Casper Food Critic- House Of Sushi Earns Highest Rating Yet
A note from the editor: The following is an original review from the "Casper Food Critic." The purpose of this review is to offer a single consumer's opinion about an establishment's food and service. At K2 Radio, we believe anonymity to be of paramount importance - this is to ensure that the Casper Food Critic receives the same quality food and service as any other customer. We encourage you, the reader, to join the conversation and leave your own reviews in the comment section at the bottom of the page. - Tom McCarthy, Managing Editor
With the first step out of my truck, I was skeptical. Here we are thousands of miles from the nearest ocean in a high plains desert, and I was going to eat sushi. When I first heard that Casper was getting sushi, I was excited. The excitement quickly turned to recoil and horror when I realized that my previous sushi experience was in coastal towns across America. The logistical nightmare of transporting fresh raw fish to central Wyoming is no small feat. However, with gut forward and head held high, I darkened the door at House of Sushi in downtown Casper.
As soon as I entered from the summer heat, I was transported back in time to a previous business. Longtime Casper residents will remember this as Dean’s Sporting Goods. Dean’s was the Bastille of manliness and testosterone. Pictures of famous gunslingers dotted the walls while knowledgeable homes to the Y chromosome stood behind the counter, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. Having spent so much time of my formative years in Dean’s, I was a little misty eyed at the thought of what it had become.
As I gazed in amazement, I had completely missed the polite waitress who was standing quietly, waiting for me to return to my appropriate place and time. I get the feeling a lot of folks had the same problem as I. She quickly led me to a booth in the area of what had once been Dean’s rifle wall. Menus were given, smiles exchanged, and I was left to my own devices while reading the sushi wares.
Now, I am no sushi neophyte. I have eaten vast quantities of sushi in my travels around this great country. From fresh bounty pulled out of the sea no more than 3 hours before, to flash frozen “fish” that was perhaps months and months old. My expectations for Casper sushi were somewhere between Meh and Ehhhh.
I perused the menu and noticed the typical contingent of Americanized rolls. There were a few items that stood out, but not much. I then noticed the bar area with the chef standing at the ready.
Sauntering up, I learned that I could order almost anything I desired and they would do their best to accommodate me. I threw a few things out and was shocked to learn that most of them were possible.
I returned to my seat and feverishly made a list of what I wanted. I do like a lot of the cooked “American” rolls, but I have a deep love of the traditional raw dishes. I piled on more than I could possibly eat and submitted it to the staff. As a confirmed sushi fiend, I was drooling at the thoughts bouncing around in my head.
With my nets cast to the wind, I decided to snoop around. I was amazed at the transformation from Dean’s, to House Of Sushi. Neatly spaced rows of booths lined both walls while loose tables filled the center isles. The booths are very tall and provide for a certain level of privacy typically unseen in Casper. Off on the far side is a long bar where you can watch the chefs create their dishes from the top of a high backed stool. Over the bar live several large televisions showing everything from local news to current sporting events. The entire facility was impeccably clean and orderly, a must when dealing with so much raw product.
My snooping was cut short as I saw staff carrying plates of food to my booth. As each plate was set upon the table, it was evident that while the business was new to Casper, the business was not new to sushi. The visual presentation was very appealing. The colors of the fish and wasabi were in perfect harmony with my hopes and dreams. Even the small mound of thinly sliced ginger was beautiful and fresh.
As I gently picked up each roll and cut of fish, I examined them carefully and chewed slowly. The seaweed wraps were snappy and easily chewed. The rolled layers were almost perfectly symmetrical, evenly laid out from individual cut to cut. The raw sashimi showed the skill of the chef coupled with the surgical movements of an extremely sharp knife. Each piece of rice was of an exact stickiness to be served with the accompanying fish. Those who eat a lot of rice know, keeping it sticky yet not slimy while in Wyoming’s lack of humidity is no small feat.
As I carefully chewed the pieces of tuna and snapper, I paid very close attention for sections of freezer burning or drying. Try as I might though, I could detect none. I picked up and handled each filleted fish bite and gave it the same scrutiny. The only protein I was skeptical of was the octopus. There are varying species of octopi, of which only a few are generally found in American sushi establishments. I have not shopped for fresh octopus ever, but I suspect it is very difficult to get in Wyoming. While I cannot be sure if the House of Sushi has fresh or frozen octopus, it was still prepared fantastically and tasted great. I also tried several tradition dishes found on the weekly specials menu. One of them had a raw quail egg broken over the roll before it is eaten. I had not (nor have I since) seen that in this part of the country and was very surprised. The taste is not to be missed.
For those who cannot wrap their heads around sushi, raw or not, there is more on the menu. Tempura style dishes, salads, fried dumplings, and other more easily palatable foods for the squeamish eater.
I sat back in my booth looking at the fish wasteland I had created. I was truly and completely full and happy with my meal. I was utterly amazed at what this small restaurant had created in the plains of the great American west. The wait staff quickly removed my discards and presented the check. In line with what I assumed, the meal was not cheap. I suspect that the transportation of large quantities of fresh fish is very expensive. There is a price to be paid for such food and service. Knowing what goes into it however, I happily paid the bill.
As I exited the building, I could not help but reflect back on Dean’s one more time. While I cannot believe that Dean would ever expect a sushi restaurant in “his” storefront, I think he would be proud. Just as he and his staff were experts in their chosen field, so are the chefs and owners of House of Sushi. In true Wyoming spirit, with the same grit and determination, they all became the best they possibly could. This eater will most certainly be back.
Because of an absolutely spotless environment, very attentive staff and perhaps the best sushi I have eaten inland in America, I give House of Sushi and unprecedented 9.2/10 chunks of beautiful tuna. My only deduction is based upon price. While I understand that it is the nature of the beast, it is still expensive.
*note*: To those people who have never tried sushi, chalking it up as “bait”, I implore you to give it a shot. Most sushi found in places like this is cooked unless it has the word Sashimi written on it. If there is any question, ask your server about the details. All are very happy to answer questions as they understand the natural trepidation of new diners.
Also, I have been sitting on this review for a long time. Despite the writing style I use, I have eaten at most of the reviewed restaurants several times. As a critic, I have been accused of writing off places too quickly. It should be noted that before I write a bad review, the restaurant gets at LEAST two attempts to impress me. If I feel there is something more that I have not seen, I may give it a third attempt.
In that spirit, I was skeptical of House of Sushi being too perfect. I have eaten there dozens and dozens of times looking for a fault. Just waiting for them to mess up and become lax once they fall into a routine. It has never happened. The service and food have remained at an incredible level. While there are better tasting sushi restaurants, they are all situated near seaports where live fish can be purchased. For the Rocky Mountain region, I put House of Sushi near the top of the heap.
Have you eaten at House Of Sushi? Comment below and tell us what you thought!