Vail Valley dining: Nozawa’s now in two locations
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – You can’t get much more authentic when it comes to Japanese sushi in Colorado’s Vail Valley, especially with chefs like Tiger Tom at the helm. However, Tom will be the first to tell you that making sushi is more a creative art than a tradition and the intense focus with which he dices, rolls and deliberately places lines of each colorful sushi incarnation is all the evidence you need. Sit at the sushi bar to be truly hypnotized by the masterful work in action and prepare for amazement at how quickly and skillfully these chefs fill giant trays.
Shredder is best
With a new location in Avon, it’s rare that sushi seekers hit any of Nozawa’s restaurants (the original in West Vail and also in Dillon) without ordering at least one Shredder Roll. A delightfully warm, crunchy shell surrounds cool freshwater eel, crabmeat and masago, and renders the avocado and cream cheese inside just oozy enough to neutralize the two temperatures and dissolve on your tongue.
Light and summery
Before you start twirling the warmth dial, about the most refreshing summer delight on the menu is the cucumber sashimi salad. Swimming in a light and lemony ponzu dressing, the watery crisp of the cucumber along with the soft squish of raw fish pieces speckled with sesame seeds is fresh enough to make you shudder. It is complemented perfectly (though powerfully) with a pomegranate sake martini.
The rollercoaster carnival
Nozawa’s specialty rolls are like rooms in a fun house, each offering an adventurous twist for your taste buds. Anyone who appreciates a little kick should go with the Nozawa Roll, in which spicy tuna and cucumber are hugged by ample slabs of shrimp, tuna and avocado and drizzled with spicy mayo, or Tom’s favorite, the Hama Hama, which houses both spicy yellowtail and spicy salmon inside of freshwater eel and avocado. Vegetarians also have options: cucumber-avocado rolls, vegetable rolls filled with carrots and seaweed, or, for a hint of savory to go with a big crunch, a tempura asparagus roll.
Little cups and big dishes
The sake menu is short but eclectic; the Black and Gold has the best smack but the Zipang is bubbly and the most refreshing. Though Nozawa’s raw fish is its most popular draw and real connoisseurs can find rare favorites like roe or sea urchin, the restaurant also offers the freshest Thai and Asian cooked meals around. The stir-fry plates are steaming, crunchy and not overloaded with sauce, the broccoli and selected meats in the curry dishes are so sponged in coconut milk you’ll get more than one spicy zing as you chew, and the tender roasted duckling lives up to its name to the point that it separates the second your fork hits it.
The real deal
Keep an eye out for sushi roll happy hour specials and don’t miss the best bargain in town with Nozawa’s Bento Lunch, which includes a couple of California rolls, tempura vegetables and soup along with an entree for less than $10.
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