Godzilla looms over Lincoln’s State Capitol inside Blue Sushi Sake Grill.
The giant mural, running perpendicular to the bar and depicting the famous movie monster, is one of the striking features in the new Haymarket restaurant along with the screen print around the corner from it.
According to general manager Jake Mason, the Godzilla mural was planned way before the release of the summer blockbuster.
“The timing was coincidental, very fortuitous,” Mason said.
And so is Blue’s arrival in Lincoln.
One of my favorite Omaha restaurants, Blue has had its eye on Lincoln for a long time, Mason said. Blue has three Omaha stores as well as one in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’ve been looking at Lincoln for a few years,” Mason said. “We’ve been trying to find the right situation for the business.”
Blue believes it found it in the expanding Haymarket. The restaurant opened May 5 and is part of the new Courtyard Marriott at Eighth and R streets.
“It’s been really nice,” Mason said. “We have this beautiful hotel on top, and we’re close to the arena in a sweet spot. We’ll see this fall how it works with the (football) stadium nearby.”
My prediction: It’ll work extremely well. That’s because the restaurant excels on all levels -- food quality, atmosphere and service. It’s why I often traveled to Omaha when I had a hankering for sushi.
With so many maki (roll), nigiri and sashimi choices, you could spend 20 minutes with the menu before ordering. I suggest checking out the website (bluesushisakegrill.com) beforehand to speed up the process.
When my wife and I visit, we like to try an appetizer, a hot and/or cold plate and three to four rolls. That puts our bill at about $50 to $60, excluding drinks and taxes.
We started with salted edamame ($5) and lump crab cakes ($10). The cakes were crispy and complemented by an Asian slaw, which my wife enjoyed more than the cakes, and a fire-roasted red pepper aioli, which gave the cakes some punch.
For our rolls, we started with an eight-piece rainbow, a “classic” roll featuring tuna, salmon, shrimp, white fish and crab ($10) before taking our server’s advice on the five-piece hot popper (smoke salmon, jalapeno tempura and cream cheese, $7.50) and the eight-piece Seattle maki (salmon, cucumber, avocado and cream cheese, $7).
We also gambled on the eight-piece maui roll and lost. Made with shrimp tempura, mango fruit paper, toasted coconut and pineapple sauce, the roll was too sweet -- more a dessert sushi. No regrets; we like to experiment.
Our favorite was the hirame (white fish) nigiri ($6). It was so fresh it melted in our mouths.
The draw at Blue is sushi, but the menu also includes six entrees: a filet ($27), ahi tuna steak ($22), seabass ($24), salmon ($17) and two chicken entrees ($13.50/$14).
Also a big draw is the drink menu, with more than 15 sakes to go along with the house brand (cold or hot), 15 specialty martinis and a wine list heavy on cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays and pinot noirs.
I enjoyed the blue cosmo (vodka, blue curacao, white cranberry, fresh lime, simple syrup, $8.50) so much that I ordered a second one. Grade: A
This isn’t your typical Blue, which emphasizes the color throughout its other locations. Mason said that is intentional. Yes, there is blue lighting and decor, but the color is used as a complement rather than a dominant as a design motif. Instead, the restaurant mixes reds, oranges and browns to play off the brick walls.
Especially attractive is the lounge area, where Godzilla resides. Two-person couches and small tables line the wall opposite a red-lighted bar. The main dining room includes the long sushi bar where patrons can sit and watch the chefs work their magic.
Like the Haymarket’s other two sushi places, Blue has a nightclub feel to it, where people (primarily young ones) go to socialize in addition to eat and drink. Grade: A
In Omaha, Blue is known for its happy hours, when sushi and drinks can be as much as half off. Lincoln is no different, with happy hours running from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Mason said Lincoln’s happy hours already have been drawing well.
Seating is first come, first serve, though reservations are available for parties of six or more. We arrived just after James Taylor began his concert Saturday night, thinking we would avoid the rush. We did. We heard the wait was as long as 90 minutes prior to the concert. We waited just five minutes for a table. Be sure to bring your phone. The restaurant lets folks know tables are ready via text.
The turnaround time was speedy. Sushi can take awhile, but not at Blue. We received drinks, appetizers and rolls just minutes after ordering. This was while the restaurant was still full and busy. Grade: A
Vegetarian and gluten-free friendly
Blue features nine veggie rolls outside the typical California roll, ranging from $4.50 to $8. Many of those feature eight pieces, and many of them are unique. The eight-piece eden roll, for example, includes sweet potato tempura, grilled asparagus, edamame hummus, sun-dried tomato, soy paper and olive oil for $8. The fresh fish, veggies and seaweed are gluten-free friendly, and gluten-free soy sauce is available on request. Check with servers about the tempura and wasabi. Grade: A