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As soon as the plate was set down, I stopped my conversation mid-sentence to reach out and gingerly chopstick a disc of raw scallop, ruining the display of lemon, cucumber and momiji-ichigo berries that had been delicately arranged alongside. I examined the slice of shellfish for a second, then popped it in my mouth. It was ocean-air cold, smooth and supple and sweet, perfumed lightly with the scent of the sea.
It was the freshest scallop I'd ever tasted. And not five minutes before, it had still been alive.
I was sitting at the wooden sushi bar at Land of Sushi in the middle of the afternoon, a few hours after the lunch rush, a few hours before the Friday-night dinner crowd. Rob and I were the only people in the restaurant, and we'd had an eager team of servers ready to help us before we'd even taken off our coats.
2412 E. Arapahoe Road
Centennial, CO 80122
Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs
"Our uni just walked in the door five minutes ago," one of them had said excitedly. "It's so fresh!"
"If you like scallops, you HAVE to have the live scallops," another had confided. "I swear to God, you'll love them."
It's possible they were just trying to upsell us — both suggestions were priced significantly higher than the rest of the sizable menu — but their enthusiasm was convincing. So we'd included the uni and scallops when we ordered, then sat back and watched the sushi chef methodically slice long strips of fish while the waitstaff swirled around us, filling our tea cups and bringing us hot towels.
Land of Sushi opened eleven years ago in a strip mall across from what was then Southglenn Mall, now the Streets at SouthGlenn, and quickly made a splash. Owners Steve and Jessie Lin are Chinese, but Steve trained in sushi restaurants in New York before coming out to Colorado to open his own spot. He and his chef, Ben Liu, who is also Chinese, are "both really creative," says Jessie. "They love seeing a really fresh piece of fish." The quality of the fish at Land of Sushi is a testament to their passion. They get shipments every day, Jessie says, including Sundays, when many sushi spots rely on day-old fish, and regularly bring in such rarities as live scallops.
While the seafood selection is impressive, the restaurant itself doesn't look like much. Beyond the nondescript entrance, the dining room is comfortable but modest, with stone-topped tables crowded into a boxy space decorated rather haphazardly with mismatched wall hangings and a whiteboard listing the day's specials. During the day, this could be someone's rec room; at night, strands of lights glowing overhead add some intimacy. But always, the focus is on the brightly lit sushi bar, often attended by three chefs and flanked by an L-shaped counter that's usually full of guests.
The bare-bones ambience means there's nothing to distract your attention from the food — and the food definitely deserves your attention. We'd watched as the chef pried the live scallop from its shell, cut it into four slices, plated them and added the garnishes; the scallop also came with a salad of spinach, cherry tomatoes and bits of zucchini, as well as mushrooms and prawns battered with an ethereally light tempura. The scallop wasn't actually alive by the time we started chewing the slices — though I've heard that this preparation sometimes causes the recently deceased critter to twitch reflexively on the tongue. But because it was so fresh, it hadn't gotten that fishy taste that scallops acquire within just a few hours. The slight sweetness balanced beautifully against the aforementioned tart berries — which looked like prickly raspberries — and ginger and soy sauce in the salad dressing. And the silky texture played well against the crispy batter of the tempura. All in all, the scallop was a stunning start to our dinner.
More Photos: Get hooked on Land of Sushi
We were about ready to lick the plate clean when the uni arrived. The first time I tried sea urchin, at a mediocre fish joint, I stuffed a yellow-orange glob in my mouth that tasted like dirty sand from a crowded beach. Spongy even when absolutely fresh, uni has a flavor that has to grow on you. But once it does, it's addictive: subtle, almost earthy. Land of Sushi's uni came in quivering hunks over vinegared rice, bound together by a sheet of nori. Bracingly cold, it slid down my throat and into my belly, cooling my innards as it traveled. I could have eaten a platter's worth. Instead, we dug into a brick of agedashi tofu, fried until the skin was crispy, sprinkled with a tuft of scallions and sitting in a warm broth enlivened with soy sauce and rice wine. It was more crumbly than I would have liked, but was still a good break between rounds of sushi.
The chef soon passed a massive platter of sashimi and nigiri to our server, who set it down before us: thick, ruby-colored tuna; orange salmon dense with fat; silky, delicate yellowtail; silvery striped bass. Every bite tasted slick, pure and absolutely fresh. We made liberal use of the wasabi-spiked soy sauce and strips of sweet-spicy pickled ginger, and ate raw fish until we were swimming in it. And still, we somehow found room for balls of strawberry and red-bean ice cream encased in mochi, a gummy wrapper made of rice.
My friends, My friends, me, me, I, I
NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU OR YOUR STUPID FUCKING FRIENDS !!!!
Worst writer for the Westword. Ever. Give us another tale about your waistline Laura ! You suck.
I've been going to Land of Sushi for years. love their fish, they are always fresh and tasty! im glad to see they have been found by the westword!
I think this review is horrifying and disgusting. Live scallops? Are you next going to invite Gordon Ramsey over to eat still-beating hearts of animals? Laura is an absolutely disappointing reviewer and Westword has lost my support. Permanently.
I dig it, wonderful spot. One of my favorite places to get sushi in Denver. Keep it up Land'oSushi!!
I'm so happy to see Land of Sushi on here! They always have the best service and their specials are absolutely mind-blowing. Quality is phenomenal, unpretentious AND affordable. If you go here, be sure to try the hamachi orange roll or the bluefin tuna/avocado sashimi with citrus/soy dressing - amazing. After all these years of serving the finest sushi they really deserve this recognition, so go check them out!
Great review and spot on!. I ate there recently and it might just beat out my favorite sushi place, Sushi Basho in old town Littleton.
Everyone just loves SUSHIIIII!!! or at leats most of the world i should say :)
Land of Sushi just made weekends more exciting for us!!
Sashimi is great!!!
I hope they will be on discount soon!
Visit Crumblrr for discounts!