06 March 2010

No, Laramie does not yet have a sushi restaurant

(A less snarky, more corporate-friendly version of this review can also be found here, at one of my day jobs.)

Since opening on January 13, 2010, Mizu Sushi has created a buzz as Laramie’s newest food offering and, let’s face it, the only sushi place from here to Fort Collins. Students and professionals breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of having fresh Japanese right here in town, but sushi is only a treat when it’s good, and this is where things get complicated.

Owned by an interior decorator and his family, the unfinished cement floors, striking wall colors, and ambient lighting win Mizu plenty of cool points. The sleek white table settings are attractive, too, but the leaf-shaped dipping dishes are too narrow to accommodate some of the larger sushi roll pieces, making it impossible to season your bites. The sleek soy sauce bottle is equally pleasing to the eye, but ours leaked every time we poured. Aesthetics, 1; functionality, 0.

The hot tea, called a jasmine, was certainly like no jasmine I’ve ever had; brown and nutty, with a slight vegetal taste, it grew on me. The miso was familiar and comforting. Nigiri sushi was really where Mizu shined: my table ordered tuna, albacore, salmon, and snapper. All seemed fresh, with tender, buttery textures, and distinctive, mild flavors. The seaweed salad was also incredibly fresh and light, with a bright flavor contributed by the brilliantly balanced sesame dressing. The julienned diakon and carrot underneath the seaweed was a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the sushi rolls all suffered from uneven, off flavors and were so loosely rolled that they fell apart while we struggled to fit them into our too-small dipping dishes. The spicy tuna had black pepper as its spice base; like the jasmine tea, this was surprising, but not terrible. But the salmon skin roll, besides being cut into huge pieces, sported some very rubbery, fishy salmon skin. It was not fried or crisped in any way. And the veggie roll, also enormous, was dominated by pickled carrot and pickled diakon, completely obliterating the milder tofu skin, lettuce, celery, cucumber, and seaweed. The effect was a very strong cabbage flavor. The baked mussels tasted like pizza: lots of cheese with a spicy red sauce on top.

If my list of dishes seems out of order, it reflects the service. The service was friendly and prompt upon arrival. I had so many waiters, I didn’t know who to summon when I needed someone. And things were so prompt that the food came out too quickly and out of order. While we were still eating our salad and soup, the spicy tuna roll came, all by its lonesome. Then a while later came the veggie roll, followed five minutes later by our mussels appetizer, and finally the salmon skin roll. That was the end of the attention for quite some time. Upon finishing the meal, we waited 20 minutes for checks. No tea refills, no water. They were done.

I was done, too. I can suggest Mizu Sushi for the simple, unadorned items on their menu—the nigiri and the seaweed salad would have made my night if I had stopped there. But the more complicated dishes are not quite ready for public yet. And with rolls running $8 to $16, you want to wait until they get it right.