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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Romeo and Juliet roll, made with coconut shrimp, cream cheese, crab topped with rbi, mango, avocado, cali mooring sauce and eel sauce at Itto Sushi in the Midvale, Utah Friday, June 20, 2014.
Restaurant review: Itto Sushi's best is found beyond gimmicks

Dining out » Japanese restaurant shows promise despite its tendency to overwhelm with dubious options.

By Stuart Melling

Special to The Tribune

First Published Jun 25 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 25 2014 04:49 pm

It’s unclear to me who pioneered the fashionable gimmick of 50 percent-off sushi rolls. Diningwise, it’s something of an anomaly. What is clear to me, though, is that those responsible need to be swiftly beaten with a poorly made maki roll stuffed with cream cheese. Sushi is one of those luxuries in life I tend not to nickel and dime over — you know, like reliable car seat belts and using a licensed doctor, I’m happy with the expense.

There’s no denying the popularity of the concept. Some restaurants now offer 50 percent-off deals permanently — revealing the somewhat arbitrary dreariness of it all.

At a glance


Itto Sushi

Food » HH

Mood » HH

Service » HH

Noise » bb

A broad selection of Japanese dining from cooked to raw dishes. More traditional items can be found among the Westernized bulk of the menu. Recommended dishes: tuna tataki, nigiri, Lion King roll.

Location » 856 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale; 801-563-3337

Online » www.ittosushiutah.com

Hours » Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday

Children’s menu » No

Prices » $$

Liquor » Beer, sake and wine

Reservations » No

Takeout » Yes

Wheelchair access » Yes

Outdoor dining » No

On-site parking » Yes

Credit cards » Yes

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The marketing pitch came to mind during two recent visits to Fort Union’s Itto Sushi, which couldn’t have been more contrasting: lolling tumbleweed one evening, full of vim and vigor the next. The difference? My second visit was during one of Itto Sushi’s 50 percent-off promo evenings (select rolls Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

At least Itto Sushi, formerly Sushi In Joy, mercifully knows how to craft a maki roll. The rolls here will not self-destruct on mere observation or delicate chopstick nudge. You will, however, find plenty of cream cheese packing myriad Western-style maki listed across numerous menus. Indeed, the depth of choice is sufficiently overwhelming that you might find yourself ordering out of surrender rather than considered choice.

Of the rolls I ordered, flavors ran the gamut of respectable through random through just plain wrong. A sunset roll ($10.95, California roll topped with salmon, thinly sliced lemon, ponzu sauce) was citrus-bright and fresh, as was a Lion King roll ($12.95, tempura shrimp, jalapeño, cilantro, tuna, topped with spicy crab, lime slices, mango, eel sauce), which was a fun blend of Japanese and South American flavors.

Less impressive was a Sushi Vampire roll ($12.95, shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, topped with spicy baby lobster tail, eel sauce), which featured overcooked and unpalatable lobster.

Bordering on the bizarre was a 911 roll ($13.95, tempura shrimp, crab, spicy tuna, topped with shrimp, avocado), the whole shebang came served wrapped in foil and then set aflame. Once the flames subside, unwrap to a slightly warm, slightly mushy, slightly barbecuelike finish.

Among a selection of more than 50 maki and hand rolls, shrimp tempura and cream cheese make more appearances than wasabi. The menu could easily be cut in half, perhaps even a quarter, and lose nothing in substantial quality or appeal.

Several items from the kitchen made me happily forget our trial-by-sushi menu, though. An order of tonkatsu ($12.95) — breaded, deep-fried then sliced pork — came with miso, tempura veggies, rice and a side sunomono (lightly marinated cucumbers) salad. The dish was solid and sustaining. Beef donburi ($10.95) offers a bountiful bowl of rice, topped with sweet sauce, cabbage and beef — again filling, satisfying and well-executed. Thick udon ($6.95) noodles come simply with sliced kamaboko in a light broth or can be topped with tempura shrimp ($11.95) — another fairly priced and enjoyable kitchen dish. An order of yakisoba ($9.95) with chicken and stir-fried veggies was the only damp squib among the lot, never threatening anything more than mediocrity.

When given a chance to put the cream cheese back in its cage, the sushi counter can rock out some respectable dishes.

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In response to my request for a nigiri sampler platter, our waitress asked, "Is uni OK?" I nodded eagerly. The eight-piece platter ($24.99) compelled the sushi chef to our table: once to personally dole out his own secret sauce (reminiscent of a slightly spicy ponzu sauce) and a second time to eagerly check how we enjoyed the uni. Of course we loved the sea urchin — seeing as it was shipped fresh (never frozen) from Hawaii. When good, this ocean treat is richly resplendent and creamy — the gustatory equivalent of a walk on the beach, hand in hand with someone special as the sun goes down. The remainder of the platter with tuna, salmon and albacore wasn’t shabby, either.

Choose appetizers with the above in mind. Shrimp tempura ($7.50) was as ho-hum as a hum can be ho’ed, but an order of tuna tataki ($7.50), with beautifully simple and fresh bluefin tuna, was excellent. Similarly, a Hawaiian poke ($8) of sashimi-grade tuna with mango and seaweed was a fun summer starter.

Given the opportunity to wriggle out of the straitjacket of dumbing down, Itto Sushi has potential and promise. Skip the yo-yo pricing and cream cheese and you should be able to find gems here.

Stuart Melling also writes at www.theutahreview.com and can be found on Twitter @gastronomicslc.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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