Photos by L.G. Patterson
It’s no secret that Columbia is the perfect town for anyone who loves food. From the wide variety of available fare to the high quality and creative takes on dishes, the local restaurant scene offers plenty to explore and taste.
For fans of sushi, there are quite a few options, each with their own unique treat or spin to keep diners coming back. So, whether you’re a serious sushi lover or more of a sushi skeptic, we’ve put together the perfect list of just a few of our favorite spots to guide you through the local scene. Enjoy!
Saké Japanese Bistro and Bar
16 S. 10th St. | sakejapanesebistro.com
Must Try: Tiger roll and/or monthly special roll
Sushi chefs Jordan Tucker and Sean Sanchez have seen it all. From “promposals” and engagements to baby showers and date nights, Saké Japanese Bistro and Bar has an atmosphere that can’t be matched. “There is so much history tied into the restaurant,” Sanchez says.
A big part of the inviting atmosphere is the staff. “The level of passion and cama- raderie is so special,” Tucker says. “I don’t know a single person here who doesn’t care about everyone else on the staff as much personally as they also do professionally.”
While the atmosphere makes Saké spe- cial, the food itself has something for every- one, whether you’re a sushi connoisseur or someone who has never tried the decadent dish. “There are a lot of levels to introduc- ing sushi to someone in a comfortable way,” Tucker says. The menu has indicators that show which items have cooked ingredients or raw fish.
For those who love to switch up their order, Saké has special rolls that change monthly. But be sure to catch them while they last. “Every roll that is our signature roll of the month is unique for a month and then it will never be here again,” Tucker says.
For those who want a more consistent option, the Tiger roll is a permanent signature roll, which combines Saké’s signature TNT mix, tiger shrimp and scallions, then is tempura fried and topped with sriracha and wasabi aioli.
Saké is open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Geisha Sushi Bar
804 E. Broadway | geishasushibar.com
Must Try: Mizzou roll
You might have noticed the smoking boats gliding through downtown Columbia topped with authentic Japanese dishes. That unique item comes only from Geisha Sushi Bar. The smoke comes from dry ice the chefs put into boats, of which the sushi is then placed on top.
Sebastian Mayoral, a sushi chef, says the unique atmosphere at Geisha comes from more than just tangible items. “I feel like we have fun here. We listen to good music, we have a good energy here,” he says.
Being in the heart of downtown Columbia, Geisha makes sure all sushi and Mizzou fans have the perfect treat, whether it’s for a game day or just a normal Saturday night. “I would say the Mizzou roll is the most popular roll.” he says. “I think not all people are massive sushi fans, but this one is just a California roll with a spicy crunch on top.”
For those nervous to try something new, Mayoral has one piece of advice: “Life is too short to be afraid of a dead fish. Just try it out, we have rolls for everyone.”
Geisha is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and for dinner from 4-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro
2200 Forum Blvd., suite 108 | jinayoos.com
Must Try: HM (High Maintenance) roll
For Jina Yoo, owner of Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro, texture is the most important part of her cuisine. “I go the extra mile. Nothing is a filler, it is all artistic work,” she says. Yoo says texture is just as important as flavor, so every ingredient has a purpose. “Each roll is very uniquely designed with different ingredients and texture,” she says. “The texture is just as important as the taste.”
Because of her attention to detail, Yoo says she strives to convince others to give her cuisine a try. “Sushi is all about where
you try it,” Yoo says. “I am determined to change people’s minds.” One way she does so is with the HM or High Maintenance roll, which incorporates shrimp tempura, spicy lobster, avocado, white tuna, chipotle aioli, Yoo sauce and chili oil. While a typical sushi roll is cut in eight pieces with the same flavor and texture in each bite, the HM roll is different. Yoo’s goal is to make sure each piece of that particular roll has a different taste.
Luckily for Yoo, the location of her business allows her exquisite flavor and texture combinations to be experienced by many. “We are successful because of the families surrounding (the location on Forum Boulevard),” she says.
For someone who looks at Yoo’s menu and believes there is still nothing they’ll enjoy, Yoo will strive to create something to tingle your tastebuds. “I am there to help you find something you will always love.”
Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro is open from 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and from 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
907 Alley A | kampaialley.com
Must Try: Lobster tempura roll
Art Wuttisak, owner and sushi chef at Kampai Alley, says the best part of operating in Columbia is the community itself. “Columbia has the vibes of a small town, friendly people and being located downtown is a great plus,” Wuttisak says. While the downtown location ensures easy access, it’s also one that can be easily missed. The contemporary sushi joint is tucked away in Alley A, where it offers a classic menu of sushi, sashimi, hot entrees and bento.
While Wuttisak believes in his whole menu, one item that stands out is the lobster tempura roll. “It’s different from all other lobster dishes out there,” he says. “It’s a savory and flavorful dish we created.” The lobster tempura roll consists of tempura lobster tail, avocado, unagi sauce, house- made volcano aioli sauce and masago.
Kampai is open from 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Kampai also takes reservations with a 24-hour notice.