Diverse Asian options surround South Salt Lake’s Chinatown
Restaurant reviews • Oh Mai and Blue Finn offer zesty, inexpensive dining options.

By Heather L. King

Special to The Tribune

Published: November 9, 2012 02:08PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 11:32PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Employees from the Van Cott Bagley Cornwall and McCarthy law firm have a lunch at Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen in South Salt Lake.

South Salt Lake • The city’s new Chinatown off State Street and 3300 South is beginning to fill with businesses. In seeming anticipation of the upsurge of Chinese and other Asian cultural influences coming to the area, a number of new restaurants have opened to celebrate diverse flavors at a low cost — including Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen and Blue Finn.

Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen

Oh Mai has generated quite a few “oh mys” in the past year as Utahns enjoy Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, pho, bun noodles, rice dishes and appetizers at the restaurant’s original location to the east of South Salt Lake’s new Chinatown.

I went to Oh Mai with banh mi sandwiches on my mind but was more than pleasantly surprised by the pho, and have now ranked the restaurant as one of my top three locations for the Vietnamese noodle soup in the Salt Lake valley. That’s because the broth had beefy depth while the noodle and meat ratios were superb. There are six meat (or tofu) pho options on the menu, all available in small and large sizes. The ribeye steak and brisket ($5.58 small, $6.68 large) was more than satisfying on a cold fall evening and very reasonably priced. I did miss the typical Thai basil served on the side but there were ample slices of jalapeños (served with nearly everything on the menu) making this simple bowl of noodle soup memorable.

But back to the banh mi. Oh Mai’s version is a deli-style sandwich served on an 8-inch French baguette filled with a variety of meats and pickled and fresh vegetables. There are 10 to choose from including vegan, vegetarian and full-meat versions.

Although I’m usually fairly adventurous when it comes to dining, I got a bit queasy thinking about the pork-head cheese on the “Original” cold cuts (dac biet, $3.98) and instead played it safe and ordered the honey glazed pork (thit nuong, $4.18) with garlic butter, scallions, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon radish dressed in a chili-lime fish vinaigrette. The slight sweetness of the pork juxtaposed with the crunchy tang of the carrots and daikon and hints of garlic left me swooning. It also left me with a half sandwich left over for a snack later. At $4.18, that’s what I call value.

In addition to high-quality food prepared with care, Oh Mai’s prices are reasonable, with nothing on the menu costing more than $6.98. So whether you decide to enjoy a sandwich, the noodle dishes or a salad, you can afford to splurge on an appetizer like Mai’s Roll — two fresh spring rolls filled with juicy shrimp, pork, rice noodles, lettuce and crisp cucumbers for $1.88.

Add a Mexican Coke in a glass bottle (with real sugar) for $1.48, or one of their Thai iced teas or Vietnamese iced coffees ($1.98-$3.08) and you’re still rolling out the door for less than $10 per person.

Oh Mai’s original location has been so successful in its first year that they’ve opened a second restaurant in Holladay with a similar menu.

Blue Finn Japanese & Korean Grill

From the outside, it’s impossible to forget that Blue Finn was originally a Wendy’s. Inside, though, this venue has been transformed into a tranquil and pleasant space, despite the views of the Century 16 mutiplex and State Street outside).

If a contest were held between Blue Finn and its slightly southern neighbor, Red Ginger Bistro(3333 S. State St., South Salt Lake; 801-467-6697) Blue Finn would win hands down. Not only are the rolls at Blue Finn larger and of better overall quality, there’s a wider selection to choose from. Beyond that, the service is helpful and efficient.

Blue Finn’s menu lists several pages of sushi rolls at half off the listed price, day or night. One afternoon, the offer was even better with any two rolls for just $9.99. I’m not aware of a cheaper deal for American-style sauced or fried rolls anywhere in the Salt Lake valley.

You’ll find rolls that appear on virtually every sushi menu in the state such as the California ($5), sunset ($12) and rainbow ($13). There are also specialized rolls paying tribute to our local loves, such as the Alta ($13, squid tempura, crab, tuna and yellowtail), Snowbird ($12, mango, cilantro and yellowtail) and Ute ($11, shrimp tempura, crab and salmon). The rest of the world isn’t left out either, with the Manhattan ($13, shrimp tempura, crab and spicy tuna) and Tokyo ($12, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and spicy salmon) making appearances.

The theme here is shrimp tempura. I counted 12 rolls offering the battered crustacean, which tasted fresh, crunchy and filling. The house specialty roll, the Blue Finn ($14), is shrimp tempura crowned with crab and slightly sweet lobster dressed with kicky, spicy aioli and orange sauce. A attractive amount of seafood with some interesting flavors is the result.

Although promoted as offering Korean dishes as well as Japanese, the choices for anything other than sushi are fairly slim. Offerings include: a flavorful pork bulgogi ($10.99 lunch, $12.99 dinner), tonkatsu ($10.99 lunch, $12.99 dinner), kalbi ribs ($10.99 lunch, $12.99 dinner) dolsot bibim bob, a rice dish with vegetables, beef and egg ($10.99 lunch, $12.99 dinner), udon ($10-12) and seafood-based ramen ($7). But a family could eat here and satisfy everyone with the above options or teriyaki ($8.99-$12.99), tempura ($5.99-8.99) or orange chicken ($10.99 lunch, $12.99 dinner).

Appetizers range from one of the freshest seaweed salads I’ve eaten in the Salt Lake urban area ($4.99), to spring rolls ($4.99) and gyoza ($5.99). A full wine, beer and sake list are available along with nicely presented hot tea.

Overall, Blue Finn offers excellent prices for its sushi rolls, is an excellent choice for dinner-and-a-movie date night.

Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Heather L. King blogs at www.examiner.com/lunch-in-salt-lake-city/heather-king. Send comments about this review to food@sltrib.com.

Hhj

Blue Finn Japanese and Korean Grill

Food • Hhj

Mood • Hhj

Service • Hhj

Noise • b

Filling and flavorful American-style sushi rolls at 50 percent off make Blue Finn a good choice for discount dining.

Location • 3245 S. State St., South Salt Lake; 801-468-1777

Online • utahcitylinks.com/bluefin

Hours • Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. -10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. -11 p.m. Closed Sunday..

Children’s menu • No

Prices • $-$$

Liquor • Yes

Corkage • not accepted

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • No

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major

HH

Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen

Food • HH

Mood • HH

Service • HH

Noise • bb

Serves delectable banh mi sandwiches, pho, bun noodles, rice dishes and salads — all under $7.

Location • 3425 S. State St., South Salt Lake; 801-467-6882; also 6093 S. Highland Drive, Holladay; 801-277-9888

Online • ohmaisandwich.com

Hours • Monday through Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. -8:30 p.m., closed Sunday; Holladay location: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.- 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., closed Sunday

Children’s menu • No

Prices • $

Liquor • No

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • Visa and Mastercard