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Dining out: Ginza

Published: Friday, Dec. 12 2008 12:20 a.m. MST

A sushi bar is probably not what many Utahns think of when considering a restaurant that would take a little of the chill off the wintry weather we've been having lately.

But a recent lunch at Ginza reinforced my feeling that few cuisines are as opulently comforting as Japanese — you just have to look at it the right way.

When my husband, son and I had lunch at Ginza on a recent weekday, big wet flakes of snow were blowing everywhere and the skies were steel-gray. That made the shoebox-size dining space at Ginza particularly appealing. The wood floors, neon, doo-wop soundtrack and Japanese-style pop art featuring anime and Godzilla make for a warm, quirky space.

The food warms you up right away, as well. Our lunches started with bowls of miso soup, studded with tofu and green onions. Pick up the round bowl in both of your hands, inhale the aromatic steam and take a sip, and you're instantly warm.

My husband had the chicken teriyaki don, a huge bowl of teriyaki chicken and crispy tempura onions, lightly sauced and resting on a bed of sticky rice. It's simple, nourishing and delicious, an obvious comfort food.

My combination box, the teriyaki beef and sashimi, was not so obvious a comfort food, at first glance. The generously proportioned box had four compartments, and while two were filled with warm, steamy food — sesame-sprinkled sticky rice and teriyaki beef — the others contained salad with creamy-sour house dressing and six pieces of raw tuna, striped bass and octopus resting on a bed of daikon.

But what a stimulating balance this lunch achieved! The savory beef was delicious with some rice to sop up its oily juices, and the salad, iceberg lettuce with red cabbage and carrots, was a great palate cleanser.

And then there was the sashimi, a lovely combination of flavors. Sashimi is the most elemental way to eat fish, and if it's good, the result is as rich and satisfying as any casserole or stew. Sure, it's served cold — or, more accurately, cool — but the intense, clean flavor of the fish with the accompanying soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi was explosive in my mouth. The octopus had the brightest flavor, the tuna was dark and strong, and the striped bass richly musky.

I also had a hand roll, a cone of nori filled with cucumber, beautiful little green-leafed sprouts, yellowtail, sticky rice and Ginza's "special spicy sauce." Yellowtail is one of my favorite types of sushi, one of the "fishiest" of fish with a rich smell and taste, and the roll's other ingredients were a nice foil for it. The sauce is definitely special, with a complex and buttery flavor, and most definitely spicy. My first two bites almost blew off the top of my head, but I got used to it as I ate the roll down to the bottom, and the spice became merely warming.

So warming, in fact, that I almost felt I could go back out into the storm without a coat, warmed for the weather from the inside out.

Lunch: appetizers $3.75-$14.95, noodles $11.50-$12.95, combination boxes $11.95-$15.95, donburi $10.95-$11.50, sushi lunch $14.95, tempura lunch $12.50, roll sushi $4.50-$13.95, nigiri sushi $4.95-$6.95, hand roll sushi $4.25-$5.50, sides $1.75-$1.95.

Rating: ***

Where: 209 W. 200 South (second location at 715 E. 12300 South in Draper)

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Friday, 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no out-of-state checks

Phone: 322-2224

Wheelchair access: Cramped, and a few steps and bumps into the dining space


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

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