Cafe Society

Round two with Sushi Sasa's Wayne Conwell

Page 2 of 3

Favorite ingredient: Dashi -- bonito and konbu stock -- is a major component of many Japanese dishes and indispensable at Sushi Sasa. I feel a sense of meditation and daily reaffirmation when I make it -- even if I am constantly making small adjustments, chasing the unattainable perfect batch.

Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Verde Farms for its microgreens, especially the mizuna and amaranth. Josh Halder, who created Verde Farms, must be making a killing. Does Pinkberry yogurt count as a local ingredient? Anyway...I also love to use Pinkberry's original yogurt in my sparkling sake float.

Favorite spice: I love to use different salts in my dishes. Some salts add infused flavors, others give interesting textures, and some even lend subtle colors. I've learned much about salt from trial and error. When I dine out, my biggest complaint is when dishes are overly salty, and while I think I prefer a less-is-more approach as I get older, I still think that salt is extremely important as a finishing touch. I use Alderwood smoked sea salt on my monkfish liver plate, and it really amplifies all the subtle flavors, plus it gives it a level of sophistication. And, yes, I do realize that salt, by itself, really isn't a sp

Most underrated ingredient: Tomatoes are underrated, right? I love them, and you'll find them used one way or another in most of my dishes. I especially love to use raw tomatoes on our more modern sashimi creations.

Most overrated ingredient: Yuzu isn't exactly overrated, but it's definitely overused. Like the chefs caught in the trap of pumping truffle oil or truffles into every creation under the sun, the same is true for yuzu. At one point, it was only overused in Japanese cuisine, but now you find it everywhere. Why? Because it creates aroma and flavor, and its expense adds to the grandeur of fine dining. The biggest drawback is that the palate grows tired of it and then everything begins to taste the same. There was a time at Sasa when I had to have a chef meeting to address the subject, because most of our newer sauces and dressings had yuzu juice or peel as an ingredient, and I was getting flat-out burned out on it. Everyone realized what I was talking about -- and we were all in agreement -- so we started to wean a lot of our recipes off of the yuzu.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson