional to delicately fused. A gorgeous plate of perfectly cut sashimi was a panoply of pink hues from salmon to tuna accented with cut nori, a slash of lemon and the pistachio-green of wasabi. But Nohm’s menu goes far beyond sashimi to include charcoal-grilled meats and noodles. Like all things Japanese, both these can be inifinitely complicated with a different vocabulary and technique for each type of grill and noodle. I am not an expert. For me, the genius dish was Nohm’s take on carbonara, with rice noodles, uni and mackerel and grated roe lending the fragrance and umami of aged cheese—a cross-cultural marvel. Choose from the sake menu or have a glass of wine.

Nohm is a treasure, one I hope will be discovered in time for it to flourish. Right now, most restaurants are playing it safe (who doesn’t serve a burger or flatbread??) We don’t have restaurants inspiring us to explore or be adventurous—that’s not what people tend to crave in times of crisis.

Fight the tendency to play it safe and go eat at Nohm. It will help keep your brain and tastebuds from the atrophy and apathy induced by social-distancing.

As Alice said, Feed your head.

165 W. 900 South. SLC, nohmslc.com, 801-917-3812