What: Blue Sushi Sake Grill happy hour

Where: Blue Sushi Sake Grill, 1616 16th St., Denver

When: Monday – Saturday 4-6:30 p.m. and Sunday 12-8 p.m.

Neighborhood: LoDo

Pros: The happy hour menu is extensive and offers multiple sake variations and a variety of sashimi, maki and other appetizers.

Cons: The restaurant is located on 16th St. which makes parking a bit of a chore.

In the middle of winter dinners will often default to comfort foods, wine and whiskey to keep them warm on a crisp January evening. For those who are unacquainted with sake —  it is a japanese rice wine that can be served hot, cold, filtered, unfiltered, as a stand alone or as a component to a mixed drink. Sake like sushi is sold at all different tiers of price and quality — so it is important to find a way to eat and drink at a price that isn’t going to break the bank.

Blue Sushi on the 16th St. Mall has one of the best happy hours in the downtown area. The menu offers promotional priced cocktails, sake, sushi rolls, nigiri, maki, sashimi and a handful of appetizers which gives guests an opportunity to explore the dynamic flavors and varieties of Japanese cuisine.

The Drinks

Blue Sushi’s Samurai Saketini

The go-to cocktail on the happy hour menu is the samurai saketini ($6.5). This is a house variation of a martini which combines cucumber infused vodka with unfiltered sake, lime juice and simple syrup to make a drink that is sweet, velvety and easy to finish. Served up in a martini glass with a thin cucumber slice to garnish it, the drink is sexy and beckons a pinky out as you take your first sips off the top.

Enjoy the hot sake happy hour offering the gekkeikan hot sake ($4.50) a high quality offering at a great price and an easy introduction to hot filtered sake for a new comer. The gekkeikan is dry (which is often a result of high alcohol content) but the body  of the warm wine retains an umami smooth finish that is vibrant and inviting. The happy hour portion comes served in a piping hot 5 oz ceramic carafe that makes it easy to share and taste with friends.

Sho Chiku Bai Nigori at Blue Sushi

Sho chiku bai nigori ($2.00) is offered in 2 oz pours during happy hour and makes for a velvet sweet finish to any evening. Nigori refers to this particular style of sake — meaning that the sake is unfiltered and creamy white in appearance. The texture has more viscosity than the gekkeikan hot sake and contains chunky sediment that will leave your glass coated with rice dregs. The drink is creamy, sweet and smooth — a great night cap for a great night of Japanese food and drink.

The Food

The bites side of the happy hour menu offers quite a few things to chose from but there are certainly some choice items you won’t want to miss out on. The cherry bomb ($4.50) is a nigiri dish from the main menu that is a tuna lovers dream come true. Two pieces of fatty ahi tuna sit atop crunchy towers of fried rice tempura. The addition of serrano peppers adds a live kick of heat to the sweet and salty ponzu drizzle that covers the plate.

The maki to have is the Hawaiian Roll ($5.50). The dish is an enticing combination of tempura fried salmon, crab and mango set with a sweet mango mirin sauce. It plays the sweet and savory nicely. The fried encasement adds a texture to the surf that you just don’t get in traditional style sushi. The mango pure is sweet but with an exciting zing from the addition of mirin — it reminded me of a fruity variation on an unagi sauce. The dish is peppered with fresh sesame as a garnish in bright colors which—it tastes as unique as it looks.

Hawaiian Roll

The happy hour menu at Blue Sushi has a lot to offer at a great price. Make it a point to stop by during the week to try a couple of the different variations of sake and some of their innovative sushi at a price that is too hard to pass up.

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