- Ted Sheffler
One of my favorite local restaurants to emerge during the past few years was Rice Basil in Holladay. It was among a handful of excellent sushi and sashimi spots in town, so I was bummed to hear that they lost their lease, and the building would be razed. But then I heard about the opening of a new Murray restaurant on State Street called Soy's.
As it turns out, Soy's Sushi Bar & Grill is the namesake restaurant of former Rice Basil owner/chef Ariunbold Batsaikhan—aka "Soy." With a mouthful of a name like his, you can see why he might prefer his nickname. If nothing else, it saves on the cost of signage.
I'm thrilled that Batsaikhan has a new place to call his own. He's one of the sweetest guys I've met in the restaurant biz, and one with enormous talent. At Soy's, he runs the restaurant; he's not behind the sushi bar anymore, but it's in great hands with sushi artists like Eko, a fellow Mongolian and friend of Batsaikhan's.
The vibe at Soy's couldn't be more different than Rice Basil. Whereas the latter was dark and hushed, This place is vibrant and bustling, with orange booths and sushi bar, contemporary pendent lighting and modern art adorning the walls. It's a very inviting and friendly atmosphere.
After bellying up to the sushi bar and chatting with Eko (who didn't know who I was) we were treated to a gratis seaweed salad ($5)—a scrumptious plate of julienned seaweed, cucumber, squid and sliced strawberry and avocado, seasoned with a light gingery sauce and sprinkled with white sesame seeds. It was a great start to a meal.
From the small but well-selected wine list, we chose Calcu rosé to sip with dinner; it paired beautifully with the delicate (and decadent) salmon belly in a subtle habanero sauce ($8). The torched morsels of salmon belly aren't exactly fat-free, but practically melt in the mouth much like bone marrow. Then we enjoyed the simplicity of negihama ($5), a maki-style roll of yellowtail and green onion. I was surprised to find so many traditional rolls—spicy scallop, unagi maki, California, spicy tuna, futomaki, spider, etc.—priced at a mere $4-$6. The portions are generous, and prices are beyond fair.
While I was talking with Batsaikhan and Eko, they let me in on a little secret. Although fresh fish arrives daily, they get special deliveries on Wednesdays—which always contain something not on the normal menu. So, Wednesday evening would be the best time to visit for new items that tend to sell out quickly.
I typically favor the straightforward, unadulterated flavors of nigiri and sashimi over more complex sushi rolls. However, the Snowbird roll ($11) is an exception. High-quality sushi rice envelops yellowtail and jalapeño, which is topped with escolar and served with jalapeño vinaigrette. You might think all that jalapeño would be incendiary, but it's not. In fact, the roll is quite subtle—and sensational. BTW, if you'd like to learn to make sushi yourself, Soy's offers sushi-making classes every Saturday.
We enjoyed ocean trout and escolar nigiri ($6/two pieces) before moving on to the evening's finale: sashimi. The understated addition of a single small sprig of dill to the escolar nigiri turned it from good to sublime. Opting for the 10-piece "small" sashimi platter for $20 (there's also a large, 20-piece $35 version), we were treated to an artistic arrangement of fresh, raw salmon, escolar, tuna and yellowtail, adorned with microgreens, fresh ginger, avocado slices and flying-fish eggs.
Simply put, there's nothing not to like about Soy's. It's a joy.