I was therefore intrigued - and surprised - to see a Centennial sushi restaurant I'd never heard of win "Best Sushi Restaurant - 2012" from Westword recently.
That restaurant was Land of Sushi, and it didn't take long for us to decide to give it a try.
But if it weren't for the gushing from Westword, I probably would have steered clear of Land of Sushi. Nothing about the exterior of Land of Sushi is particularly appealing. Not the name, nor the glowing red letters that spell it out, nor the strip mall location across from the newly redeveloped SouthGlenn area.
Last weekend, we arrived to a nearly-full Land of Sushi at around 6:45 pm on Friday evening. The sparsely-decorated, L-shaped restaurant was smaller than I expected. It had no real waiting area, and a couple tables were placed far too close to the entrance. We sat at the small sushi bar, where our dishes were placed on plastic placemats with a fake wood pattern on them. After an initial mix-up between waiters, we were situated with drinks and menus.
We were soon glad we had arrived when we did, as the restaurant quickly filled to capacity, and a small crowd waited for their tables outside.
And although I often cringe at Westword's characterizations of suburban-restaurant ambiance, Land of Sushi certainly reflects the influence of the surrounding Centennial demographics. The restaurant was packed with families, waitstaff shuttled giant boats of sushi and sashimi to tables, and the atmosphere was casual, quiet, and mellow.
To start our meal, we ordered the Fatty Big Eye Tuna Sashimi with Avocado ($16).
|Fatty Big Eye Tuna Sashimi with Avocado|
I regret that the picture turned out a bit blurry on this one; it doesn't do justice to the beautiful presentation. The fatty big eye tuna slices were buttery, tender, and fresh. The creamy avocado atop each slice was an excellent compliment to every bite.
Our next plate included four orders of salmon sashimi ($2.5/ea, $10 for four orders as shown in photo) and an Ebi Tempura Roll ($7.5)
|Ebi Tempura Roll (Front), Salmon Sashimi (Back)|
The Ebi Tempura Roll was packed with tempura shrimp, crab, avocado and lettuce. It was the least interesting thing we ordered at Land of Sushi and was really a very average American-style sushi roll. The tempura batter was way too heavy on the shrimp; each bite left me with an unwanted mouthful of panko.
The salmon, however, was perfect. Thinly sliced, fresh, and delicately marbled with fat, I could have eaten several more orders of the fish.
Still hungry, we moved on to our final dish of the night, the Green Monster Roll ($13), which consisted of a green soy paper wrapper stuffed with tuna, crab, fried red snapper, and avocado.
|Green Monster Roll|
Land of Sushi has plenty of authentic Japanese dishes on the menu, but this certainly wasn't one of them. It was delicious nonetheless; I loved the combination of seafood, delicate sushi rice, and creamy avocado. The soft soy paper was a perfect alternative to nori as a wrapper, and contrasted with the slight crunch of the fried snapper.
Service at Land of Sushi was efficient and attentive. Our neighboring diners seemed to mostly be regulars, and that's no surprise. Despite the no-frills atmosphere, the sushi is good, service is quick, and the location is convenient.
We're looking forward to throwing Land of Sushi into regular rotation on our dining schedule. The restaurant certainly delivers on sushi quality, although it doesn't stand out like Sushi Den or Sushi Sasa downtown in terms of ambiance and authenticity.
(7 of 10)
Pros: Great sushi, quick service
Cons: Boring location and decor