As you read this, you are sitting (or standing, or unicycling; I don’t judge) approximately 5,761 miles from the nearest ocean. That’s right, I did the math. Yet somehow, Omaha manages to have a thriving sushi scene. We’ve got everyone from the Nigiri newbie to the Sashimi snob, and a wide enough range of sushi shacks to satisfy them all.
However, at some point, the sushi has to be about the flavor and not about the hip bar, the Instagram of you and your friends with sake bombers, or what sauce the kitchen can cover your panko crusted mystery meat in to hide the fact that the last fish delivery was nine days ago.
Enter an unlikely hero: HuTong Sushigrill.
Located in a stripmall in La Vista, this demure eatery manages to take creativity and flavor to exciting heights. The fish is brought in twice a week and never conjures images of tuna cans or grimy tanks. It is the height of fresh flavor, in spite of having to travel a bit to get to its landlocked final destination.
At least once a week, 2:00 p.m. finds me sitting at HuTong for happy hour, which continues until 5:00. The extensive half-price menu is plenty to fill the biggest appetite without breaking the smallest budget.
Our sushi chef Alex explains that in Beijing, the locals dine in the restaurants that are tucked away in Hu Tongs, or alleyways. These aren’t the tourist traps decked out in “authentic” décor, but where residents actually eat. Probably to avoid said tourists, but that’s purely speculation on my part.
We order the Gyoza appetizers (Gee-oh-zah) which are fried pork dumplings served with a sweet chili sauce, and the HT gift pack. I would tell you that this is HuTong’s take on crab Rangoon, but that explanation seems a disservice. It is a fried wonton wrapper, but instead of Krab, (surimi and Pollack with orange food coloring to mimic actual crab) it’s actual crab meat, and instead of cream cheese, it’s crab meat. It is sumptuous and borders on sinful. It’s your birthday, deep fried and ready to eat.
Then, my trusty partner in food adventure utters a single word: “Omakase.”
Alex grins at us mischievously and nods, before setting to work on our next dish.
Omakase translates to “trust in you.” It’s what you say to a sushi chef when you want him to create something for you based on what he feels like making. It’s basically a way to say, “Show me what you got.”
The young man in front of us transforms from a wasabi wielding California roller to an absolute artist. He uses everything from spicy tuna to eel, topping this piece with black caviar and that piece with an octopus tentacle. He runs a line of peanuts through the middle of one roll and blazes up his torch, crisping the salmon skin he’s wrapped it in.
When we order omakase it is a bittersweet dish. It is always amazing, a gastronomical adventure, but we know we will never taste it again. Omakase means a one of a kind dish, that even if he tried, our chef could never replicate.
I’ve been coast to coast, but I love this the most
It is with some embarrassment that I admit that a pretty high percentage of my Instagram account and several Facebook albums are hopelessly devoted to pictures of my food. I have dined in Michelin Starred restaurants everywhere from New York to Maui. I’ve eaten sushi that was caught an hour before it was in front of me, sitting beside a pickled ginger flower. That said, I cannot tell you a place where I have enjoyed such a level of innovation. How many ways can you put fish on rice? Leave it to Alex and the team at HuTong. You will never grow bored. You will never be disappointed. You will never lose trust in your chef.
HuTong Sushi Grill
7202 Giles Road
Open Monday-Thursday 11-9:30
Friday and Saturday 11-10