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sushi tour: amu

It was too hot to eat dinner while the sun was still up this evening. Wait a sec… *we* felt it was too hot to eat dinner while the sun was still up this evening. We didn’t sit down to our meal until 9 pm and it was still light out (love that, actually). While I waited for the house to cool down a little, I stepped out onto the deck to admire the skies to the west and enjoy the cooling mountain air. I love clouds because they can form some incredible patterns, but I especially love clouds at sunset because the light can play some beautiful colors.

like a magic show

it almost looks organic

3000 feet lower in Boulder, the daytime temperatures are standing solidly in the 80s (F) and flirting with the 90s (F). What better timing then to continue our sushi tour? On Wednesday, we dined at Amu for dinner. Amu is situated next to and operated by Sushi Zanmai. Zanmai is a darling of Boulder and probably one of the venerated favorites. My experiences at Zanmai have always left me feeling that 1) I spent a lot of money 2) I got mediocre sushi for the price 3) the service suuuuuucks and 4) every damn YUH (Young Urban Hipster) and aging hippie flocks to the place making the wait all the more annoying considering what you get at the end of it all. However, my chemo nurse assured me that Amu was different and very good.

the sign is easily missed

The interior of the restaurant is small and narrow. There was a table for 6, ten seats at the bar, and maybe a private room or two in the back. We were asked to remove our shoes before sitting at the bar.

enter the bar through a giant noren

seats soon to be filled

For those in search of California rolls or the generic assortment of sushi – that dog don’t hunt. Not here anyway. This bar serves traditional Japanese fare and the menu has specials from the kitchen and sashimi from the bar. No sushi. If you want sushi, go next door and suffer the crappy wait staff at Zanmai (yeah, I really detest those blokes).

to start

Our little dish of complimentary starter was a delightful cold “salad” of broccoli in a miso dressing with some kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and what Jin tells me is konnyaku (part of the voodoo lily family – thanks, Jin!). I decided on an order of marinated seaweed because I thought I was ordering a seaweed salad.


That wasn’t quite the salad I was expecting. In fact, it was nothing like what I was expecting. However, mixed with the minced ginger, it was a tangy and savory almost noodle-like dish. I was lukewarm about it. Jeremy was not loving this one at all (the man frightens easily when it comes to certain foods), so I finished it. I mean, seaweed is supposed to be good for your hair… that is what Grandma tells me. It’s about time my hair started to grow back, yeah?

sashimi assortment

Enough screwing around though… it was time to get down to business, and that business would be gorgeous, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi. Why fill up on rice when you can enjoy protein in its loveliest form? If sashimi were a man, it would be a metrosexual because it is so pretty – and I would date the hell out of him. Oh yes… I would… All of the sashimi (sake, maguro, bonito, hamachi, tako) was fresh and tasted like a rich kiss in the mouth. Excellent quality.

binnaga tataki

Next up: the seared albacore tuna. This delicate fish was dressed in a citrusy ponzu under a mound of shiso chiffonade, green onions, fennel, and garlic. The combination of vegetation was terrific and had a wonderful perfume (the shiso is so refreshing), but overpowered the subtle flavor of the albacore somewhat. I enjoyed the plate, although Jeremy was suspiciously generous about letting me finish it off.

halibut sashimi special

I watched with fascination while our sushi chef, Yuki, prepared a long fillet of halibut. That’s right, folks – we had a female sushi chef. My first ever! And she was AWESOME. Yuki trained in Japan for 5 years and in Boulder for 13 years. Although she doesn’t tele, she does ride at Vail, her resort of choice. *Sweet* Because if you live in a state blessed with powder, what the hell are you doing if you aren’t skiing or riding?

Okay, back to the halibut. The sashimi was served with ponzu for dipping. It was fresh with a good, firm texture. Yuki also advised that we dip the little omelette rolls in soy sauce. Those little omelette rolls were amazing. She wrapped a thin egg sheet around slices of halibut with shiso and thinly sliced cucumber. The combination of the flavors and textures was *brilliant*.

ahhhhh, hamachi

We ended the meal with a final order of hamachi sashimi. The hamachi was sublime and the pieces substantial. Our server asked if we wanted to order any dessert and I informed her that hamachi is essentially dessert to us. The service at Amu was the best of the sushi tour thus far. It’s a little hard to compare with the others because it is so much more authentic (Japanese) and the style of the food is quite different. We certainly felt Amu was a good experience and it comes close to dethroning Tora, but… Sushi Tora is still #1 for us, by a hair. What we are discovering is that Boulder – in the middle of a landlocked state and over 1000 miles from the nearest coast – has a lot of great sushi to offer.

1221 Spruce St.
Boulder, CO 80302

June 18, 2008
$58.76 (including tax, not tip) for two diners
Rating: 93/100 (A)

1) Sushi Tora
2) Amu Sake Bar and Restaurant
3) Ai Sushi and Steak

I’m just so thrilled to be eating sushi again, and sushi this good. Yip!

19 nibbles at “sushi tour: amu”

  1. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Holy crap! I am literally drooling here! That is some of the most gorgeous sashimi I have ever laid eyes on. I am so totally jealous! We have some decent sushi places here, but they sure don’t have most of the delectable things I’ve seen on your tour.

    No cold weather. No good shopping. No Sushi Tora or Amu. What the hell am I still doing here!?!?

  2. peabody says:

    What gorgeous shots of the clouds. Of course you are torturing me with your raw food. :(

  3. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    This photos are gorgeous, the very first one looks like the clouds are on fire.

  4. Woolly says:

    I love sushi…. We have a ton of sushi places where I live. I have been to all of them at least ten times. Can’t get enough, it is hands down my fav food.

    I agree with you about the amazing things you see with clouds at sunset or sunrise. I have a bunch of pic’s of the sunsets off my back deck and I never get tired of watching.

  5. Jin says:

    The brown-ish grey square savory mochi thing is called konnyaku.

    Great pictures.

  6. Pam says:

    Another great post with beautiful pictures!

  7. manggy says:

    (Hee, poor Jeremy…) It seems as though you had practically not a single complaint about this place, which leads me to believe that Sushi Tora, even with its iffy service, must have out-of-this world offerings! Of course, I can’t comment much more on the sushi… Sigh. So, conversely, if I were food, I’d be sashimi?! Har har har. I think I would be dessert. I’d be like a sweet kiss in the mouth (not that anyone would know).

    The sky shots are awesome. You really are gifted with a unique eye– it’s always a joy to see your landscapes, among others. :)

  8. Mr Guy says:

    Konnyaku is a voodoo lily!

  9. Sam says:

    “If sashimi were a man, it would be a metrosexual because it is so pretty – and I would date the hell out of him. Oh yes… I would…”

    Ha! You have a marriage crush on SUSHI?? :)

    Over in relatively sushi-less Ann Arbor, I am drooling. Meh. Maybe I just haven’t hunted out the right places yet.

  10. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    That second picture looks like a painting (or “painterly” as my photog teacher would say.) Stunning sashimi, everything looks all fresh and delicious and shiny-shiny. Must be awesome to be able to eat it again.

  11. Becky says:

    those omelette rolls look really good – i’ve never had one before. i don’t know what i would do without sushi.

  12. Ann says:

    How wonderful that you’re able to eat sushi again. It looks wonderful. We eat sushi about once a week, here in land-locked Phoenix – and we’ve yet to have a female sushi chef, but are always hopeful. :)

  13. Mrs Ergül says:

    Another sushi tour! You’re so lucky to be eating so much sushi!

  14. Denise & Lenny says:

    I am so glad you are eating sushi again! I can not imagine not being able to eat it, probably one of the things I would miss most in life. This looks fantastic. We have a friend who is in Boulder every other week, I am going to have to tell him to venture outside of his “Frasca” comfort zone and check out some of your spots!!! Thanks for the sushi tour!

  15. White On Rice Couple says:

    Wow, those clouds are beautiful, even more dramatic than the ones in your last post!
    All that sushi looks beautiful and knowing that they were from a chickie sushi chef…even better! Girl power! We’ve never seen a female sushi chef either, this is a first for us to know that they are out there!

  16. Susan says:

    I am a terrible judge of sushi around here (picky eater, veg since forever, new to fish, trying but you know) , not the best to call. Will take it all into consideration, glad that you’re able to get out and about and document it all (I remember when a friend did chemo years ago and could never eat her favorite foods again; it was a blessing and a curse at the time because we scrambled to get her whatever she wanted at the time, but…, however the nurses were kind when there were four of us curled up watching 90210).

  17. jenyu says:

    Susan – I’m surprised that you guys don’t have awesome sushi where you are! Well my dear, if you happen through these parts I will gladly take you to Amu or Tora :)

    Peabody – Oh, I’m sorry, love! Just enjoy the pics and then go have a burger (For some reason I always consider beef to be the anti-sushi?)

    Joanne – thank you!

    Woolly – I’ll bet you guys have amazing sushi where you are! You’ll have to enjoy it for me because while I think Boulder has pretty good sushi, I still prefer to eat it near the coast – you know… seafood… near an OCEAN ? :)

    Jin – Ooooh! Thank you for the info!! You are so awesome!

    Pam – thanks!

    Mark – I think it’s just that while we love sashimi, we still enjoy having the option of sushi – and Tora does GREAT sushi :) I dunno, I haven’t met you in person to assess your metrosexuality, so I can’t tell you if you’d be sashimi, grilled steak, pan-seared scallops, or a turkey burger ;) hee hee. Thanks, and glad you like the pics. Maybe some day you can come see the skies here in person before I shove you down the ski slopes!

    Mr. Guy – who thought the plant I killed was related to the stuff you find in a sashimi bar? :) xxoo

    Sambo Jambo Green Eggs and Hambo – it is a legitimate guy crush on sashimi! ha ha ha. Yeah, I think you and D-man need to come to grips with reality and abandon your search in AA and get your patooties on a plane to Denver where we can drag you around to ALL of the good sushi here. We’ll eat Boulder clean ;)

    Laura – it IS! Thanks :)

    Becky – I hadn’t had these before either and they were remarkable. I think life would be dramatically empty without sushi ;)

    Ann – Thank you! oh, lucky you guys to eat sushi once a week :) I hope you have good place in Phoenix. I don’t know why it makes me so happy to have a female sushi chef, but I love it!

    Mrs. E – lucky, yes. VERY lucky. I don’t take it for granted. I’ll be sure to enjoy some for you too, sweetie :)

    Denise & Lenny – oh, you are TOO funny! We actually love Frasca, but there are so many great places to eat in Boulder that I cannot imagine limiting myself to ONLY Frasca! You’re such a good friend to be looking out for his dining interests :)

    WoRC – I love the female sushi chef! So cool – and she boards as well :) Chicks kick ass!

    Susan – oh, what great friends you are to hang with your bud during her chemo. That is really sweet :) The best thing to do when ordering sushi is ask the chef what is “fresh”. You get better service if you sit at the bar and get a good look at the fish on display. Sushi/sashimi shouldn’t taste “fishy”, but fresh and delicate with hints of the sea and a distinct and subtle fish flavor. The texture should be smooth, firm, buttery (for the fatty cuts) – not powdery or mushy. I love salmon (sake), tuna (maguro), fatty tuna (tori – very expensive), yellowtail (hamachi) for starters. Great stuff!

  18. Christine says:

    Jen – your sushi tour literally kicks ass :) I love seeing all the beautiful dishes you’ve had on this tour. It’s really reminded me how good sushi is a true art.

    The omelette rolls are calling to me. I know where to go now if I visit Boulder (one of these days, I hope!)

  19. jenyu says:

    Christine – I am loving the tour, girlfriend! You know it!! :) I think that has got to be one of the reasons that sushi is one of my favorite foods, it’s so BEAUTIFUL. And honey, if you visit Boulder, I will be Julie, your cruise director and we will eat our way through the town.

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