Sushi-and-Sapporo Quest 2008 begins when I suggest to Noel that we go to Parallel 17, since I'd scootered by there a few hours earlier and noticed that all the umbrellas on the patio bore the welcoming Sapporo insignia.
But I'd been duped. Despite those casual umbrellas, Parallel 17 is a modern Vietnamese fusion joint (alas, no sushi), and a pricey one at that. We're already seated on the wraparound patio when I realize this, so we order big bottles of Sapporo and a spring roll appetizer and weigh our options. "I need sushi now," I tell Noel. "Sweet, wasabi-drenched sushi washed down with delicious Sapporo. Think we can find a sushi boat place?" I'm looking for kaiten sushi, at a low-rent spot where plates of sushi rotate around on conveyor belts (or better, float around on boats traversing moats); I've heard a lot about it, but have yet to find one in town. Using my phone, I Google "sushi boat Denver" and find, miraculously, a place called Sushi Boat down south. "Holy shit!" I exclaim. "This is going to be awesome." But awesome is not in the cards, because when I call, the number is disconnected. We give up on nautically transported raw fish and decide to go with proximity.
Nohana Sushi (it was Sushi Heights before that) has always been a mainstay — but when we arrive at this Colfax spot around 8 p.m., we find a sign on the door saying that its lease has ended and it is (gasp!) closed forever. "Nooo!" I yell in all directions at once. "No! No! NO!" Sadder (and exponentially more pathetic) than a kicked puppy, I melancholy my way back to the car and we head for Mori Sushi Bar downtown. No thanks to a ball game in progress, we have to circle the block a few times before finding a spot on the street. "You're going to love this place," I tell Noel as we saunter up to the door and — wait for it — discover that Mori is fucking closed for fucking remodeling.
At this point I'm so exasperated I could cry. Noel just laughs. "I really think the universe is telling you not to eat sushi tonight," he says. But my craving cannot be abated. I'm possessed. "One more place," I plead. "Let's try one more place."
That place turns out to be Sushi & Chopsticks (1630 Welton Street). "This is a seriously deranged sushi quest we're on right now," Noel mutters with contempt as he steers us downtown. It's 8:35 p.m. by the time we find parking two blocks away and stroll into the restaurant at the base of the Colorado Athletic Club. The place is deserted and closes at 9 p.m., so immediately we feel bad, but then the lone native-English-speaking employee makes us feel infinitely welcome. "Hi guys!" she says with enough cheer to sell teddy bears to torturers. "Wanna sit at the bar?"
Yes, we do. Once seated, I order my second big bottle of Sapporo (of the night) and start marking my order form. As this I do this, our server asks how the night is going so far. "Oh, you don't want to know," I reply. But she does, so I tell the story of our incredible quest while she laughs sympathetically. With no other customers ordering, within minutes our rolls are rolled and our House Special fried rice (beef, pork, chicken and shrimp) is steaming in front of us. It's all delicious. I murder my first Sapporo and order another, along with three extra helpings of wasabi, which arrive each time with a smile and a look of "I'm impressed!" from our server. We glance at our watches and try to eat quickly, finishing and getting the check just after 9 p.m. Oddly enough, I have cash on me, and I throw an extra ten dollar bill on top of an already 20 percent tip. "Sorry to keep you late," we say to our server as she hands us delivery menus on our way out the door. "See you next time."
Next time, as it turns out, is the next morning. In our rush to not be bothers, I'd left my phone sitting on the bar. Before coming to this realization, I first call Noel to see if it's in his car. "I told you that you weren't supposed to have sushi last night," he says. I sigh and think: After everything we went through — the driving, the parking, the almost-not-getting sushi and Sapporo — I might have lost my phone on top of it? Ridiculous. Thankfully, when I show up at the restaurant at 10:35 a.m. (five minutes after it opens), I find our same server washing the glass windows facing Welton. "I have your phone," she says to me with playful condescension before I can even speak.
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"Thank God. Thank you so much," I reply as she hands it to me.
"See you next time?" she asks.
See you next time. Only next time I'll know to come straight here.