The place: Asahi Sushi Bar & Grill, in a small Asian-restaurant run strip, at 1470 North State Street, Orem, UT 84057
Contact info: On Facebook, by phone at 801-221-4759
- Lunch/Dinner: Mon – Thurs / 11 – 9:30
- Lunch/Dinner: Fri – Sat / 11 – 1 am
- Dinner: Sun / 3 – 8:30
The ambiance: This is a hip place, but it’s not for hipsters. The lighting is dark, a little brooding, and the decor is top notch for a sushi bar (although, like all others, it features several flat screen TVs playing all manner of sporting events, which I find remarkably annoying anywhere that isn’t a sports bar). They play new age Asian fusion music, which adds to the entire experience; it makes it seem more authentic, I suppose you could say, and leaves you feeling much more Zen than if you were forced to listen to Top 40 all night long.
The Munch: I love sushi, but the concept of “fresh” sushi in a landlocked state is something of a concern to me. However, after oodles of research and a few excellent reviews, I decided to throw caution into the Utahn wind and give it a go.
- california roll
- sake maki (salmon)
- chicken bento box lunch special
- chicken donburi
Husband believes California rolls are true, authentic sushi, and he orders them wherever we go, even the grocery store. The upside of the California roll is that it’s an excellent gateway; there’s no raw fish to be found (or really fish in any form), so it allows the eater to experience the other facets of sushi — the saltiness of nori, the sharp, vinegar taste of sushi rice, and the marriage of avocado and cucumber, which are generally present no matter what you order. I pushed all fear aside and went straight for the raw fish — sake maki is literally just salmon, sushi rice, and nori, so there’s no hiding from it at all. You can’t tuck it away under layers of vegetables or thick mayo-based sauces — what you see is what you get.
I was remarkably pleased with both the Cali roll and the sake maki. The salmon was firm, very fresh, and had a sweet flavor, which, I might add, is how it should taste no matter what. I live in fear of the muddled flavors of mushy, subpar sushi fish, and there’s absolutely nothing to fear at Asahi. Paired with the ginger, my sake maki was a delightful appetizer and treat (although Husband felt it was a little too sushi-ish with all that raw fish hanging out). I need to include this disclaimer, however: I do not eat wasabi for two reasons: 1) wasabi at Americanized sushi/Japanese joints is made from a powder and therefore doesn’t qualify itself as real wasabi to me and 2) I don’t like to hurt while I eat.
If you were to go to Asahi for the sushi alone (they have some specials, such as late night Friday and Saturday specials and discounted prices on a monthly or even weekly basis (check their Facebook page for updates)), you would leave extremely happy. It’s all fresh and delicious and is served up beautifully — food is art, after all. I can also undoubtedly say, after visiting many a sushi restaurant in Utah county (about whom I’m sure you’ll hear later on), Asahi is the best.
But I would recommend that you pair your sushi with a Japanese food fix as well because everything was really delicious. I ordered the lunch bento box because I love things in bento boxes and for the price was offered a veritable feast. For a measly $6.99, I got miso soup (a nice, light broth with firm tofu and plenty of green onion), chicken teriyaki, rice, salad (and not just your typical bagged lettuce topped with neon orange dressing that makes an appearance at so many Japanese restaurants; an actual salad with mixed greens, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, and mandarin oranges topped with a delicious sesame dressing), and two potstickers. I couldn’t eat it all for fear of bursting right then and there, which would have provided for my fellow diners a really bad culinary experience.
Husband decided upon the chicken donburi, not knowing exactly what it was, but now that we know, it’s magic. Imagine, if you will, a bowl the size of a small planet, filled to the brim with rice, delicious, grilled chicken teriyaki, and tempura vegetables. The teriyaki sauce is thick, a little sweet, and has a nice tang to it, and the tempura batter is very light and crispy, unlike the tempura batter you might find elsewhere that is heavier and greasier. The only downside to this particular dish is that, when all is said and done, you’ll probably be left with about four cups of rice, and that’s simply too much by any standards. That being said, it’s something either of us would order again and was fresh and delicious. His also came with a choice of miso soup or salad, and he opted for the salad (which I would highly recommend having had both).
The bill: $35.18, including tax and tip. For two sushi rolls, one lunch special, and one entree, I found the total to be extremely reasonable. You can obviously get around excess cost by only ordering sushi or only ordering lunch specials; the benefit to Asahi’s expansive menu is that you can get out with a very inexpensive bill or break the bank.
Total score: 8/10 — the sports bar feel left me frustrated, particularly with such good decor and relaxing music, but the food and service were otherwise superb.