New downtown Des Moines sushi restaurant focuses on sustainably sourced seafood
If your awareness of Japanese cuisine consists mainly of sushi and sake, a trip to Japan will expand your food knowledge — and palate. 10Best
Downtown Des Moines is getting a new sushi restaurant.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill, a regional sushi restaurant based in Omaha, is opening a new location at 316 Court Ave. in the former spot of Goldfinch and Dos Rios on Thursday.
Owned and operated by Flagship Restaurant Group, the regional restaurant chain is known for its sushi, of course, but also its drink options, which include sake and craft cocktails.
Blue offers a diverse menu of Asian-inspired dishes, including a selection of fresh maki, sashimi and nigiri, along with small, medium and large plates, and desserts. The menu features plenty of vegan, vegetarian, keto and gluten-free options, too.
"It's traditional sushi with a fun American twist," said general manager Fallon Fasanella, 28. Fasanella moved to Des Moines from Omaha in July and has been busy training a staff of 70 employees. "I'm really excited for Des Moines to see what Blue is all about."
A modern Japanese atmosphere with luminous blue accents, the ceiling of the restaurant is inspired by scales of a fish, with individual cut scallops stained in blues, greens and pops of coral create a one-of-a-kind installation.
The restaurant seats 196 inside — including 40 in a private dining area — and an additional 103 on the large outdoor patio along Court Avenue.
The 4,500-square-foot restaurant sports a cocktail bar and lounge area, as well as a sushi bar where diners can watch chefs prepare rolls and sashimi.
The bar and lounge area features a mural of Godzilla inspired by a street-art technique called décollage. The mural was created by layering a traditional Japanese pattern called Seigaha, meaning “blue ocean waves,” Japanese beer labels, including Kirin and Sapporo, a duotone photo of a mountain in Japan, halftone octopus tentacles and splashes of watercolor.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill sources its seafood responsibly, boasting a massively diverse menu featuring a vast selection of sushi, warm and cold dishes, salads, desserts and hot and cold drinks — including premium cold sake.
"All of our fish is sustainable," said corporate chef Nestor Rebolledo, 28. The restaurant recently launched its Conscious Earth campaign in an effort to be transparent about where its ingredients come from. "We've been working on this project for two years. We treat sourcing seafood like an onion, peeling back the layers until we get to the heart of where our fish comes from."
- The Beach: Seared albacore, spicy bigeye tuna, spicy crab mix, burdock root, avocado, cilantro, serrano chilies and ponzu sauce ($13; 8 pieces)
- Black Garlic Beef Tataki: Pan-seared all-natural tenderloin, black garlic rub, crispy sunchoke and brussels sprouts with rosemary truffle salt, wasabi blue-cheese mousse, shiitake mushrooms and sansho pepper au poivre sauce ($32).
- Crispy Brussels sprouts: Tossed in creamy lemon miso sauce and toasted cashews ($8)
- Crunchy Blue: Spicy crab mix, cilantro, crispy panko and eel sauce ($7.50; 8 pieces)
- Crunchy L.A.: Crab mix, avocado, cucumber, crispy panko and sweet chili sauce ($7.50; 8 pieces)
- Eden Roll: Sweet potato vegan tempura, grilled asparagus, edamame hummus, sundried tomato, brown rice, soy paper and olive oil ($8; 8 pieces)
- Everything Smoked Salmon Nigiri: Smoked salmon on top of cream cheese-stuffed rice tempura, topped with everything furikake, scallion and ponzu sauce ($8; 2 pieces)
- Spanish Fly: Yellowtail, spicy crab mix, bigeye tuna, shallot, cilantro, serrano and yuzu ponzu sauce ($14.50; 8 pieces)
- Vegan South Pacific: Barbecued eggplant "eel" tempura, vegan cream cheese, pineapple, scallion and sweet soy sauce ($14.50; 8 pieces)
The restaurant has also paired with Seafood Watch, an organization that monitors the fishing industry and informs diners and restaurants with use of an app on how to order seafood that's been raised and harvested sustainably.
Blue's extensive drink menu includes premium cold sake, cocktails, beer, wine, alcohol-free beverages and hot tea.
- Bluetini: Blueberry-infused Svedka vodka raspberry liqueur and lime ($9)
- Cucumber jalapeño margarita: Casa Noble Crystal tequila, Cointreau, lime, jalapeño and cucumber ($10; add Sombra mezcal float, $4)
- White peach daiquiri: Bacardi rum, scratch white peach tea syrup, lime and peach lambic ($9)
“In addition to our exceptional menu, we are proud to offer one of the best happy hours in Des Moines," Fasanella said. "With over 50 items to choose from, our customers can enjoy a selection of specials from our sushi, grill and drink menus including sake bombs, cocktails, maki and shared plates."
Blue has 13 other locations, including ones in Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Location: 316 Court Ave.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12-9 p.m. Happy hours: Monday-Saturday, 3-6:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 12-8 p.m.
Brian Taylor Carlson is the food and dining reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8552 and follow @briantaylorcarlson on Facebook, @BriinDSM on Twitter and @briindsm on Instagram.
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