Omakase at Naked Fish

Flash-fried botan ebi.
Flash-fried botan ebi.

One of the philosophies on life I try most to live by is one of the simplest: “Collect moments, not things.”  After discovering the saying years ago, I was inspired to shift the focus of my monetary spending to creating lasting memories instead of purchasing stuff that would eventually wear out, get old or grow bored with.

Hatsu pâté with cherry blossom at Naked Fish.
Simply beautiful: hatsu pâté.

This mantra of creating moments eventually led to my focus on traveling and cherishing food.  The concept is simple: live each moment and savor the memories created from them.

Baby squid on a bed of cucumbers at Naked Fish in Salt Lake City.
We started with baby squid and cucumbers.

As a result, I’m more likely to give the gift of an experience rather than a tangible object.  I want to create a memory with those I care about that can be cherished forever instead of giving them something they’ll likely forget about in a few months.  After having the omakase dinner at Naked Fish last summer, I wanted to treat my parents to the same experience.  So I recently gave them gift cards to the restaurant with a promise of an omakase together.

The sashimi plate at Naked Fish, complete with still-moving botan ebi.
The sashimi plate, complete with still-moving botan ebi.

Omakase is the Japanese equivalent to a chef’s tasting menu, served as a series of small plates that is largely up to the chef to decide.  In fact, the translation of omakase is “I’ll leave it to you.”  It’s similar to the Japanese kaiseki, a multi-course meal based on regional cuisine focused on the complementary tastes, textures and visual beauty of food.

Scallops, dashi and puffed rice.
Scallops, dashi and puffed rice.

When my parents and I were in Japan in 2012 we went to a traditional kaiseki dinner, one of the most elaborate and extravagant meals any of us have ever experienced.  I knew that the omakase at Naked Fish would transport the three of us back to Japan, back to our kaiseki dinner at Kichisen, back to our sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji Fish Market and back to our life-changing trip to visit the land of our ancestors.

The meal did even more than that.

Flash-fried botan ebi.
Flash-fried botan ebi.

The meal started with a series of three bites: a tiny sous vide squid, seaweed with ginger in a shot glass and tuna sashimi.  A sashimi plate followed, complete with botan ebi so fresh that it was still moving (even sans body; see it on instagram here).  As the head wiggled around, the body was for consuming.  Served sashimi-style, the shrimp was delicately sweet with a slightly crunchy texture, much more preferable (in my opinion) than when shrimp is cooked.

Chicken heart pate on parmesan tuile with thyme and honey.
Chicken heart pate on parmesan tuile with thyme and honey.

An eye-pleasing and palate-tickling plate of hotategai (scallops), dashi (sea stock), puffed rice and fish eggs arrived next.  The crunchy eggs were like bursts of salt, contrasting the melt-in-your-mouth hotategai.  Then came a beautiful display of hatsu pâté (chicken heart paste) on parmesan tuile with thyme, a drizzle of honey and an edible cherry blossom.  Next was more nigiri; followed by avocado, pickled cucumber, cilantro and squid in a green tea broth; and the return of the botan ebi head, now flash-fried and as crunchy as potato chips with a seaweed salad and spicy sauce.

Avocado, cucumber and squid in green tea broth.
Avocado, cucumber and squid in green tea broth.

As the omakase progressed the dishes got heavier.  Next came the kurobuta, Berkshire pork belly with black radish and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums).  This was mind-blowing.  Tart, savory, juicy and phenomenal.  Yet, it got better: then came the wagyu miyazaki striploin, the best steak my tongue has ever touched, served with asparagus.  And, finally, an ice cream sandwich composed of ginger-cocoa nib shortbread.

Pork belly, radish and umeboshi.
Pork belly, radish and umeboshi.

The omakase was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in Salt Lake City.  And beyond that, it was an amazing experience.  We tried fish and foods we’d never had before, including shrimp so fresh it was still moving; we tasted combinations of flavors and textures we’d never dream would go together; and Chef Sunny even convinced my mom to retract her hatred of uni (sea urchin).  My dad said it was one of the best meals of his entire life.

Wagyu beef.
Wagyu beef.

The evening was an extravagant collection of moments, strewn together by tastes and textures, enjoyed with my wonderful parents.  It will definitely be a dinner that I won’t soon forget.

Ice cream sandwiches with ginger cocoa nib shortbread.
Ice cream sandwiches to end the meal.

Naked Fish‘s omakase changes regularly and varies by price.  It starts at $65/person with an optional wine pairing for an additional $35.  Some dishes, like the wagyu beef, are additional.  (My friend Stuart wrote a great review with all the details of the omakase on The Utah Review here.)  The chef will start by asking about dishes or fish you don’t like, so don’t worry if eating a recently-moving shrimp is not your thing.  The omakase requires reservations with at least 48 hours notice; they are available online here.

Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to my omakase by Naked Fish.  All opinions are my own.

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