Utica Square Hosts Stand-Out Sushi Restaurant

Managing Editor

UPSCALE SURROUNDINGS: Sushi Alley opened in November 2012 as one of only a small number of new restaurants to come to Utica Square in the recent years. It sits on the western end of the shopping center. The restaurant has become known for its unique-tasting dishes, which stem from its use of high-quality ingredients, and few to no sauces are used in preparation. None of the food is fried, and, instead of using cream cheese in its sushi, goat cheese is the preference due to its higher quality and improved taste.

While sushi restaurants may not be hard to locate in Tulsa, Utica Square’s Sushi Alley Izakaya manages to stand alone in its high caliber of Japanese cuisine and ambiance.

Sushi Alley is one of only a handful of businesses that have been fortunate enough to enter Utica Square in recent years. General Manager Tom Staab credits the restaurant owner’s proposed plan for the restaurant, including its exterior and interior design and food offerings, as reasons for the restaurant’s approval by the Helmerich family, Utica Square’s owners.

Sushi Alley was created out of a narrow alleyway on the west end of the center and opened in November 2012. It has quietly built a solid following and reputation during its first year in business, ranking sixth in the Tulsa World’s list of top 10 new restaurants in 2013.

That accolade, though, is anything but surprising to those who are familiar with the restaurant’s cuisine—that includes Chris White, a seasoned server who has previously worked at many local hot spots, including The Brasserie and Wolfgang Puck, before joining Sushi Alley.

However, it was White’s experience working at Sushi Samba in Las Vegas that caused him to fall in love with sushi and the traditional Japanese setting that Sushi Alley endeavors to imitate.

Izakayas, or Japanese pubs, are frequent sights in Japan and can be identified on the street by a red lantern that hangs at the entrance. The concept has recently moved stateside, with many similar spots found in New York City and Los Angeles.

“They’re a meeting place for people,” White says. “People see the red lantern, and they know it’s a place to get drinks with food as a complement.”

Sushi Alley maintains that red lantern concept, using the lantern as its logo, which is painted on its front picture window.

All menu offerings come with Staab’s promise of high-quality fish and ingredients. Pointing out another difference from other sushi restaurants, Staab discourages customers from using soy sauce: “I like to let our fish stand on its own.”

As a rule, sauces are kept to a minimum in meal preparation, chefs do not fry any food items, and, instead of using cream cheese in its sushi, goat cheese is the preference due to its higher quality and improved taste.

Besides sushi, patrons will find cold salads, grilled items and the traditional Miso soup, a customer favorite. “One customer told me it was the best Miso soup he had ever had,” says White.

An item unique to Sushi Alley and as popular as the Miso soup is the edamame hummus, made from edamame beans as opposed to chickpeas used in regular hummus.

Customers can choose from a variety of small plates, a concept that encourages meal sharing and experimenting with new tastes. It also allows customers the freedom to choose whether they want to leave the restaurant stuffed to the brim or feeling light but satisfied, such as some of White’s friends who came for a sushi dinner on New Year’s Eve. “They wanted to go light because they were going to drink and dance later,” he says.

“I’m always hearing people say, ‘I wish I would have found you earlier,’” he continues. “Once they try our food, we end up seeing them weekly.”

Sushi Alley is open M-F 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. with a daily happy hour, 4-6 p.m., of half price sushi rolls and $1 chicken and pork belly skewers.

The restaurant is currently accepting Valentine’s Day reservations and will offer a special Valentine’s Day menu. Call 918-592-5539.

Updated 01-27-2014

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