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Dining out: Tsunami

Published: Friday, June 30 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

MIDVALE — At first glance, Tsunami seems all about style — but it turns out there's substance to back up all those swooping curves, sleek modern furnishings and shimmery silver drapes that seclude the cozy booths from the rest of the dining room in this new Union Heights eatery.

To make sure, I took along my friend Wendy, a sushi authority who grew up sipping miso instead of chicken-noodle soup when she was sick and stayed home from school.

We started with a bowl of tender, grass-green edamame, slightly warm and sprinkled sparingly with flaky salt. Edamame is to a sushi bar what a bowl of shelled peanuts is to a regular kind of bar, and we happily conversed and munched while we waited for our meal.

Soon, we also had bowls of aromatic miso soup, with plenty of tofu cubes, scallions and tiny, pert enoki mushrooms drifting through the soup's cloudy broth. Wendy said her mom has always felt that quality miso is the true test of any restaurant that purports to serve Japanese food, and Tsunami passed easily on this score.

The first plate to arrive was our sashimi, tuna in our case, though our server wasn't sure if it was big-eye or bluefin. Either way, it was delicious: six firm, dark-red pieces with a smooth texture and powerful ocean tang, accompanied by a mound of wasabi and another of thin-sliced ginger.

The pieces were both small — a bit bigger than an inch square — and a little miserly, considering their hefty $15 price tag. However, they were of superlative quality and will no doubt be worth it for many diners.

We also enjoyed two of Tsunami's special rolls, first the D.T.H. (our server said no one besides Tsunami's owners knows what it stands for) and then the Sunshine. The D.T.H. was unbelievably rich: tempura-fried tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado, with a creamy, slightly spicy sauce. The flavors were nice, but to my taste, this roll was a bit too rich, with little of the contrast that makes sushi such an adventure.

But I loved, loved, loved the Sunshine, a snappy combination of tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, tender little asparagus, avocado and shining orange flying-fish eggs, wrapped in soy paper. It's topped with eel sauce, one of my favorites, and it would be difficult to think of a more appealing mix of flavors and textures. The shrimp with its still-crispy batter, the silky avocado and the firm asparagus stood out most, but the tiny eggs, which popped tautly between our teeth with each bite, were a stimulating finish.

Though I found Tsunami a bit too expensive, I feel compelled to point out that there are plenty of less-expensive items on the menu, with sushi rolls as cheap as $4.25, reasonably priced salads, and lunch items from bento boxes to udon, Japanese noodle soup. I happened to order the more expensive items, but you don't have to.

Of course, if you don't, you'll miss out on the Sunshine, and that would be a real shame.

Appetizers $4-$6.50; lunch items (bento boxes, udon, donburi, specials) $5.50-$15; soups and salads $2.50-$5.75; nigiri sushi (single pieces) $2-$4; nigiri sushi combinations $12-$22.50; rolls and special rolls $4.25-$15; sashimi $14-$15; sides 50 cents-$2.75; small entrees $4.50-$12.50; large entrees $12.75-$15.95.

Rating: ***

Where: 7628 S. Union Park Ave., Midvale (also 2223 S. Highland Drive)

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5:30-10 p.m.

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Payment: No checks accepted

Reservations: Encouraged

Phone: 467-5545

Wheelchair access: Easy


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com