What: an affordable Kaiten-style or “conveyor belt sushi” from Denver restaurateur Jeff Osaka
Where: 2615 Larimer St, Denver
When: Opens Tuesday, December 22. Regular hours: Mondays, closed; Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.- close.
This Tuesday, Denver restaurateur, Jeff Osaka, will debut his latest concept: Sushi-Rama. The 48-seat restaurant will be one of the first Kaiten or “conveyor belt” sushi restaurants in Denver. According to Osaka, his hope is to change the perception of conveyor belt sushi, which is perceived as a style of sushi that uses lower-grade fish. But Osaka promises that, when it comes to Sushi-Rama, this will be anything but the case.
“We want to be just as good as Sushi Den,” remarked Osaka, a week preceding the restaurant’s debut. His plan to match one of Denver’s most prestigious Japanese establishments is simple: find and source the highest-quality fish in the city. With purveyors like True World Foods directly importing from Japan, this isn’t the most complex part of the job. Rather, the more work-intensive aspect of Osaka’s plan is to keep the prices down (approximately $3-$5 a plate) by using his resources wisely:
“We will be sourcing our fish from the Central Market,” explained Osaka. The market he’s referencing is the 14,000-square-foot epicurean hub he and his business partner, Ken Wolf, are developing less than a block away. In order to keep the prices reasonable, Osaka plans to open his very own fish market inside Central—which will supply Sushi-Rama.
“Sushi-Rama will likely be our biggest customer [at Central’s Fish market],” said Jesus Silva, head chef at Sushi-Rama. Silva, who spent 8 years at Sushi Sasa and will be also running the fish market, explained that before Central opens this spring, the menu will be paired down:
“We are going to start more simple,” said Silva,” But over time we will have a lot of Japanese fish and high-quality products.” Silva also expressed a hope to include some fusion elements to the menu and plans to make as much food in-house as possible.
“We’re not buying anything pre-made,” said Silva, explaining how non-sushi items like the tamago will be crafted in their compact kitchen.
Currently, the opening menu will feature rolls, nigiri and small hot plates including yakitori, steamed mussels and edamame. All menu items on the main floor will come delivered via a conveyor belt, whereas upstairs will have traditional table service. Diners will be able to construct their meal by picking their desired plates as they snake around the metallic conveyor belt. Pricing will be determined by the amount of plates collected, with each plate’s price corresponding with a different color. On average, single plates will cost $3-5, but for the few more expensive options, plates will be stacked signaling a higher price. Currently, Sushi-Rama doesn’t plan to take reservations but will have extended hours including into the afternoon for a lunch crowd.
“This was actually thought of a couple of years ago because there was no sushi in the neighborhood,” said Osaka, listing only the small handful of nearby sushi joints, all of which still lie outside RiNo.
But, with the coming of the market and his other RiNo restaurant, Osaka Ramen, this isn’t the first time he has debuted something new to the once relatively inactive area, and it’s likely not to be his last.
All photography by Romeo Fernandez.