Cherry Hills Village will get a rare new restaurant when Cherry Hills Sushi Co. opens at 11 a.m. today in a shopping center at the corner of Hampden Avenue and South Lafayette Street. The minimalist eatery is the project of chef Bradford Kim and his wife, Olivia Maeng; they're focusing on a small menu of temaki — sushi hand rolls — supplemented with creatively presented sashimi.
Typical hand rolls are conical in shape but Kim says he prefers a cylindrical roll because it keeps the nori wrapper from getting soggy. This is important because of the temperature and texture contrasts that make temaki different from standard rolls found in almost every other sushi restaurant in Denver. High-grade nori (yes, the seaweed wrappers come in differing levels of quality) holds warm rice and cool fish in rolls made to order and meant to be eaten immediately, so that the wrapper maintains its crunch. Customer orders are paced so that the next temaki is made only after the first is finished.
Five standard (cucumber, salmon, tuna, spicy tuna and blue crab) and three premium (lobster, uni and toro) temaki make up the opening hand-roll list at $4 and $7.50, respectively. Although the rolls can be ordered individually, the better deal is to order three for $10 or five for $18 (which includes the choice of one premium roll). Any additional sashimi orders (three pieces for $7 or six for $13) are alternated so that flavors and textures follow a palate-pleasing order, Kim notes. And because seafood is seasonal, the menu options will vary depending on what's freshest.
You won't find distracting side dishes, crazy ingredients, deep-fryers or multiple types of seafood in one roll on the menu; each hand roll is designed to bring out the best in the ingredients and to highlight the freshness and quality of the fish. Kim says this style of sushi bar is very common in Japan and is growing in popularity in California, where he and Maeng have lived for the past thirteen years. (Maeng is a Denver native who attended Eagle Crest High School and the University of Colorado.)
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The space itself is as spartan as the menu, with a twenty-seat bar and no tables. Sleek subway tile, pinewood accents and a bar top made from industrial plywood beams add visual interest without distracting from the food. The west wall features an undulating row of wooden disks (which double as coat hooks) meant to resemble the Rocky Mountain skyline. Noticeable in their absence are the standard seafood cases of typical sushi bars; Kim prefers to keep his bar top open to remove the barrier between customers and sushi chefs.
Kim and Maeng have applied for a liquor license, which they hope to receive in early March, but in the meantime green tea, bottled water and Japanese ramune sodas are available.
Kim says he plans to keep the menu simple for now but will add specials once customers become acquainted with the concept and as seasonal seafood becomes available. He also plans to hold occasional pop-up dinners with guest chefs and pairings with local wine shops, for example.
Cherry Hills Sushi Co. will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.