Best Sushi In Denver, Ranked

When you think about quintessential Mid- and Mountain West foods, fish isn't really the first thing that comes to mind. A landlocked locale like Denver may not inspire visions of flavorful sushi, but the Mile High City is a veritable culinary capital in its own right, and excellent examples of any cuisine can be had here. Whether it's a high-altitude outpost from one of the best sushi restaurants in the country or a local company making its own name, the sushi scene in Denver has a lot to offer. 

According to research from the Colorado Restaurant Association, Denver County has over 2,200 eating and dining establishments. You can bet a large portion of the restaurants in the area are serving sushi. But with all the choices, how do you ensure you get a good meal for your money and time? For us, it comes down to a few things: atmosphere, service, story, and menu selection are important — but the most impactful thing is the freshness of the fish. With that in mind, we weighed all these factors to create our ranking of the best of the best sushi in Denver. 

16. Hana Matsuri

The two Hana Matsuri locations can be found north of Denver proper in the area of Westminster or southeast in Lakewood. We tend to visit the former, though the restaurant's environment can be a little whacky. It's a drawback if you plan to go out for a nice meal. The lights at the bar are often very bright, with a fluorescent sheen that can be sterilizing. There's glowing, neon, purple trim and several flagstone accents around doors and support pillars. However, if you're not in the mood for anything fancy, you shouldn't let the interior design dissuade you from having a taste.

The sushi at Hana Matsuri is good enough to compete with some of Denver's higher-rated sushi joints ... when it's at its peak. Unfortunately, that's not guaranteed, and we've had reports of off-nights when the maki option was lacking a good structure and the rice fell apart. 

15. Sushi-Rama

Sushi-Rama has five locations across the greater Denver metro area, and any of them will be a stellar stop for a convenient and easy meal. Dining at Sushi-Rama could not be simpler. The nostalgia-inspired brand functions as a conveyor concept. You sit down, pick plates off a moving belt, and eat until you are full. The experience is fun and novel, which helps Rama secure a ranking up there with some of Denver's best sushi ... but there are some caveats.

First, the newness eventually wears off when you consider that the variety of rolls running down the belt can be impacted by those who are upstream. Also, you pay by the plate, with each color denoting a certain price point. This can be a barrier to enjoyment for those who like to budget, as the plates add up quickly. 

Some pieces, especially on the higher-end nigiri plates, lack the precise execution common to a few of Denver's more technically-focused spots. Still, the overall quality of sushi at Rama is great.

14. Mizu Izakaya & Sushi

LoHi's Mizu is the first restaurant on this list to offer an experience that's aided in large part by its dining room ambiance. The soft lighting is strengthened by large natural windows that let in sunlight or the movement of the city at twilight. Wooden blinds hang over top shear curtains and fabric pennants known as noren. Bamboo plants sprout from corner pots and match the pre-stained hue of the tables. 

Of course, Mizu Izakaya has to come correct; LoHi is a premier eating destination in the Mile High. Competition abounds. Mizu certainly can hang, but the sushi lacks a distinct wow factor. Still, the menu has a wide variety of specialized cuts and species. The restaurant boasts a claim that its owner places purchasing orders at authentic Japanese sushi markets via video message just about every sunrise on that side of the world; we think it's certainly worthwhile to visit Mizu.

13. Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar

A fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine might seem like an easy mark for the savvy chef or restauranteur; the latter has been influenced by the former. Hapa Sushi Grill, which takes its name from the Hawaiian term for blended Asian and American culture, strives to achieve respect by merging two distinct cuisines with sushi, and it definitely succeeds. 

Hapa is a unique restaurant that puts a bit more flair on things than other similarly priced shops. A two-for $12 deal on fish rolls goes big if you can hit Happy Hour, and the restaurant has a sizeable vegetarian sushi menu that is also extra-affordable during that timeframe. Maki is the focus of the dinner menu, with several columns geared toward various experience levels with sushi dining. The flavors are good, and the combinations are tastefully inventive. We tend to favor the simpler style of sashimi and nigiri, so Hapa is where we'd head for a specific maki craving rather than for appreciating the simplicity of well-sliced fish.

12. Sushi Co

The great thing about Sushi Co is that you can find it in several locations across the city. There's a spot in Cherry Hills, one in Park Hill, and a third in Berkeley Park. Each establishment has a carefully curated list of Japanese beer, whisky, and sake. The tasteful selections are married to a paired-down sushi menu. The brevity of the sushi list is our biggest hit against Sushi Co — the trim menu of hand rolls and sashimi is so small but so clean that we crave more options.

Keeping our greedy, fish-snatching fingers in mind, Sushi Co. has well-executed, affordable options and is a great choice for a lighter dinner. The advantage of the smaller sushi list is that nothing's overlooked, and that goes for each location where the company operates across Denver. The cuts are clean and creative, and it's clear that Sushi Co keeps the art of it all in mind.

11. Sushi Sasa

When researching this article, we came across a lot of folks who are fans of Sushi Sasa, and some who even go as far as to put it at the top of their Denver sushi selections. In talking to these people, it's clear that the sleek, minimalist style of Sasa has an effect that invokes passionate appreciation for the restaurant's seafood program. The raw bar offers diverse flavors like the Hamachi Jalapeño, which is yellowtail paired with a chili pepper pureé and olive oil. Overall, this is some very good sushi.  

The restaurant is angled and priced as high-end, fine sushi, which is pulled off to a fair degree. But as we get deeper into this list, you'll see Denver's glitzier sushi spots don't tend to slack off, and at times, the service at Sasa can be a letdown. Servers are humans, and they have bad days. We've worked in enough restaurants to say, "Been there," and brush it off. But issues around seating, ticket times, or uninformative/unhelpful staff should be minimal if you aim to be in the upper echelon.

10. Sushi Ronin

As we mentioned early, LoHi Denver is an epicenter for food exploration (as long as you have the cash, that is — the area isn't cheap). Sushi Ronin has been a welcome member of the district since it began slinging raw fish in 2016. The restaurant's signature omakase experience is in the realm of special occasion pricing, but the sushi has that special X-factor where skilled technique meets quality product and excellent presentation.

Whether or not you prefer your meal in courses is up to you. Omakase isn't for everyone. The combination of aburi (seared sushi), nigiri, and sashimi that can be ordered á la carte is considerably varied and high-quality. At Ronin, we tasted toro that was gently chilled, umami-rich, and seemingly dissolvable right on our tastebuds. But the surprise hit was madai (red seabream), a sashimi that matched its description of being firm-textured and clean tasting. Another reason to visit Sushi Ronin is for the temaki (handrolls). In particular, the spicy scallop has a sea breeze sweetness and just the right amount of tingling finish. 

9. Rocky Yama

In the area bordering several happening neighborhoods of Denver (Capitol Hill, Baker, the Central Business District), you might expect all the sushi joints to be buzzy, hip, and contemporary. It's not like the bright neon lights of Rocky Yama don't signal those things. It's just not what the establishment is giving. Instead, this unembellished shop has a muted dining room, a spacious patio, and piles and piles of simple, tasty fish.

If you're like us, Rocky Yama is similar to the types of places where you first learned about sushi. That is to say, it's a casual neighborhood restaurant (read: not stuffy or luxurious) with both popular (thus, approachable) roll options and fish choices that allow the initiated to dive into deep waters. Either way, freshness is paramount. Eating sushi here feels like a communal experience, with the perfectly sticky rice or pungent toppings eliciting those happy food shimmies that discreetly dance from diner to diner during dinner service at a good restaurant. 

8. Blue Sushi

Maybe you're surprised to see a national chain this high up the list, but after a recent tasting, it is hard to deny the quality of Blue Sushi Sake Grill. On a recent visit, the environment was thrumming, the service was warm and inviting, and the sushi was pristine. Plus, the industrial, relaxed décor — complete with a fish tank that looks through both sides of the restaurant — is comfortable as well.

There are some advantages of serving sushi on a large scale. Blue Sushi leverages them by following the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch recommendations for its Conscious Earth program. Blue says it only serves sushi that qualifies as responsibly harvested by Seafood Watch standards.

There is a lot of environmental transparency at Blue Sushi, such as a menu printed with info about the purveyors and methods of fish sourcing. Carrying in the eco-conscious vein, Blue Sushi lists an extensive selection of vegan sushi with some immaculate combos (the Vegan Hot Night is especially spicy). We can certainly attest that this dedication to reducing environmental impact does something for the menu, too.       

7. Bamboo Sushi

Bamboo Sushi is another medium-sized chain that prioritizes sustainability. Not only does the LoHi eatery have a relationship with Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it also pairs with seven other groups, including the Marine Stewardship Council, 1% for the Planet, and the Wild Salmon Center. Considering the sockeye salmon nigiri was one of the best pieces of sushi we've tried this year, it's safe to say the environmental investments are paying off in a primo product that outswims the competition.

The fish served at Bamboo has a distinguishable freshness to it. You might even convince yourself you can still taste the sand on a couple of these bites. The portions are also well-sized and the rice has a slight mineral acidity to it and is competently sticky without being damp. Although the service is at times aloof, the intensity of sweet and salty umeboshi with tangy ponzu and white fish is enough to put anyone in a mellow, happy mood. 

6. Matsuhisa

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa may have attained that stratospheric level of success classified as a "celebrity chef," but his staying power lies in his network of restaurants that live up to the heightened standards accompanying his name. The secret to Nobu's massive empire is that the restaurant locations each adapt to fit the vibes of their home cities. Having come down from the mountain hideaways of Vale and Aspen to join the Denver dining scene as the third location of Matsuhisa in 2016, this Cherry Creek restaurant prioritizes a fine-dining experience. 

A well-organized, timelessly designed dining room is paneled in wood and accented with rich blues and gold. Chef Nobu, who spent time in South America, is no stranger to pairing ingredients of the region with Japanese cuisine, and the influence is demonstrated in the signature dishes. Maybe the most unique part of dining at Matsuhisa is the signature style of sashimi, cooked to a quick sear by scalding oil. Matsuhisa is the perfect place to celebrate a special event, but we can't imagine it being our regular, go-to sushi stopover when we're in need of a quick fix.   

5. Makizushico

Way down in the southern edge of the Denver metro area, there is a small sushi eatery that manages a careful balance between exploring the possibilities of the cuisine, respecting its traditions, and not making all of that so heady that ordinary eaters feel like they don't belong. Makizushico is a charming shop decked out in wood that has as much warmth as someone could want from a place to eat. Seating is moderately spaced and ergonomic, and a beautiful sushi counter awaits your choices. The name of the game is personalized omakase, which at the time of writing was priced at a mind-bending $50. This marriage of cost and quality is rare.

The Nikumaki roll is a standout; it combines tender Wagyu, creamy avocado, and truffle oil in one decadent mouthful. the sashimi and sushi menu doesn't have as great a range as others, especially in terms of individual tuna cuts. With sushi as buttery as that served by Makizushico, we would do some wild things to get our hands on some tuna toro selected and carved by the staff. Denver sushi hunters know that you can do a lot with a little; Makizushico is a good example to follow.  

4. FOR[a]GED

FOR[a]GED brings an interesting look to Denver's best sushi scene. The high, office-like ceilings give the room a lift that would be appropriate for a loud sports bar. Except instead of empty air for catching auditory waves, there is a dreamy, cloud-shaped light display filling the space. Maybe it's an ode to Denver's spacey culture. Beneath it are sleek booths, crystal-set tables, and a gold-lit bar reflecting the high-powered side of this tech metropolis.

We tasted a lot at FOR[a]GED, but what wowed us the most was that everything from the second-level sushi bar had a just-fished flavor to it. To that end, we were disappointed to see that a restaurant named after a specific method of acquiring food didn't have much available information on sustainability and sourcing initiatives. When it came to the sushi served, however, nothing was out of place.

Each piece of fish tried was smooth and meltable, with a slightly sweet profile that finished clean, clear, and refreshing. Differences between snapper and yellowtail were distinct. Good sushi can fill you up without feeling like you've eaten something weighty or dirty (and it does so with flavor). FOR[a]GED has some of the best in the city.

3. Temaki Den

Temaki Den snuck up on us when making this ranking. It's not always the most high-profile in conversations about Denver's best places to eat sushi, and we anticipated slotting it a bit lower because its focus is on one item: hand rolls. Plus, as you'll see, this restaurant's prominent older sibling wins out in the family race. 

All the while, we kept returning to ask ourselves what made this sushi stand out, and finally, the answer became clear. Temaki Den seems to pride itself on its dedication to basics like the shari vinegar rice that makes the rolls stick together. This may be the first time we give a sushi spot top marks on rice alone, but until you try what's going on at Temaki Den, it's hard to overstate what it means to a temaki roll. 

Hand rolls can get messy unless you get a proper binding. When you do, this finger food delivers flavor as big as tacos or pizza but an experience that is way cleaner (literally and nutritionally). At Temaki, the shari imparts an effervescent note of acidity just strong enough to develop mineral undertones within the layered aspects of fish and nori. 

2. Sushi Den

Around the time sushi started burrowing into the mainstream American psyche, two brothers, Toshi and Yasu Kizaki, began rolling out sushi to the Denver public. A few eateries later (the restaurant group also operates well-known OTORO, Temaki Den, and Izakaya Den), and it's still sushi as far as high as the eye can see (consider this our recommendation to visit all of the brothers' restaurants). Sushi Den was the founding concept in 1984. These days, it's known as a tried-and-true staple with a sophisticated ambiance and a dining room that is never really empty. 

As local rumor has it, Chef Toshi is still flying in sushi-grade fish from Japan daily. This certainly doesn't make Sushi Den the most carbon footprint-friendly option on this list, but it might be the freshest. The practiced touch on seared aburi pieces is unmatched. Plus, the building really does have the ambiance of a swanky den.

1. Uchi

Though not a chain by any means, Uchi Denver is part of the growing line of sushi restaurants operated by James Beard-winning Chef Tyson Cole. The concept serves eloquent albeit non-traditional Japanese cuisine. Uchi has consistently been awarded praise that vastly outsizes its humble beginnings as a restaurant operating out of a small house in Austin, Texas. The Denver location of Uchi — the first one located outside of the South — is a veritable playground of flavors, techniques, and textures. Head sushi chef Jesus Alonzo maintains consistent, top-tier grades across the program.

Uchi is widely regarded as having some of the best sushi in the U.S., so it's unlikely you'll make it here on a regular occasion (it's not always easy to get in). Keep that in mind, but also, go get your calendar and dial the phone. This is no everyday sushi restaurant; if you can, you should book a meal there. The wide-ranging menu has unique inclusions like Norwegian mackerel, flounder, 72-hour short rib, and foie gras sushi. It's also fundamentally strong. The salmon belly is so sinfully soft that you might start wondering if the dappled sunlight from the pitched glass roofing is enough to melt it away. Albacore is nice to have as well, but trust us when we say that at Uchi, you're going to be swimming in decadent options.