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Sushi Oka: the newest sushi in West Vail

Sarah Dixon
Vail, CO Colorado

Sushi Oka: the newest sushi in West Vail

By Sarah Dixon

photos by Alexie Catalano

VAIL –Sushi lovers, there’s a new game in Vail, Colorado. Actually, it’s not exactly new.

Boasting a quarter century of experience with Vail Valley dining, the Woo family (owners of May Palace) opened Sushi Oka last March. The Cascade Village eatery, in the former Blue Tiger space, features a spacious dining room, exceptional service and – most importantly – unique, indulgent sushi.

The personal, prideful touches of Rick and Joyce Woo are everywhere in Sushi Oka. Even the name (Joyce’s maiden name, translating to “hill”) indicates the family commitment to culinary excellence.

That quality is evident, from the most basic building block to the finishing touches. The house-made pickled ginger (a guarded secret recipe) sets the stage. Its pretty white hue gives way to a subtle, sweet flavor – simply incomparable to the overwhelming pink heap of ginger often found on your sushi boat.

The perfectly textured sushi rice, delicate but never crumbling in soy sauce, serves as a foundation for the hefty cuts of exceptional fish. And a diverse menu of premium sake offers a perfect complement to the menu – try the sparkling Hou Hou or the strikingly clear and palate-cleansing Sho Chiku Bai Noma organic.

House Specialties

“Joyce and I have eaten in a lot of Japanese restaurants, and we’re picky eaters,” jokes Rick. “We made notes of what works, what doesn’t, and brought those lessons to our menu here.”

Unique Woo creations include the Vail Roll, decadent with its shrimp tempura, crab and cucumber, topped with spicy tuna and sweet chile sauce. The Rock and Roll is a bright, crunchy delight with tuna, yellowtail, salmon and avocado wrapped in cucumber. The rice-free creation – which Rick smilingly refers to as “low carb” – is a refreshing, delicate standout.

Other house specialties include the South American-inspired tuna and salmon ceviche. Mango, avocado and red onion make the dish as burstingly flavorful as it is beautiful on the plate.

The Abul nigiri, quickly seared with a blowtorch flame, offers a unique alternative to traditional sushi. The delicate, blistered texture and subtly charred flavor strike an ethereal balance: A tender, flaky top layer meets a silky, raw interior.

Prefer something al dente? Sushi Oka’s house-made teriyaki sauce, another family secret, is a sweet-savory glaze on the yellowtail collar – and is offered on the majority of the grilled items.

What you won’t find at Sushi Oka: Thai, Chinese or other fusion menu items.

“We didn’t want to lose the focus,” said Rick. “This is a Japanese restaurant. That’s what we do here, and we do it well.”

Grand Finale

Save room. The tempura-fried cheesecake is a feat of science, with an impossibly thin tempura shell on a tantalizing slice of decadence. The Mochi ice cream balls, offered in green tea, mango and strawberry, are a fun, tasty and authentic conclusion to an exceptional Japanese meal.


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