2910 S. Highland Dr.
SLC, UT 84106
Monday 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-close
For a city whose only port is the shrinking, briny remnants of an ancient sea, Salt Lake City certainly has a lot of home-grown sushi restaurants. Fortunately, it seems like most of them excel in their various brands of sushi making. For those who dare make a meal of raw fish in the middle of the Great Basin Desert, here’s a spot worth your dining dollar.
Sushi Groove is a mellow place. Located across from the Visual Art Institute on Highland Drive, the small, laid-back space provides an intimate dining experience. When you’re greeted by the graffiti-style artwork on the wall, you know immediately that you’re not in a pretentious sushi shop. The dining room seems designed to set the guests’ mind at ease, and it is successful at doing exactly that.
I started my meal with an appetizer. The starter portion of their menu offers an assortment of pretty standard Japanese fare like miso soup, edamame and pork or vegetable gyoza. They also had a few items that were foreign to me. I opted for the unfamiliar and ordered a plate of Mussels ($4.95). Their mussels come in a set of four. They are served chopped and on the half shell, mixed with a slightly creamy and spicy sauce. For an extra dollar, you can get them topped with a quail egg. I decided to go egg-free with mine, and the results were great. The meat was tender and sweet, and the sauce added the perfect degree of saltiness.
Moving on to the sushi rolls, I wanted to continue my urge to try new things. The first roll to come out was their signature Groove Roll ($9.95). The Groove Roll combines spicy albacore, crunchy tempura bits and avocado. These three ingredients are wrapped in rice and seaweed, and topped with generously thick-sliced marlin, mango and eel sauce. Holy hell was this good. The delicate flavor of the avocado was not overpowered by the other tastes competing for my attention, and it paired well texturally with the crunch of the tempura and the firmness of the fish. The sliced marlin on top was my favorite part of the roll, and I hope to return soon to give this one another try.
The next two rolls, the Coco Loco and the Fried Vegi, came out at the same time. Coco Loco ($11.95) is made with coconut-fried shrimp and avocado topped with spicy tuna, albacore, mango, cilantro and a roasted pepper sauce. This one packed a little more heat than I thought it would, but it wasn’t too spicy. The spicy tuna and the tart, citrus-based serrano ponzu added more flavor than heat, and they tied the savory-themed roll together well. The coconut shrimp was the dominant flavor, and that’s how it should have been. The Fried Vegi ($6.50) was the only roll we ordered from the extensive vegetarian-friendly part of the menu. This one came stuffed with cream cheese, avocado, green onion and asparagus. It was then tempura-battered and fried and topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo and teriyaki sauce. This would be the perfect gateway roll for a sushi novice. The selection of vegetables blended well with the warm cream cheese, and the fact that the entire thing was fried made it that much better. One of my dinner mates found the spicy mayo a little off-putting, but I think it was exactly what the roll needed to taste complete.
Speaking of fried, you really shouldn’t leave Sushi Groove without ordering the Cookie Challenge ($7.95). This curious dessert item consists of the tempting combination of tempura-fried Oreos and coconut tempura-fried Nutter Butters—you get a pair of each. They are served alongside two scoops of the house-made ice cream (we opted for vanilla and Nutella), a sliced banana and a thick fudge sauce. While hardly a “challenge” to eat, be sure to leave room in your stomach and your budget to order this. The fryer does little to distort the flavor or the texture of the cookies, but the added layer of breading elevates the eating experience to a new plane. The banana is a nice and necessary touch. Its freshness cuts the richness of the crisp cookies and, when eaten with a chunk of Nutter Butter, brings a quasi-Elvis “goldmine” sandwich vibe to the dessert (Elvis was keen on grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches). It is definitely worth a try.
While Sushi Groove is primarily a sushi destination, don’t let your one picky friend keep you from giving it a shot. For those looking for more than just sushi, they also offer a variety of rice bowls ($8.95-$10.95), teriyaki combo plates ($10.95-$12.95) and have even recently added a kids’ menu. They also have a good selection of soft drinks, juices, tea and, of course, a beer, wine and sake menu. In all, Sushi Groove combines friendly service, great prices and a truly fun venue. Be sure to put this gem of a restaurant on your list of places to try.