Go Fish 

Your own primo Holladay connection to great sushi and good times.

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I’ve got a primo connection!” says Dave Ayala.

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It’s a phrase I’ve been hearing since I was a teenager. Back then, it was more likely to be about Maui Wowie than mahi-mahi. But Ayala, the head sushi chef at Go Sushi in Holladay, is stoked about his fish connection. “I call this guy in Hawaii on Tuesday and put in an order for marlin,” Ayala says. “He goes out on his fishing boat, catches my fish, and it’s here sitting on your plate by Friday. Dude, the fish we serve is fresh!”

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Of course, that’s also something I’ve been hearing for years. Every sushi chef claims that his or her fish is the freshest. The truth is that most sushi restaurants get their “fresh” fish and seafood from one of a handful of major seafood distributors, most likely a single particular source in San Francisco. That’s where even Nobu restaurants around the country get their fish.

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But what few sushi chefs will ever tell you is that the raw fish you’re eating'that beautiful fatty toro sashimi you love so much'was probably frozen at some point. And you should be thankful that it was. The FDA requires that'in order to kill off potentially harmful and even lethal parasites'any fish to be eaten raw must be frozen first. That means the sashimi, tuna tartare, ceviche or sushi you’re paying premium prices for might not be quite as “fresh” as you think, even though the FDA’s frozen-fish rule enforcement is lackadaisical at best. You wouldn’t even want to think about eating raw, unfrozen salmon because of the parasite potential.

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Still, there’s a world of difference between Hawaiian marlin that’s been partially frozen for 24-48 hours and a serving of unagi that’s been sitting in the freezer for months on end. And indeed, the fish at Go Sushi is as fresh as any I’ve ever tasted. Ayala has good reason to be stoked about his primo connection.

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Ayala has worked at other sushi joints'Snowbird’s Aerie sushi bar and the now-defunct Wasabi Sushi, to name a couple. But he’s not very reverent about his sushi, saying, “Basically, anyone can learn to cut up raw fish.â€nn

On the other hand, Ayala is very passionate about his sauces and sushi accoutrements. That’s where the creativity of sushi making comes in. At lunch last week, I delighted in his poke salad. The traditional diced maguro and seafood salad was given a lovely summertime lift with the addition of fresh minced strawberries, chile peppers and shiso leaves. It was a beautifully balanced and orchestrated explosion of flavors.

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Ayala is very fond of his shiso leaves, which he buys fresh. It’s the lemony flavor of fresh shiso that gives Go Sushi’s Lemon Drop roll ($9.95) its characteristic kick. In this wonderfully fragrant sushi roll, raw hamachi, avocado and scallions are punched up with spicy mayo and served with raw scallop, lemon and a shiso leaf on top. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Go Sushi is a small, neighborhood place with a decidedly bohemian vibe. You’re more likely to find Hendrix on the stereo than Zen meditation Muzak. A handful of small tables abut the walls of the small restaurant, and another handful of stools make up the modest sushi bar. Kyra Emery and her husband Jake own the place and you’ll usually find the friendly Kyra waiting on customers at Go Sushi. She knows many of them, as Go Sushi has a high repeat-customer rate. In part, that’s due to the relatively low prices at Go Sushi. But it’s more a matter of really good sushi served up in a very unintimidating environment. Go Sushi isn’t a sushi shrine but more of a comfy local café that happens to serve remarkable sushi.

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I recommend taking a seat at the sushi bar, where with little provocation, Ayala will talk your ears off about sushi. As I say, he’s not exactly reverent. But I learned more about sushi, raw fish, sushi chefs and assorted other ephemera of the sushi world sitting in front of Ayala at a recent lunch'he usually works evenings'than I’ve learned at all of my other sushi excursions combined. He is nothing if not passionate, talking a mile a minute about everything from stealing Nobu’s secret-sauce recipes to the correct way to make rice for sushi (the trick is lots of sugar).

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There’s something for everyone at Go Sushi. Beginning sushi-goers can start with something simple like the ubiquitous California roll ($4.50) or indulge in Go Sushi’s innovative green-apple teriyaki stir-fry with a choice of chicken, beef, salmon, shrimp or tofu ($8.95). The stir-fry includes a half California roll, three pieces of gyoza and miso soup. At the other end of the sushi experience spectrum, I recommend simply putting yourself in Ayala’s hands and ordering the advanced sushi combination plate ($22.95), which includes poke salad, five pieces of nigiri, five pieces of sashimi, miso soup and edamame. There are also “beginner” and “intermediate” sushi combos priced at $10.50 and $15.95.

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Due to Go Sushi’s proximity to a school, no booze is available. But it doesn’t really matter, because you’ll be punch-drunk with Go Sushi’s intoxicating mix of sensational sushi, wonderful characters and its inviting vibe.

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GO SUSHI
n2015 E. 3300 South, 467-8955
nLunch: Tuesday-Friday
nDinner: Monday-Saturday

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