Mori Japanese Restaurant

Mori is an unusual place. For starters, it's housed in an old VFW post that's done double-duty as a Japanese restaurant since 1948. But the building dates further back than that, to the 1890s, when it was a brothel (and a fairly popular one, from what I understand). Today, depending on which door you enter, the space is full of odd little corners stacked with cast-off signage and broken restaurant equipment. Even in the bar and seating areas, the carpets are ragged, the tile floors scuffed from fifty years of shuffling passage and the decor teetering right on the edge of Asian kitsch without quite tumbling over. But if you can get past the look of the place both outside and in and make your way to the often busy dining room with its ten-seat sushi bar, you'll be rewarded with consistently good sushi. The fish is always fresh, the staff is always friendly, the specials are always interesting (this past Friday: Scottish oak-smoked kosher salmon and salmon toro), and the crew working the bar has a surprisingly modernist take for a sushi bar that's been serving since the start of Denver's love affair with Asian cuisine. The Mori special consists of choice bits of the day's best fish wrapped with real shredded crab meat inside a skin of cucumber, topped with orange tobiko and then double-sauced with a bitter miso dressing and a lace of sweet vinegar. The result is a great six-pack of rolls that can easily be turned into a full meal with the addition of one of the Edo standards that the rollers behind the bar do very well, or anything off the comprehensive Japanese menu. Mori isn't the prettiest restaurant in the city, but what it lacks in looks it certainly makes up for with the comfort of good company and long history.


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