“Are you sure you want a Havana roll? They have a ton of mayonnaise,” our server warned as we turned in our all-you-can-eat sushi order at Sushi Katsu.
She was grossly underestimating my love of mayonnaise but cautioning me fairly, since most people turn away the Havana roll when it arrives at their table. That's understandable: instead of receiving a neat, tidy sushi roll, you are presented with a pile of brown, white and orange sludge that doesn’t have the slightest resemblance to the precise and artistic platings typical of sushi counters. The roll can be off-putting to a person expecting traditional rice, seaweed and fish and who doesn’t share my fondness of mayo.
But the mess was called the Havana roll, and since the theme of my restaurant explorations is Havana Street, I really couldn’t pass it up. So, when it came to our table, I began eagerly digging into the large masses of blow-torched mayonnaise, mushroom, imitation crab, bay scallops and bits of calamari. The viscous topping was salty from the combination of mayonnaise, mushrooms and roe, while the various seafood tentacles and strands strewn throughout gave each bite a chewy texture. It looked and tasted similar to the dynamite appetizer I’d also ordered (included in the all-you-can eat menu). I was surprised to finally unearth an actual roll underneath the white and brown; it was imitation crabmeat and avocado coated with panko and deep-fried, and the breading had kept its crispy texture despite the intense saturation it had endured.
After the Havana roll, I craved simplicity — exactly what was delivered next in the form of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, albacore and white tuna nigiri. Generous slices of fish were laid on top of small- to medium-sized balls of rice; I appreciated that the sushi chefs didn’t try to falsely beef up the nigiri by adding more rice just to fill up unsuspecting all-you-can-eat diners prematurely. While the red and white tuna slices were silky and meaty, there were a couple pieces that had a dull, mealy taste and may have indicated they weren’t terribly fresh that day.
The bay scallop nigiri was soft and supple and just a touch sweet. The Katsu roll packed a hefty amount of fish: tuna, salmon, imitation crab meat and tempura shrimp, while the calamari roll came on the same plate and looked similar, but was less impressive, with just fried calamari, lettuce and cucumber inside. The chefs were heavy-handed with the brown sticky sauce, as it seemed to accompany nearly everything, which resulted in a uniform taste among all the rolls I tried. Imitation crab was also present in most of the rolls and appetizers, not unexpected considering the low prices of an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.
Sushi Katsu's bottomless lunch menu is $15.95 and includes a variety of appetizers, standard sushi rolls and nigiri, and you can order any of the specialty rolls for an additional $2.95 each. The dinner all-you-can-eat menu comes in at $24.95, but that includes the specialty rolls as well as a variety of salads (such as seaweed or octopus) and some extra appetizers like the creamy jalapeño (a deep-fried pepper stuffed with tuna, crab and cream cheese) and baked New Zealand mussels.
Warning: Come hungry or show some restraint when ordering, because you’ll be charged the regular menu price for anything you order and don’t eat (thus the motivation behind our server’s cautioning about the Havana roll). The servers, instead of one per table, all work together and are constantly visiting your table to ask you if you’d like to order anything else. They’re quick to bring you the food you do request, so ordering small amounts at a time to allow your stomach to catch up with your eyes is a good strategy.
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If you’re not in the mood for all-you-can eat, the menu includes sushi lunch and dinner combinations ($8-$45), and specialty rolls ($9-$15). Sushi Katsu also offers a large variety of salads, party platters and desserts. Give those fishies something to swim in with a selection of wine, Japanese beers and hot or cold sake, and a two-for-one happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Despite some corner-cutting in the form of imitation crab and overdoing the mayo and sweet sauce, Sushi Katsu offers a fair all-you-can-eat deal for the amount of food you get and the low price. The chefs are professional, the service prompt and the staff knowledgeable and friendly. The all-you-can-eat offer allows the customer to venture out of their comfort zone or stick to their humble California roll roots, facilitating a tasty and entertaining dining experience.
Sushi Katsu is located at 2222 South Havana Street, unit H, in Aurora and is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 4:30 to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, staying open half an hour later on Friday and Saturday. Call the restaurant at 303-368-8778 for takeout orders or to make reservations for large parties.