A Sushi Gem

By John Lehndorff
Photography by Christian Marcy-Vega

JUST SAY ‘OMAKASE” AT MAKIZUSCHICO to enjoy a surprise taste tour of deep-sea delights

Makizushico is a genuine dining surprise hidden in a decidedly nondescript Littleton strip mall. Newcomers find themselves entering a soothing space with soft lighting and surfaces covered in natural bamboo and hardwood. 

One side is flanked by a wonderful sushi bar, a great place to see the chefs and their knives and torches in action, and the wall of upper-shelf Japanese whiskies and sake bottles behind them. Makizushico was designed with one goal in mind. “I wanted this place to be relaxing so people can focus on the fish,” says owner Shurong “call me Jay” He. 

When it comes to his menu, Jay is not interested in offering something for everyone. “I’m a sushi chef, and I keep us focused on fresh seafood. My menu is small, and I’d call it ninety percent traditional Japanese,” he says. You’ll find few vegetarian options, no tempura or teriyaki entrees, nor endless bowls of ramen. 

The secret word at Makizushico is “omakase.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it has become popular enough that Merriam-Webster recently added it to its dictionary. 

“The first thing to know about omakase is that it’s a surprise,” Jay says.  It essentially means: “Trust the chef to feed you.” It’s a tasting menu reflecting your preferences, but the sushi chef chooses each of the 15 to 18 pieces of raw fresh fish. The meal includes miso soup and salad, plus sake pairings are available.

Makizushico’s omakase comes in two prix fixe levels based on market prices for the seasonal seafood. Jay brings in more than 100 varieties of fish annually from Tokyo’s famed Tsujiki Market and elsewhere. Each piece is beautifully garnished and presented individually, not arrayed on a boat or platter. The upper-level tasting features include rarer, pricier items such as sea urchin. One of the more striking presentations is sashimi served under a glass bell filled with cherrywood smoke. “It looks so good, and the smoke adds just a little extra flavor,” Jay says.  Each piece of Japanese snapper, snow crab, mackerel or bluefin tuna comes ready to appreciate. Wasabi restraint is encouraged.

Don’t go looking for a long list of sushi rolls filled with inauthentic ingredients like California rolls muddled with fake “krab.” The shortlist of special rolls features gems like the Makizushico Roll, carefully composed with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, jalapeño and cucumber inside, and sweet Hokkaido scallops. Each bite offers fresh flavors that pinball around, lighting up taste buds.

The effect is also experienced in memorable cold plates like Kabocha Sake, sweet winter squash puree, fresh salmon and fried leeks dished in a refreshing, light dressing.

If you chat with your neighbors at the sushi bar, they will also likely wax poetic about favorite non-sushi dishes, a fact that makes Makizushico’s owner cringe. Regulars rave about the crispy shrimp shumai dumplings, melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu beef fried rice, 5-hour-marinated miso cod and shrimp yakisoba noodles. 

“I’d rather keep my menu simple,” Jay says. He also doesn’t like takeout or delivery because the fish and rice will not be perfect when diners eat it. After serving stellar sushi for a decade, Makizushico is no longer under the radar. It’s also not a very large restaurant. Reservations are highly recommended, even on weekdays, for dinner. 

Owner Shurong “Jay” He and sous-chefs Jack and Xiu 

John Lehndorff is the former Dining Critic of the Rocky Mountain News. 

5950 S. Platte Canyon Road