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Japanese cuisine is a passion at Nikko Sushi and Ramen

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 23, 2023
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Jennifer Tran of Nikko Sushi and Ramen in Kaysville.
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Nigiri presented on a wooden boat. From left: a slice of octopus, silvery mackerel, bright orange salmon, tan-colored hamachi, pink-red big-eye tuna, white escolar and a cooked shrimp.
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“Prawnz” are lightly fried tempura shrimp drizzled with a creamy honey/sweetened condensed milk sauce and scattered with walnuts.
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Katsucurry is a flavorful entrée of panko-breaded pork loin with a curry sauce made from pureed carrot, potato and yellow onion.
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A bowl of House Udon (Japanese noodles) consists of thick wheat-based noodles, slices of pan-seared chicken thigh, tempura shrimp, seaweed, fish cake, egg and green onion, all floating in a sweet soy-based broth.

Jennifer Tran grew up working in her parents' Chinese restaurant. Now, she's pursuing her passion for Japanese cuisine at Nikko Sushi and Ramen in Kaysville.

"Japanese cuisine is very interesting to me, because it requires a lot of skill-set in the preparation and presentation. I have studied quite a bit of that," Tran said. "I'm a big foodie, and Japanese food is one of my favorites. I was a teenager when I started exploring raw fish."

So it's no surprise that two of her personal favorite items on Nikko's menu are the nigiri -- raw fish over rice, and sashimi, simply raw fish.

Guests can order a custom nigiri with raw fish such as octopus, silvery mackerel, hamachi (yellowtail), white escolar, pink-red big-eye tuna, bright orange salmon and cooked shrimp artfully arranged in a small wooden boat.

Ramen is a top-seller, Tran said. But the menu offers so much more -- a wide variety of sushi rolls, tempura shrimp and veggies, and familiar entrees like teriyaki chicken and miso-glazed salmon.

A favorite appetizer is the Jalapeno Hamachi -- sliced yellowtail sashimi served on fresh cucumber with jalapeno, tobiko (flying fish roe) and yuzu-miso sauce. Yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit, so combined with the jalapeno, "The dish is both sweet and spicy," Tran said.

"Prawnz" are another popular appetizer -- lightly fried large tempura shrimp drizzled with a creamy sauce of honey and sweetened condensed milk topped with walnuts.

Katsucurry is a flavorful entree -- panko-breaded pork loin served with a curry sauce made from pureed carrot, potato and yellow onion.

"Blending them makes the sauce so creamy," Trans said.

The House Udon (thick wheat-based noodles) has sliced pan-seared chicken thigh, tempura shrimp, seaweed, fish cake, egg and green onion, floating in a sweet soy-based broth.

Tran's pivot from Chinese to Japanese cuisine was pretty natural, as she has always been interested in different Asian cuisines.

Her father, Joe Lee, came to America from Hong Kong. He and his wife, Sue Zhang, eventually opened Wing Wah, which now has locations on 12th Street and in South Ogden.

"I grew up in the restaurant industry, and I helped manage alongside my parents and sister, Nancy Keys," said Tran.

In 2020, she took a maternity leave for her third child.

"I decided I was ready to retire and raise the children," she said. "Then my husband (Dinh Tran) was browsing and saw that this restaurant was up for sale. He knows the passion I have for food, so when the opportunity came up, he said, 'Why not?'"

Dinh commutes to Utah County for his job as a director of software engineering. At night, he's usually at Nikko helping run the restaurant.

"Usually after school, our kids are hanging out here with us," Tran said. "It's nice to see them help out when it's time to close, filling up soy sauces or washing dishes. It helps build responsibility for them."

Nikko already had a good following when the Trans bought it, so they chose to keep the same name.

"It means 'new sun,' and I think of it as new beginnings," Tran said. "It came down to growing and maintaining what the former owners already established. We tweaked some of the presentation and added a lot of new items. We offer a lot of weekly and monthly specials, and we might order something different, like sea urchin or swordfish, for the weekend."

She recently started offering dashi tofu. It's a soft or medium-firm tofu that's battered and deep-fried, "so it's crispy outside but very soft when you bite inside."

It's served with bonito (fish flakes) and seaweed.

Tran strives for authenticity, "but I also try to be creative to attract the younger foodie generation," she said. "When it comes to traditional items, everyone has a different idea of what is authentic and how they should be prepared. We try to adjust to everyone's preferences if we can."


Nikko Sushi and Ramen

Location: 242 N. 300 West, Kaysville

Contact: https://www.nikko-restaurant.com or 801-513-5596

Price range: $5-$19; more for large shareable sashimi or nigiri platters

Hours: 4-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sundays


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