- Alex Springer
There's always a bit of predictability when you go to a restaurant—enter, sit, order, dine, repeat—but that sequence often delivers tasty little tidbits of the unexpected. I was reminded of this during a visit to the West Valley location of Fat Fish (1980 W. 3500 South, 801-887-7272, fatfishslc.com), a Vietnamese pho and sushi restaurant that has solidified itself as a West Side favorite when it comes to fresh, flavorful sushi.
Fat Fish is owned by the Sapa Investment Group, whose portfolio includes successful restaurants such as Purgatory, Bucket O' Crawfish and Fillings & Emulsions. Fat Fish maintains the same standards of style and substance that is unique to all of the restaurants in Sapa's portfolio. A beautiful mural featuring vibrant koi fish splashes across the wall behind the sushi bar, and the overall aesthetic evokes a sense of effortless cool. I flew solo during my last visit, so I grabbed a spot at the bar where I could ponder that gorgeous mural while watching the Fat Fish team slice their way through the day's freshly assembled ingredients.
Ramen and sushi make for one of my favorite combos, so I was looking forward to mixing things up with a bowl of pho with sliced steak and meatballs ($13). The pho menu at Fat Fish is quite comprehensive—fans of the traditional preparation with tendons and tripe or those who prefer a meatless option will be happy with the selection. It's excellent pho that sticks every landing: rich, flavorful broth, perfectly textured rice noodles and all the right condiments to customize your bowl as you like.
At this point in my visit, the last rays of a summer sunset started to shine through the windows, and I could feel the heat of the pho start to combine with the heat of the sun—but that's when my icy cold Sapporo arrived. It was a matter of timing, of course, but that frosty glass bottle of beer was the perfect transition between the simmering pho and the cooler sushi rolls that I had ordered.
Sitting at the bar of a sushi joint not only provides an excellent show of skill and craft while you eat, but it gives you an opportunity to get the chef's recommendations right from the source. During my visit, the chef suggested some fresh Thai snapper nigiri ($7). I also ordered a Rainbow Roll ($13), which features three cuts of fish selected by the chef. When you get the opportunity to have a sushi expert whip something up for you, you take it.
Both rolls arrived in all their jewel-toned glory, garnished with precise dots of Sriracha and sesame seeds. I was eager to try the Thai snapper, whose rosy, pink color was all kinds of appealing. It came topped with some green onion and paper-thin slices of lemon, which culminated in two of the most perfect bites of sushi I have ever experienced. It was a true embodiment of sushi's power—a subtle, simply prepared presentation that showcases the magic of fresh ingredients. If it's ever on the special menu again, you won't want to pass it up.
The Rainbow Roll was also a solid entry—mine came with tuna, yellowtail and salmon with some sliced avocado for good measure. This is a perfect roll for those who have a tough time deciding; it comes with plenty of variety, it's excellent, and it's huge. There are more extravagant rolls on the menu for sure, but the Rainbow Roll is a great way to take the pulse of Fat Fish.
At the end of my meal, I was reasonably stuffed—but then the server asked if I wanted dessert. I thought, "Why the hell not?" and ordered a triple chocolate mousse cake ($10) expecting a nice, chocolatey punctuation mark on a great meal. When its perfectly round shape arrived topped with a white chocolate coin that bore the Fillings & Emulsions logo, my heart leapt. Though having Fillings and Emulsions as their bakery makes all kinds of sense—the two eateries are right next door to each other—I simply did not expect this. Nor did I expect the weak feeling I got in my knees when I took my first bite of this decadent dessert. I'm not one to follow sushi up with something sweet, but if this is what they're packing at Fat Fish, dessert is a must.
With its sterling reputation, I was sure that my meal at Fat Fish would be memorable. I did not expect it to be this memorable, however. Chatting up the sushi chef, enjoying a frosty bottle of beer, diving deep into the richness of a well-made pho broth, luxuriating in the gorgeous sushi on my plate and finishing things off with a smooth, chocolatey finish made for a wonderful night out.