Just when Salt Lake City seemed to have reached the sushi restaurant saturation point, along came Hamachi Pescatarian Grill and Sushi Bar, proving there is always room for one more when quality and value combine.
Hamachi is primarily a sushi restaurant serving high-quality salmon, octopus, several varieties of tuna, scallop, mackerel and shrimp in various forms — including raw, seared and cooked.
With the name Hamachi, it’s no surprise the restaurant also offers yellowtail. (The term “hamachi” typically refers to Japanese amberjack, which often is listed as yellowtail on menus.) Guests will find several sashimi, nigiri and roll preparations of this delicious fish — plus a carpaccio special ($17.95) seared in sesame oil with scallions and jalapeño.
In addition to fish, there is a substantial menu of pescatarian offerings to please non-sushi eaters, including teriyaki, tempura and small plates.
What’s refreshing about Hamachi is its creative menu that doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator — think fried or cream-cheese-stuffed rolls — to draw diners in.
Instead it woos visitors with fresh fish.
Like the Tequila Roll ($11.95) filled with tuna and steamed asparagus, topped with more tuna, yellowtail, lime and jalapeño and drizzled with slightly sweet eel sauce. Or the Mr. Miyagi ($10.95), named for the beloved character in “The Karate Kid,” with yellowtail and crab covered in avocado and tuna.
Like the aforementioned rolls, which are both spiked with sriracha, Hamachi doesn’t shy away from heat. Many rolls feature fiery ingredients like the Green Hornet ($7.95) with tempura shishito peppers, spicy tuna and jalapeño aioli, or the Utes roll ($11.95) with the same tempura shishitos and jalapeño aioli. While too hot for my taste, it was easy to remove the peppers and enjoy all the other flavors individually.
A summer favorite will be the Lollipop Roll ($11.50). Each piece includes slices of salmon, yellowtail and tuna with fresh lemon for brightness wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. Segments are presented on a wooden skewer like a lollipop, topped with tobiko and finished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and ponzu sauce. Everything about the Lollipop Roll is a treat, and it would be the perfect snack to order to-go for a summer concert or picnic
For nigiri traditionalists, Hamachi delivers generously portioned cuts of silky salmon ($4.95), buttery tuna ($5.95), shrimp ($4.95), scallop ($4.50) and mackerel ($4.50).
Other specialties include the poke bowl ($13.95), with meaty chunks of tuna, salmon and hamachi along with fresh avocado and cucumber over rice; and the tuna tataki ($15.95), expertly seared and served with ponzu sauce.
The menu is well-priced at lunch with choice of two select rolls and miso soup for $8.50; or a bento box for $9.95 with grilled salmon teriyaki, a California roll, cucumber and sesame green salad, gyoza and rice.
The round sushi cake — which must be ordered in advance — is particularly memorable with layers of sushi rice, avocado slices, crab salad and spicy tuna, topped with sashimi, salmon roe, daikon threads and shiso leaves. It’s available in 6-, 8- or 10-inch sizes for $55-$95. It’s a knockout for a special occasion when everyone at the table likes sushi. And for the price, the cake delivers more premium fish than several rolls combined.
The only detraction at Hamachi is service. Although gracious and apologetic, servers were slow on all three visits, from no water refills one night, to a lost takeout order on another, and a new server who was unfamiliar with the menu. Hopefully, these are kinks that can be worked out with time and training.
Tucked into a corner on 100 South and 500 East, Hamachi is still a destination to be discovered. But it won’t remain secret forever.
The excellent fish, creative rolls and Sunday hours are sure to win regulars, who will belly up to the sushi bar when possible.
Heather L. King also owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Hamachi Pescatarian Grill & Sushi Bar ★★★(out of ★★★★)
Fresh fish is the foundation for sashimi, nigiri and creative sushi rolls, some with a spicy kick. Fully cooked pescatarian selections also available.
Food • ★★★½
Mood • ★★½
Service • ★★
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-8 p.m.
Entrée price • $$
Online • www.hamachislc.com
Location • 488 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-359-2092
Children’s menu • No
Liquor • Beer and wine
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
Onsite parking • Yes
Credit cards • All