Ski-Town Sushi

Vail's Matsuhisa flys in sushi straight from the Pacific.
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Everyone wants to be served the freshest food for dinner, but Matsuhisa Vail takes the standard to new heights. “Sometimes a dish will come out with the shrimp or scallops still wiggling on the plate,” says Matsuhisa executive chef Brian Busker.

How, you ask, can they pull this off three states away from the nearest ocean? “We have great relationships with our purveyors,” Busker explains. “They send me photos in the morning of fish that’s just been caught, and I can have that fish in my hands the next day.” 

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Seafood for the restaurant comes largely from the east and west coasts, Hawaii, and Japan and is either FedExed directly to the restaurant or flown into Denver and driven up. In some cases, it’s packed in seawater-filled styrofoam boxes and kept alive until ordered by the diner. “It gets around when we have live uni [sea urchin], ebi [shrimp], or unagi [eel] and it’s gone within a day or two,” Busker says.

Busker helped open this alpine offshoot of famed sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa in summer of 2011. Matsuhisa himself, who lends his name, bank account, or both to over 40 restaurants worldwide, visits twice a year. And although this restaurant is perceived as a sushi specialist, Busker points out that of the hefty five-page tome—er, menu—only one page is exclusively raw seafood. “Our goal is very simple food done amazingly well,” he says, and they do that by serving the freshest of everything, not just fish. When it’s available, the kitchen gets 12 grade Wagyu beef from Australia, which is hard to procure stateside. “The Matsuhisa name is well respected,” says Busker, “and if it helps us bring the freshest ingredients to our diners, there’s no downside.” So what if your dinner occasionally stares back at you? You’re bigger.

Matsuhisa is in good company—most ski resorts claim at least one hometown sushi joint. Click here for a few more high-country restaurants that are keeping it fresh.