In the Raw
Although we’re 1,000 miles from a coast, Jackson Hole takes its sushi seriously.
// By Helen Olsson
In the 1970s, a sushi bar named Osho opened in Los Angeles, catering to Hollywood celebrities. Over the next few decades, sushi grew in popularity, but most people wouldn’t touch a spicy tuna roll in a landlocked state with a 10-inch chopstick. Today, Jackson Hole’s robust array of sushi offerings debunks the myth that you can’t get amazing sushi anywhere but in coastal cities. Global aviation and improved refrigeration technologies continue to decrease the time from boat to plate. Fish purveyors offer daily shipments of seafood that’s flash-frozen hours from the time it’s caught. (In fact, FDA guidelines require raw fish to be flash-frozen to kill parasites, whether it’s headed to a sushi bar in California or Wyoming.) Flash-frozen is the new fresh. And that means here in the mountains of northwest Wyoming, you can get your nigiri fix at an upscale bistro—or at the supermarket, a few aisles over from the sliced bread.
Each of the chefs at King Sushi brings something unique to the menu, showcasing their ideas in the form of nightly specials. “No one chef really steals the show,” says general manager Leigh Alfarano. “It’s really fun to see how each will put their different personalities into the sushi.” The Pressed Maguro, for one, takes a unique approach: instead of the ingredients being rolled, the blue crab, avocado, and tuna are stacked in a bamboo box, layered on top of rice, and topped with a jalapeño puree. The restaurant’s identity as a neighborhood hub hinges on a tightly knit staff that has built relationships with customers over the years. “There’s a playful attitude that’s reflected in the style of our sushi,” Alfarano says. To sample different fish options, order the King Carpaccio, a sashimi plate featuring an
array of fish and roe with olive oil and ponzu. Reservations are recommended, but the restaurant keeps the bar open for walk-ins in winter. $27 (Pressed Maguro), $34 (King Carpaccio); open Tuesday–Saturday 4:30–9 p.m.; 75 S. King St., Jackson; 307/264-1630, kingsushijh.com
The Kitchen’s menu offers modern American food with Asian influences in a space that mixes warm woods with contemporary materials. Though the menu isn’t sushi-specific, executive chef Joe Boyles crafts a changing rotation of fresh fish crudos featuring seasonal ingredients. “Although we’re located in the mountains, thanks to prompt shipping, we are able to get fish that’s just as fresh as the major cities,” says Kendra Alessandro, VP of marketing for the Fine Dining Restaurant Group. “Many Jackson locals travel quite a bit, so they appreciate and have grown to expect quality when it comes to seafood offerings—sushi included.” Standout menu items at The Kitchen include the Hawaiian ono with passionfruit, jalapeño, macadamia nuts, mint, and basil and the tuna with truffle ponzu, avocado, sesame crunch, Fresno chili, cilantro, and sticky rice. $25 (Hawaiian ono and tuna with truffle), open Tuesday–Saturday 5:30–10 p.m.; 155 N. Glenwood St., Jackson; 307/734-1633, thekitchenjacksonhole.com
Sudachi is named for a green citrus fruit native to Japan that looks like a lime but tastes zestier. Sudachi delivers a world-class sushi experience—and a little zest—to our landlocked town. The restaurant’s mission is to celebrate the best flavors and qualities of the Japanese sushi culture. Here the focus is on ingredients that are both sustainable and fresh. Fish is sourced from quality purveyors in Japan, Hawaii, and around the coastal continental U.S. At the helm of Sudachi since 2009, chef and co-owner Dustin Rasnick prepares a nightly specialty fish sourced from Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market. “For many years, we’ve been fortunate to cultivate proprietary relationships with fish purveyors around the world,” he says. “This accessibility enables us to deliver unique and exquisite dining experiences.” Don’t miss the Maguro Maki roll: Hawaiian big-eye tuna wrapped around Maine lobster and finished with Ossetra caviar and truffle dashi soy. Make a reservation for omakase, the chef’s nightly tasting menu. $36 (Maguro Maki); open Tuesday–Saturday 5–9 p.m.; 3465 N. Pines Way #103, Wilson; 307/734-7832, sudachijh.com
Opened in 2021, Kampai’s approach to contemporary Japanese fare is to stay creative while keeping things simple and fresh. Chef Chris Massad studied Japanese cuisine at Washoku Cooking at Kyoto’s Taiwa Gakuen. In 2018, he won second place in the Washoku World Challenge, a cooking contest organized by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for non-Japanese chefs. He worked at Ginza’s Sushi Tokami under head chef Shota Oda, and he helped Nobu Matsuhisa open Matsuhisa in Vail. “At Kampai, I want to explore and learn about the products I am using,” says Massad, who has a longstanding relationship with Sakasyu, a purveyor that sources fish from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market. “I think it’s important to know the people who make the products—the people who obsess over the little things, because getting the details dialed makes those products exceptional.” As such, at the sushi bar, you’ll find nigiri brushed with soy sauce from Yamaki Jozo, a fifth-generation brewery founded in 1902 in Kamikawa, a town northwest of Tokyo. Crafted from a simple lineup of ingredients, including organic soybeans and mountain spring water, the soy sauce is aged two years in cedar barrels. “It’s one of the finest soy sauces available in the world,” says Massad. On the menu, try the Ayn Rand-inspired John Galt roll: yellowtail, crispy garlic, grilled scallions, cilantro, and yuzu miso. $25 (John Galt roll); open Tuesday–Saturday 5–9:30 p.m.; 175 Center St., Jackson; 307/201-5329, kampaijh.com
Noodle Kitchen & Sushi
Noodle Kitchen has been pairing build-your-own noodle bowls from all corners of Asia with house-crafted cocktails since 2014. The vibe is laidback and welcoming, and half-off hot starters, house-made cocktails, and eight draft wines draw locals to the bar for happy hour. Noodle Kitchen’s sushi bar is manned by sushi chef Minn Khunt, who works with culinary director Jeremy Williamson to create menu standards and nightly specials that won’t break the bank. “I think people get turned off when they think about sushi in a landlocked state,” says Brooke Rice, regional VP of the Blue Collar Restaurant Group. “But we get our fish flown in fresh; they catch it and ship it to us. It’s as fresh as it can get.” Blue Collar works with purveyor Hook to Fork to procure responsibly sourced fresh fish at an affordable price. The White Dragon is a signature roll with spicy tuna, avocado, and cucumber topped with torched hamachi, ginger-garlic, spicy aioli, sweet soy, sesame seeds, and crispy shallots. $22 (White Dragon); open daily 4:30–9 p.m.; 945 W. Broadway Ave., Jackson; 307/734-1997; noodlekitchenjh.com
When you’re looking for a quick sushi fix, there’s Whole Foods. Here the sushi is made by Genji Sushi, a Japanese restaurant in Philadelphia that started providing sushi to Whole Foods in 1997, makes all of the sushi sold at Jackson’s Whole Foods. And it’s all made on-site. Every roll is made fresh daily by Genji’s trained team of sushi chefs. The sushi program is ever-evolving and features seasonal rolls, says Chris Scarano, innovation chef at Whole Foods. “Two of my favorite rolls, introduced in late 2023, include the Mango Yuzu California roll—which is made with kanikama crab salad tossed in a tangy yuzu soy dressing with avocado, cucumber, and seasoned rice in a mango wrap and topped with Tajin tempura crisps—and the Carrot Curry Kimchi roll, made with curry-spiced cream cheese with kimchi, cucumber, and seasoned rice in a carrot-ginger wrap, topped with sweet chili sauce and dried chili pepper shreds.” Whole Foods also offers rolls using plant-based spicy tuna and crab from Konscious Foods. Prime members can save on sushi on Thursdays. $9–$16; open daily 8 a.m.–9 p.m., sushi available while supplies last; 1155 U.S. 89, Jackson; 307/733-0450, wholefoodsmarket.com JH