The Best Sushi in Topeka
From Shogun, to Sakura, to Yuki
Barrington Village is a small neighborhood shopping center set off of 29th and Arrowhead in southwestern Topeka. Built in 1983, it has played host to three outstanding sushi restaurants each surpassing the last in terms of flavor, freshness, and staffing. In the beginning, there was a little place called Shogun. It started with Shogun, which was listed in the Best of Topeka in 2003. Around 2005 the owners of Kiku’s Japanese Steak House took over the space and renamed it Sakura.
Sakura became one of my family’s favorite restaurants. Over the years we tried every item on the sushi menu, and most of the hibachi menu as well. We were always welcomed warmly by the staff and they always remembered my penchant for plum wine and hubby’s taste for top shelf sake.
When I first heard that Sakura was closing its doors after a decade of service, I was filled with dismay. My years of loyal patronage seemed to be coming to an end. Beyond just being saddened by the prospective loss of phenomenal sushi, I knew that I would miss the people. I was understandably concerned that my favorite rolls would be gone from the menu, and that without sushi chef, Paul, the culinary delights of the Japanese variety would be lost from the Topeka area forever.
Paul would be returning to the obscurity of construction work. Tag was suffering health problems and had to return to Korea. Junko was entering a well-earned retirement. Number two had moved on to parts unknown.
They all assured me that the restaurant would be going to a good group of people and would only be closed a short time for renovations. In spite of their reassurances I was filled with trepidation. Would these new owners fill the void? Granted, there are other places to get sushi in the Topeka area, but none compared.
I awaited the opening of Yuki with apprehension tinged with anticipation. I need not have worried because Yuki has not only set my mind and stomach at ease but exceeded my every expectation. They have gone beyond filling the vacancy left behind by my dearly beloved Sakura and raised the bar by providing their customers with a balanced blend of the old Sakura menu and new Yuki delights.
Yuki Menu Cover
Special items become available from time to time. Jason, the sushi chef and owner, will post these on Yuki’s Facebook page. It can be a nice change to get something special and off menu, especially some of the more unusual or seasonal seafood. It can be an opportunity to try something new.
My personal favorite special is fresh oysters. I’ve had fresh oysters in Portland and I have to say that Yuki’s are better. My husband, who has eaten fresh oysters all over the country insists that Yuki’s are the best he’s ever had. The oysters are amazingly fresh, and very clean. I’ve never had one that was sandy or gritty. Yuki takes great care in the preparation of the oysters so that there is rarely even any shell left in the meat. They oysters are then dressed very lightly with a citrus and soy combination and green onions. At first I thought the saltiness of the soy might overpower the subtle brininess of the oyster, but somehow it is a perfectly balanced combination.
Barramundi and Red Snapper
Next on my list of favorite specials, I have to list the barramundi. Barramundi is a member of the sea bass family and inhabits areas around Australia and Southern Asia. The barramundi is an interesting fish in its own right with a long history in aboriginal art. It is typically found in coastal waters, estuaries, and coastal rivers. It tends to eat smaller fish and crustaceans and can grow up to six feet long. The meat is light in color with texture somewhat similar to white tuna, but with a slightly wider grain. It is a clean tasting fish that is served nigiri style over rice and wasabi, as is the red snapper.
Compared to regular menu snapper which is most likely sourced from the southern Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, the wild caught Alaskan red snapper has a cleaner more understated flavor which is probably due to the cleaner waters of the Alaskan gulf. Red snapper are usually two to four pounds in weight and typically caught with hook and line. It has a pleasant mildly sweet flavor.
Eel, Alaskan Red Snapper, Flounder, and Barramundi
Uni is offered from time to time. Uni is the reproductive organs of sea urchin, usually referred to as roe or corals. Every self-proclaimed sushi lover should try it at least once. It is one of those foods that you either love or don’t. I fall into the don't love category, but I had to mention it for all those who enjoy it.
A Quick Note on Sake
Sake is a wine made of fermented rice usually of Japanese origin. If you happen to be a sake connoisseur like my husband, you’ll be interested to know that Yuki has a sake warmer on site that can quickly heat sake to the perfect temperature. They are also beginning to offer top shelf sake which you can enjoy heated or cold by the bottle.
Each meal begins with a salad topped with house made ginger dressing. I believe I have successfully remanufactured the recipe which hasn’t changed since Sakura days. That recipe is available in another one of my hubs. Each meal also comes with a bowl of miso soup that even my 2-year old loves.
Appetizer C is Gyoza, a fried dumpling available in beef or vegetable that comes with a dipping sauce. Some people refer to these as Japanese potstickers. My eleven year old loves these tasty dumplings and they never last long with him at the table.
Appetizer D is edamame, an immature soybean, served piping hot and salted in the pod. An order of these equates to a plate heaped full of the pods, which you can enjoy as is or dip in soy sauce. The last time we ate at Yuki, the youngest ate two plates of edamame by herself. I couldn’t shell them fast enough.
Appetizer A is Red Tuna Tataki and appetizer B is white tuna tataki.
White Tuna Tataki
Tataki is a method of preparing meat, usually fish, in which the meat is lightly seared and then marinated. At Yuki, rather than sear the meat in a pan or over an open flame as is traditional, Jason uses a small blow torch. He torches the very outside edge of the fish with finesse and an even hand so that the fish has the barest trace of a sear. This heightens the flavor. He then dresses the fish in a light marinade.
I’m not completely certain what goes into the sauce but my taste buds insist it has a hint of sesame oil and lemon. Combine this method of preparation with the creamy, almost buttery texture of white tuna and you have a melt in your mouth delicacy with a long history and tradition, made new by contemporary cooking techniques and the creative genius of a master sushi chef. From the first taste, it has been my favorite item on the menu.
My Personal Favorite
There are numerous items on the paper ordering menu customers receive to build their meal, and one of my favorites is the seaweed salad. Jason is happy to add any regularly available fish to the seaweed salad to make it even better. So far my favorite fish and seaweed combinations are white tuna or yellow tail. Yuki serves by far the best seaweed salad I have ever had.
Next up on the menu, are the sushi samplers. Sushi sampler A is a plate full of sashimi. Sushi sampler B is a plate full of nigiri. If you are wondering what the difference is, sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish served without rice. Nigiri on the other hand is thinly sliced raw fish draped over logs of rice, usually with a little wasabi in between to keep them together. Yuki’s samplers are always artfully designed and often include vegetables like cucumbers or daikon. These are served with ginger and wasabi. We almost always opt for a sashimi sampler with our meal. The fish Jason puts on the sampler varies. I love the way he puts thinly sliced lemon between the salmon, it’s the perfect pairing of flavors.
My Favorite Rolls
Yuki offers thirty different regular menu rolls. Number 26 is my absolute favorite. I order it more than any other roll. The Red Dragon Roll has fresh water eel, crab, and yellow radish on the inside and spicy tuna with spicy eel sauce on the outside. I would rate the heat level at medium, although I’m sure my heat seeking husband would call it mild. This roll has an excellent combination of fish and flavors. You have the robust meaty texture of the eel with a slight crunchiness from the radish and the lightness of the crab on the inside but then your taste buds are shocked by the spicy tuna and sauce on the outside. I keep coming back for more of this one.
Roll 3 is next on my list favorites. This is the Mt. Fuji roll. It is a large roll with yellow tail, crab, and cream cheese on the inside that has been deep fried and then rolled again with shrimp mix on top. It is difficult to get one slice of the roll into the mouth in one bite, but it is best done that way because of the way the flavors and textures play off of each other. The gooey sharpness of the cream cheese pairs perfectly with the clean and light texture of the yellow tail and the crunchiness derived from the frying process. This is all crowned with a shrimp mix that has just the barest trace of heat. It is an excellently balanced roll.
Since we’re in Kansas, you might want to try the sunflower roll. This has fresh eel, deep fried shrimp, and avocado on the inside. On the outside it has crunch, masago and green onions. This is one of the items that was on the Sakura menu and I have always enjoyed it. Masago is the roe, or eggs, of the capelin fish. These are small and crunchy and juicy. They are sometimes flavored or colored to add variations to sushi dishes.
The Hawaiian roll is number 14. It has crab, avocado and cucumber on the inside with chopped spicy tuna on the outside. I love spicy tuna. It isn’t overpoweringly hot, it just has a little kick to it that sets off the interior ingredients very well.
Roll 4 is another one of my favorites. This is the Yuki Roll. It is packed with salmon, red tuna, red snapper, It is an amazing bite with fish of varied textures and flavors.
The sunshine roll, number 8 on the menu, is my middle child’s favorite. He loves shrimp and crab and this has deep fried shrimp on the inside and is topped with crab, green onions, and masago. crab, cucumber, and avocado.
Number 22 is the Scallop Roll. This roll is very light and clean. It has scallop on the inside with spicy tuna and spicy sauce on the outside. If we've ordered a cream cheese based roll with our meal we often order this one to go with it because it brings a sense of balance, almost in a pallet cleansing sort of way.
The Caterpillar Roll is number 25 on the menu, it has fresh water eel and crab on the inside with avocado and spicy eel sauce on the outside. This is another roll that was on the Sakura menu and made the cut to the Yuki menu.
The L.A. Roll, number 11 on the menu, is another hold over from the Sakura menu. This is a great roll for beginners. On the inside it has deep fried shrimp, avocado, and crab. It is drizzled with sauce.
If you like to spice things up, you might consider number 5, the Dynamite Roll. This has crab, cream cheese, avocado and jalapeno inside and it is then deep fried. As with so many of the rolls at Yuki, this is very well balanced because of the heat from the jalapeno and the cooling textures of the avocado and cream cheese.
Speaking of cream cheese, Roll 1 is the Philadelphia Roll. On the inside it has crab, avocado and cucumber. It is then rolled and topped with some amazing smoked salmon and cream cheese.
For the crab lovers, there's The Spider Roll. Number 6 on the menu, it has deep fried soft shell crab, crab, avocado and cucumber. It is quite crunchy, and if crunchy is what you crave you can't go wrong with The Crunch Roll which has shrimp tempura and crab wrapped with eel on the inside with fried crunch and eel sauce on the outside. The Crunch Roll is number 10 on the menu.
The igloo roll is number 12 on the menu. On the inside it has crab and cucumber. It is topped with shrimp mix, masago, and green onion. This was on the menu in the Sakura days, and I once brought a friend with me. It was her first time trying sushi and she loved this roll. She's as addicted to sushi now as I am.
Number 17, the Big Time Roll has deep fried soft shell crab on the inside and fresh water eel with sauce on the outside. The Crash Roll also features eel sauce. It has shrimp tempura and yellow radish on the inside with spicy tuna and spicy eel sauce on the outside and is number 18 on the menu.
The Sweet and Sour Roll has deep fried shrimp and cucumber on the inside with salmon, lemon, green onion and masago on the outside. It is number 19 on the menu. I can't say enough about the flavor combination of lemon and salmon. If you like salmon, The Waikiki Roll, number 21 is another great option. It has spicy tuna and avocado on the inside with salmon, tuna, and spicy sauce on the outside.
The Fantasy Roll is number 23. It has shrimp tempura, cream cheese, and crab on the inside with tataki albacore on the outside. As much as I enjoy tataki, the cream cheese seems to hide its delicate flavor. While this is a tasty roll, I much prefer to go full bore with my tataki.
If you remember what I said about spicy tuna then you'll know why The Tiger Roll, number 24, makes the occasional selection list. It has spicy tuna and avocado on the inside with shrimp and spicy mayo sauce on the outside.
These are all great rolls, but they tend to be overshadowed by my favorite items.
Rolls I Have Yet to Enjoy
Believe it or not, I still haven't made my way through the entire menu. Here are the remaining menu items. I'll get through them all eventually. I've had an excellent journey of flavors at Yuki and that journey will continue hopefully for many years.
Roll 2 is the Rock and Roll Roll. It has the smoked salmon and cream cheese on the inside and is topped with spicy tuna, crunch, and sauce.
Number 9 on the menu is the JJ Roll. This has fresh water eel, crab, mango, cream cheese and jalapeno on the inside and is usually topped with a swirl of sweet eel sauce.
With crab, avocado, and cucumber on the inside and tuna, salmon, yellow tail, shrimp and more avocado on the outside, the rainbow roll is number 13.
Number 15 is the Blue Sea Roll. This has shrimp tempura and yellow radish on the inside with crab and avocado on the outside.
Number 16 is the Sunset roll. Inside it has spicy tuna and crab. Outside it has avocado with spicy mayo sauce.
Number 20 is the Yami Roll. It has spicy scallop on the inside and baked dynamite crab on the outside. This is definitely next on the list because I love scallops.
The Dragon Roll is number 27 and it has shrimp tempura on the inside with fresh water eel on the outside.
Number 28 is the Salmon Pizza Roll. This has crab, asparagus, and avocado on the inside with salmon, masago and green onion on the outside.
Number 29 is the Tuna Pizza Roll. It has crab, asparagus, and avocado on the inside with tuna, masago, and green onion on the outside.
The Imperial Roll is number 30. It has asparagus, cream cheese, and crab on the inside and salmon and avocado on the outside.
Yuki has gone a step above where Sakura left off and all my initial reservations have floated away in the warmth of the service and heavenly flavors on and off the menu. The staff is friendly and helpful. Our family always feels welcomed when we arrive. I look forward to dining there again, and hope to see you there!
The Roadmap to Fabulous Sushi
Yuki is located in the Barrington Village Shopping Center on 29th and Arrowhead in Topeka, KS.