Vegan options aren’t just an afterthought at Blue Sushi Sake Grill, located at 1616 16th Street. The vegan “sushi” is creative, intricate and varied, giving plenty of options for fans of plant-based Japanese cuisine.
The downtown sushi bar, one of fourteen outposts in nine states, offers at least a dozen rolls completely free of fish (and other meats), dairy and eggs. The Prince Roll, for example, is built with crispy eggplant tempura, avocado and sweet soy sauce, while the Shiitake to Me contains mushrooms cooked in coconut milk, tempura sweet potato, truffle oil and Thai basil.
Tony Gentile, owner and corporate executive chef of Blue Sushi, says choosing ingredients that are socially responsible, high quality and inspired are what makes the vegan menu special.
“It’s a creative outlet for us to be able to use these ingredients and manipulate them to be fresh and vibrant,” he explains.
One standout ingredient used in a unique way is tomato, which Blue Sushi transforms into a dense, meaty topping that looks like and eats like tuna; it appears in a roll with avocado, sesame seeds, soy sauce and scallions. There's also a vegan caviar that incorporates seaweed to add an oceany flavor, and an eel substitute made with eggplant.
“We are starting to get sushi and meat eaters really loving this stuff, too,” Gentile adds.
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Many of the rolls add creative elements beyond being plant-based. The Cowgirl is made with tempura-fried pickles, sriracha-fried onion rings, vegan mayo, barbecue paper and tonkatsu sauce. And the Thai Hippie uses crispy fried tofu as the main protein, with mint, cilantro, Thai basil, peanut sauce, cucumber, avocado and cashew adding Southeast Asian flavors.
Vegan side dishes come in the form of spicy charred edamame, crispy Brussels sprouts in lemon miso sauce, and tempura Japanese eggplant with scallion aioli.
“We want to keep dishes light, vibrant, fun and layered with flavors,” the chef notes. “In order for it to hit all the levels, it’s got to be memorable."
Blue Sushi Sake Grill is located at 1616 16th Street and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. For details, call 303-640-3655 or visit the restaurant's website.