Cherry Hills Sushi Co. perplexed the neighborhood just a little when it opened at 1400 East Hampden Avenue in 2016, what with its minimalist decor, pared-down menu and a sushi bar that looked nothing like a sushi bar. Where were the glass cases filled with gleaming fish, or the sushi chef in his traditional Japanese chef's jacket?
But neighbors soon caught on, enjoying the personalized attention that comes with temaki (hand-roll) sushi service, where each piece is presented one at a time in sequence. With only twenty seats, Cherry Hills Sushi Co. felt like an intimate dinner party, with sake and Japanese beer and whiskey flowing between each hand roll filled with blue crab, spicy tuna or lobster.
In 2018, chef/owner Bradford Kim took over part of the building that once housed Tante Louise at 4900 East Colfax Avenue, with a plan to expand his sushi restaurant into a new neighborhood. Permitting and construction delays pushed the opening to June of this year, and the liquor license took even longer to procure, but Park Hill Sushi Co. is now firing on all cylinders. With that accomplished, Kim turned his attention to northwest Denver, opening Berkeley Park Sushi Co. at 4404 Yates Street last night (Monday, September 23).
While the new outpost, at 32 seats, is a little bigger than the original, Kim says it's still small enough to provide guests with the kind of service he prefers. "I like to find locations that are less congested, more neighborhood-y," he explains. "We don't like it to be overcrowded; we want our staff to pay attention to every customer."
Berkeley Park Sushi Co. occupies a row of new retail shops on the corner of Yates and West 44th Avenue, several blocks from teeming Tennyson Street. Amethyst Coffee opened on the same corner last fall, and Kim says there's also a wine bar in the works.
Like the other two locations, all of the seating here is around a central bar. With no clutter or glass cases on the bar top, guests have a clear view of the entire space, and the sushi rollers can make eye contact with their customers. The menu is small, though it's grown a little in the past three years. There are ten hand rolls (seven standard and three "special"), along with six sashimi options and a mochi ice cream flight for dessert. You can order hand rolls in sets of three, four or five, add premium wasabi (made from the real root, not horseradish powder) for $1.75, or choose a chirashi bowl if you'd prefer your seafood layered over rice.
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The key to enjoying temaki is to eat it immediately after it's handed to you. That way, you can enjoy the crisp nori wrapper and the contrast of warm rice and cool fish. Let it sit, and the nori becomes chewy (so save your Instagram shots for the gorgeous mural on the dining room wall painted by Denver artist Casey Kawaguchi).
Beyond the sushi, the big draw at Berkeley Park Sushi Co. is the impressive roster of Japanese booze, with twenty sake labels available by the glass or in flights ranging from $13 to $30; a connoisseur's selection of Japanese and Taiwanese whisky, and what Kim says is the longest list of Japanese craft beers in the city. Indeed, the choices number more than twenty, from the familiar Orion to the rare Japanese Ale Sansho, subtly flavored with the same tingly, peppery spice that makes Sichuan cuisine so addictive.
Kim notes that his goal is to target locations off the beaten path for his sushi bars. "When I opened the first one, I made it scalable so I could drop it into different neighborhoods," he says, adding that he'd like to open two or three more in metro Denver before looking to other cities and beyond Colorado.
Berkeley Park Sushi Co. is now open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday. The Cherry Hills location also serves lunch, and Kim plans to add lunch here, too, if there's enough demand from the neighborhood. Call 720-379-5261 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.