You know you’re going to land on sushi when you’re brainstorming the best place for a stellar dinner out. It has the most color, the most artfully prepared dishes, the most options for impressing whoever it is you want to impress. A first date? An out-of-town client? A birthday lunch with your best friend? Go get some sushi. And 417-land is the perfect place to do it. Local sushi options have grown exponentially over the last two decades. Whether you’ve been eating sushi for years and have established favorites, or you’ve never looked at a sushi menu in your life, there’s never been a better time than right now to break out of your comfort zone and embark on a culinary adventure. From classic tuna rolls to smoked salmon nigiri and even sea urchin sashimi, there are plenty of new tastes to try in town. So explore the most adventurous offering on local menus, learn how the best chefs are trained for the job and use our guide to plan your next sushi night out.
The Roll Masters
The Geisha roll from Umi is a customer favorite.
Umi Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
3046 S. Kimbrough Ave., Ste. 100, Springfield, 417-882-1110
For those who love sake and won’t devour their sushi without it, you need to add Umi to your must-try list. The restaurant boasts many flavored sakes, but a perfect pair to your meal is the smooth coconut lemongrass nigori sake. Start with the tuna tataki appetizer: fresh bluefin tuna seared on the outside and thinly sliced, then finished with green onions and ponzu sauce. Then try the spicy salmon roll, with fresh salmon, jalapeños and cream cheese topped with masago and homemade maple syrup chili sauce. When you want to bring the heat, try the Bomb roll: a spicy crab roll is deep fried with baked spicy dynamite green mussels and crab, then layered with tobiko eggs and served on fire.
Known For: The Geisha roll, with shrimp tempura, crab, cream cheese and topped with bluefin tuna, fresh tempura shavings, sweet mayo, eel sauce, masago and green onion.
302 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-865-0366
Tucked away in a little spot on Walnut Street, Izumi Hatake has been a sushi destination in downtown Springfield for more than a decade. Hidden among the classic rolls, nigiri and sashimi are unexpected treats, like the Ume Shiso Kyo roll, which has plum sauce, mint leaf and cucumber—you won’t even miss the fish. The restaurant offers fresh-off-the-grill hibachi pairings and offers vegetarian rolls that extend past your basic avocado roll or cucumber roll. The maki roll selection ranges from simple, time-honored favorites (the Philadelphia roll) to more elaborate bites, like the Spiral Ecstasy roll: shrimp, crab and avocado rolled with salmon, yellowtail and tuna on the outside. If you’re looking for a variety of textures, try the Jurassic Park roll with crab, cream cheese, shrimp tempura, eel, masago, green onion, a crunchy topping and a drizzle of eel sauce.
Known For: The Lobster Crunch roll, with lobster, crab and shrimp tempura rolled with potato, drizzled with seafood sauce and sweet chili sauce and topped with crunchy shredded potato.
306 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-832-0077
When late-night hunger beckons and fresh fish is the only thing that will satisfy, head to Kai for sushi that comes with a side of bustling nightlife. Nestled in the heart of downtown Springfield, Kai offers the same upscale experience as its sister restaurant Haruno, with a lot of the same menu favorites prepared by the same top sushi chefs. There are some items you can only get at Kai, though, like the maki maki beef roll. Mixed vegetable tempura is topped with garlic-sesame marinated beef and fresh mango salsa. Kai also serves some non-traditional creations, like the Sweet Nicky roll with strawberries, mango, cream cheese and yellowfin tuna. You’ll also find 24 kinds of nigiri, including flying fish egg right next to all the classics. And if you can’t make a decision, order the sashimi appetizer to get six pieces of the chef’s choice fresh-cut seasonal fish (at a steal of a price for only $10.50).
Known For: The Salmon Salsa roll, with crab, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese topped with fresh salmon.
O’Hana Japanese Restaurant
310 W. Battlefield Rd., Springfield, 417-823-7788
O’Hana Japanese Restaurant is a Springfield favorite for hibachi dinner and a show, but the restaurant’s sushi menu deserves your attention, too. There are nigiri and sashimi options for those who love the taste of fish—with some items you might not expect, like peppered tuna tatake sashimi. If you want to expand your palate, order the Ahi Tower. This favorite comes with crab, cucumber and avocado topped with spicy tuna, caviar and a mix of spicy and sweet and sour sauces. For maki rolls, the chefs’ creativity comes out in the O’Hana roll: snow crab, spicy tuna and shrimp tempura topped with white tuna that is seared with a torch and drizzled with ponzu sauce and hot sesame oil. Finish your meal off with one of the many dessert options (but we suggest the O’Hana tempura ice cream).
Known For: The Monster roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese, crab and avocado all rolled together and deep fried.
If you’re in the mood for a classic, order Rice n Roll’s rainbow roll, a California roll topped with the chef’s choice of fresh fish.
Rice n Roll
107 Aldersgate Dr., Nixa, 417-725-4006
Not all of the best sushi is found within Springfield’s city limits. Rice n Roll in Nixa has made a reputation for itself in the few years it has been open. This is the place to go with family and friends who are willing to share. Order the sashimi combo to get 10 pieces of assorted fresh fish and a California roll, or try the spicy sashimi mix that comes with avocado, cucumber and a spicy sauce. But when you really want to go all out, treat yourself to the Castle Festival deal. You get the king of the castle roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese, and crab, fried and topped with spicy crab), the queen of the castle roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese and cucumber, topped with spicy crab and served on fire), and one other roll of your choosing. If you’re in the mood for something classic, go for the rainbow roll, a California roll topped with the chef’s choice of fresh fish.
Known For: The Kiss with a Fist roll with shrimp tempura, jalapeño, spicy tuna and cream cheese and topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce.
Wasab Steakhouse & Sushi
101 Range Line Rd., Joplin, 417-626-7200
Located inside the North Park Mall, Wasab Steakhouse & Sushi is the perfect place to escape to Japanese cuisine. The restaurant offers entrees from the kitchen and hibachi, but the sushi menu is where the real adventure awaits. Sure, you can order rolls with classic ingredients (like the spider roll with tempura soft-shell crab, cucumber, avocado, masago and sauce), but there are also rolls that are more unexpected. Try the Fiesta roll for spicy tuna, cream cheese, jalapeño and crab all wrapped in tortilla and deep fried—a sushi roll/chimichanga hybrid that just begs to be devoured. Wasab also has multiple rolls with guacamole, one with seared steak, and even one with fried chicken. If you want a new texture, try the cucumber tornado with assorted fish, crab and shrimp rolled in cucumber skin instead of seaweed or soy paper and topped with ponzu sauce.
Known For: The Irish roll, a spicy crab roll topped with tuna, salmon, avocado and sauce.
Spicy crab is wrapped in rice and blanketed with red snapper, cucumber and spicy sauces in the Indian Summer roll at Wayo Sushi Bar & Grill.
Wayo Sushi Bar & Grill
2119 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-886-0300
The plates served at Wayo Sushi Bar & Grill are overflowing with personality. Owner Kira Hubbell designs each of the 31 house rolls herself and is always inventing new flavors to excite the palates of 417-land. One of the newest rolls is the Indian summer roll: a spicy crab roll topped with red snapper, cucumber and two spicy sauces. One of Hubbell’s experiments resulted in the zebra roll with shrimp tempura, cream cheese, broiled eel and white tuna. Hubbell also likes to use non-conventional ingredients for new rolls, including coconut, fruit and even tortillas. Keep going back to Wayo, because Hubbell designs plates based on what she’s feeling at the time, and she wants her customers to enjoy them with all of their senses. Each change of season brings a new special roll.
Known For: The falling in love roll, with crab, asparagus, cream cheese and avocado.
Chef T. Lee prepares the Dynamite Rainbow roll at Mijuri.
2710 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-889-9593
A recently re-vamped menu is breathing new life into this solidified Springfield staple. One of the spot’s newest rolls is the Snowflake roll: a California roll topped with fried salmon and a crunchy mix, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese (for the snow effect) and drizzled with eel sauce and sweet mayo. If the idea of cheese on your sushi doesn’t tickle your fancy, go for the Dynamite Rainbow roll, a California roll topped with raw tuna, salmon and yellowtail with creamy avocado sauce. Mijuri is also the place to try Hana Fuji Apple Sake—a cold sake that’s served in a cone-shaped vessel with ice in a catcher underneath. The apple smell will drift over your table, and you’ll slurp it all up.
Known For: The samurai roll with shrimp tempura, avocado, spicy crab and eel sauce.
The Dragon roll at Sakura features a light and fresh California roll topped with an entire piece of eel and eel sauce.
Sakura Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
3230 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-882-8000
Sakura is home to one of the best sushi deals in town: the chirashi box for $17.95. This box features many kinds of fish, including tuna, salmon, red snapper, yellowtail, white tuna and crab, served sashimi-style on top of sushi rice. We also love the Dragon roll, a California roll topped with eel. If you’re not a rice fan, try the rice-less Ocean Breeze roll or Summer Breeze roll. The Ocean Breeze roll has smoked salmon, tuna, white tuna, crab, avocado and cucumber folded into a radish and seaweed wrap, and the Summer Breeze roll comes with spicy tuna, Albacore tuna, salmon and spring mix wrapped in cucumber. Bonus: anything you order comes with miso soup and homemade ice cream.
Known For: Sam’s roll with chef’s choice fish, crab, cream cheese, avocado and jalapeño, all fried and topped with spicy mayo, wasabi sauce and a tempura crunch.
Maru Sushi & Grill is known for the Temptation roll with cream cheese, spicy crab and shrimp tempura. Watch out–it comes out on fire!
Maru Sushi & Grill
1745 W. James River Rd., Ozark, 417-485-6278, marusushiandgrill.com
They say you eat with your eyes first, and that’s true at Maru Sushi & Grill. Bring a date to try the three-layered Tower of Love, with sushi rice and avocado on the bottom, crab meat in the middle and spicy tuna on top. The tower is topped with green, red and black tobiko in the shape of a heart. Red beets garnish the creation, and several sauces glaze the bottom of the plate. If sky-high sushi dishes aren’t your style, try the Kamehame-Ha. Named after the first ruler of Hawaii, the dish has baseball- to softball-size rounds of seafood plated with eel and kiwi sauces and designed to look like islands. Soft shell crab is battered and deep fried, then chopped together with crabmeat and tempura crunch in a special sauce and formed into a ball before being topped with thin slices of avocado.
Known For: The Temptation roll, with cream cheese, spicy crab and shrimp tempura rolled together and served on fire.
Hein Han of Han the Sushi Man tops a California roll with salmon and thin lemon slices to create his Julia roll.
Han the Sushi Man
1901 E. 32nd St., Ste. 7, Joplin, 417-208-5060
Easily one of the most personable sushi chefs in 417-land, Hein Han has created quite the following of sushi lovers in Joplin. He first started making sushi for customers at Price Cutter, but in February 2014, Han opened his own restaurant. Now he’s making custom creations for all to enjoy and including his customers in the process. People can create custom rolls and name them, and then Han puts them on the menu. Sit down in the small, bright restaurant to try a custom roll, or any of the specialty rolls. Order the Julia roll for a California roll with a twist: It’s topped with salmon and thin lemon slices. If you need the heat, get the Han C4 roll, with tempura shrimp, spicy crab, eel and jalapeño, drizzled with eel sauce, spicy mayo and sriracha. You can also pop in and get to-go rolls out of the display case, along with spring rolls and seaweed salad to accompany your sushi feast at home.
Known For: Crunchy tempura shrimp roll, with tempura shrimp, avocado, crab salad and cucumber and topped with unagi sauce.
4117 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-889-9596, eatoceanzen.com
Ocean Zen’s move to the south side of Springfield brought a new swank design to the restaurant’s interior (think white, bright and loungey) along with an even swankier sushi menu. There’s every type of nigiri and sashimi you could want, from albacore and red snapper to surf clam and even quail egg. Choose from the classic rolls when you want a fresh taste dear to your heart, and move over to the specialty rolls when you want something new. Here you’ll find the Hawaii 5-0 roll, with peppercorn-encrusted seared rare Ahi tuna rolled with crab, avocado and cucumber and topped with pineapple salsa. There’s also the Eel Twister roll made with crab, avocado and cucumber and topped with barbecue eel, more avocado and masago tempura flakes. The sushi chefs here have expanded past the regular maki rolls, and their creations are definitely worth a try.
Known For: Ocean Zen roll, with crispy tempura shrimp, crab, fresh spicy yellowfin tuna, cream cheese, avocado and cucumber all in a light tempura batter.
WaKyoto Japanese Restaurant
2005 W. 76 Country Blvd., Branson, 417-336-1177, sushibranson.com
People go to Branson for the shopping and country music, but there is a hidden gem of Asian fare here, too. Located right in the heart of Branson, WaKyoto Japanese Restaurant serves tasty sushi to locals and tourists alike. In addition to classic entree options and Bento boxes, the sushi menu ranges from classic favorites to fun maki rolls. Try the pimp my roll—a twist on a California roll that’s topped with baked scallops. If you want some crunch, order the Miami Breeze roll made with crab, cream cheese, avocado and assorted fish all rolled up in cucumber. And if you adore tuna but can’t decide which kind you want, there’s the tuna lover roll: a spicy tuna roll topped with more tuna, white tuna and seared albacore tuna. Want sushi combined with your favorite app? Get the jalapeño bomb with deep-fried jalapeños filled with spicy tuna and cream cheese—a fun twist on the jalapeño popper.
Known For: WaKyoto special roll, a shrimp tempura roll topped with seared salmon and spicy crab.
A combo of crab, cream cheese and avocado is topped with spicy crab in Kazoku’s Crab Lover’s roll.
Kazoku Sushi Bar & Grill
3637 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-882-1454
Kazoku is one of few options on the east side of Springfield, and it’s the place to go when you’re craving deliciously fresh and simple sushi. All the classics are here: seaweed salad and octopus salad starters, a wide variety of fresh fish served nigiri and sashimi style, and simple maki rolls like shrimp tempura and spicy tuna. Try the roll options that pair one type of fish with one veggie for a simple treat—eel and cucumber, yellowtail and scallion or tuna and avocado. Don’t pass up Kazoku if you want a more complex roll, though. Try the crab lover’s roll (crab, cream cheese, avocado topped with spicy crab) or the dragon roll (shrimp tempura, crab and cream cheese topped with eel and avocado). There is also a super-indulgent roll, the O My Gudness roll that is deep fried and filled with cream cheese, crab, avocado and cucumber. Everything here is made fresh to order, but it’s quick enough to hit it on your lunch break when you really don’t want that sandwich waiting for you in the fridge.
Known For: Springfield roll with crab, cucumber, masago, shrimp and avocado.
Nakato’s Chef Gilbert “Toto” Decimo puts the perfect finishing touch on the Eel Twister roll.
Nakato Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
2615 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-881-7171, nakato.com
Nakato’s hibachi chefs are bursting with personality, making it a great spot for dinner and a show. But don’t ignore the sushi that can pair perfectly with your hibachi meal or serve as the star of the meal. To taste some of the highest-quality sushi around, sit at the sushi bar and dive into the comprehensive menu of nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls. Here, it’s easy to try new tastes or stick to tried-and-true favorites. When you want to venture out, try nigiri made with way more than the regular tuna, salmon and yellowtail—
Nakato has smelt roe, salmon roe and sea urchin nigiri. If you’re sticking to rolls, the Valentines roll has crab, fried shrimp, avocado, spicy tuna, spicy crab and masago all rolled in soy paper and tempura crumbs, then topped with four sauces: mayo, eel sauce, yummy sauce and spicy sauce. We also love the eel twister roll with fried shrimp, crab, cream cheese, masago and scallions and topped with eel and avocado.
Known For: The Jenni roll with fried shrimp, crab and masago rolled in soy paper, fried in tempura batter and topped with spicy crab and spicy mayo.
Haruno serves tuna, salmon, and yellowtail sashimi in style.
Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill
3044 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield, 417-887-0077, harunosushi.com
When you hear “sushi in 417-land,” Haruno is likely the first place that comes to mind. With its swank decor and dim lighting, it’s the perfect spot for a business lunch (gotta impress the clients) or a weekend date night. Haruno is one of the best places to try something new. If you have the patience, order the Mussel Beach roll, which takes about 30 to 40 minutes to prepare with extreme precision. When it comes to the table, you get to feast on a California roll topped with red snapper, green mussels, avocado and green onions. If you need some deliciousness to arrive at your table faster, try the bonito nigiri. Bonito fish is in the mackerel and tuna family, and Haruno serves it with ginger and green onion for a tantalizing, authentic Japanese taste. When you’re craving the classic sushi fix, order the white palace roll, with spicy tuna and shrimp tempura topped with white tuna that’s torched and drizzled with a combo of zesty hot rock sauce and eel sauce.
Known For: The Oh My God roll, with shrimp tempura and crab wrapped with seaweed and rice, layered with shrimp and avocado and topped with eel sauce, spicy mayo and sriracha, all served on fire.
A Sushi Saga
We found the biggest moments of sushi history in Springfield.
The Very First: Tokyo Express opens and is the city’s first sushi bar.
Expanding South: Ossi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar opens on Republic Road, expanding the sushi scene to south Springfield.
Sudden Growth: In three years, the city becomes host to three more restaurants offering sushi: Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill,
Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar and Fuji Japanese Seafood & Steakhouse.
Hitting Downtown: Sushi makes its way into downtown Springfield with Hataki Sushi Grill opening .
Getting Bigger: The tasty Asian fare continues to gain popularity with two more restaurants: Izumi Hatake and Sakura Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill .
Haruno’s Little Sister: After six years of becoming a top sushi destination, Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill expands to downtown and opens Kai Sushi Lounge & Bar.
West Side Sushi: Mijuri Sushi & Rhythm, now known simply as Mijuri, opens on South Campbell Avenue.
Sushi Goes East: Kazoku Sushi Bar & Grill opens on East Sunshine Street, becoming the first option on the east side of Springfield.
The Grand Total: There are a total of 19 sushi restaurants in Springfield, providing a taste of Japan no matter what side of town you’re on.
Know Your Sauces
Ponzu: Best described as soy sauce with a citrus kick, ponzu sauce mixes salty, sweet and tangy to pair perfectly with simple rolls and fish.
Eel: Commonly made with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine), eel sauce is a perfectly sweet drizzle over maki rolls.
Avocado: This sauce has a common base of avocado, citrus and salt, and can be customized to any taste by adding garlic, sugar or wasabi powder.
Spicy Mayo: One of the most common sauces for sushi rolls, spicy mayo is simple: mayonnaise, lime juice, heat coming from either sriracha or chili-garlic paste and sometimes rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Seafood: A little sweet, a little spicy and a little tangy, this orangeish-pink seafood sauce is made with mayo, tomato paste, garlic, sugar, paprika and cayenne pepper and is a delicious dipping sauce for nearly any roll.
Soy: The most popular dipping sauce around is simple: made with mostly fermented soybeans and a roasted grain. Be careful not to drown delicate rolls in this salty bath.
Sriracha: Recognized as the super-spicy concoction that can kick any food up a few notches, this garlic chili sauce is sometimes used to drizzle on the heat.
Training the Pros
Husband-and-wife sushi duo John Jung and Young Jun take us through the specialized training program they use to create experienced sushi chefs at Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill and Kai Sushi Lounge & Bar.
John Jung (left) of Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill and Kai Sushi Lounge & Bar teaches a sushi chef (right) how to prepare rice.
1. Recruiting the Best
John and Young often travel, both to U.S. cities like Los Angeles and New York and across the Pacific to Korea and Japan. When they first opened Haruno almost 20 years ago, they invited the best chefs they found while traveling to come back to Springfield. The pair would provide temporary housing and transportation while the chefs settled here. Now that they have a consistent staff of trained sushi chefs, they no longer have to recruit from around the world, but they are still always on the lookout for the best talent.
2. Washing the Rice
All the training is done at Haruno. New chefs spend an average of three years learning how to wash and prepare rice. “Rice is very important to sushi making,” John says. The rice is washed carefully and prepared 10 times a day on average. When there is downtime, John says the chef can help with basic kitchen prep, like slicing vegetables.
3. Cutting the Fish
The next three years are spent cutting and preparing fish for the rolls. The restaurant has whole fish delivered three times a week from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. John says it’s a very technical skill to learn how to prepare the 10 types of fish the restaurant gets. The chef will also help make simple rolls, like California rolls.
4. Rolling the Goods
After learning the behind-the-scenes prep for six years, the chefs go to the front sushi bar and start making maki rolls. A big part of the training here is speed. “We’re a busy restaurant,” Young says. “If we have 50 customers, and each person orders two rolls, that’s 100 rolls we have to make in 30 minutes.” Chefs take as long as they need to master rolls and move up to nigiri, but this takes less time than the six years of basics.
5. Preparing the Nigiri
When the chef is an expert at maki rolls, the next step is preparing nigiri. John says this is a very detailed skill the chef needs. Once a chef makes it to this point, they are excited to be preparing high-level sushi and are putting their best work out there for customers, John says. When they get nigiri down perfectly, the chefs move up to preparing sashimi.
6. Preparing the Sashimi
John says sashimi is the No. 1 skill of making sushi, and it’s very technical. The best of the best are preparing sashimi, right in front of the customers. John teaches his own style of food that combines Japanese and American styles of cooking. When the chefs learn it and learn it well, they are officially part of the eight-person team at Haruno or the five-person team at Kai serving 417-landers.
Stop, Shop and Roll
These 417-land grocery stores have sushi chefs in-house to satisfy your cravings with made-fresh-daily rolls.
Various locations, pricecutteronline.com
Check off the items on your grocery list, then find the in-store sushi bar. Chefs are there every day to serve up everything from California and spicy tuna rolls to dragon and rainbow rolls that come with wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce. You can also pick up your favorite sides, including seaweed salad, dumplings and even a bottle of sake to make the dinner complete.
1720 W. Battlefield Rd., Springfield, 417-881-1950, hy-vee.com
Right next to Hy-Vee’s Chinese express buffet, a small selection of sushi rolls are there to please. Pick up a spicy tuna, salmon or California roll that’s freshly made every day. They also have simple veggie rolls, sushi combos, spring rolls and seaweed salad.
Various locations, samsclub.com
In-house sushi chefs make around six types of roll fresh each day for Sam’s Club members to enjoy. Pick up a California roll, a spicy California roll, a tiger roll, or some salmon nigiri.