The clarity of its eyes. The color of its gills. The latticed design of its fillet.
Tuyen Tran (pronounced train) is intimately familiar with each and every fish that is flown into Kalispell day after day and delivered to the new Blue Samurai Bar and Grill.
Each of the 20-some varieties of fish arrives fresh, whole and barely out of the ocean a day before it meets its sushi maker. Nothing goes unnoticed in Tran’s restaurant. Every detail of the rice, from its crop origins to how many individual pieces go into each roll, is known.
“Two-hundred-and-forty to 260,” he said recently from behind the sushi bar, calculating the collective kernels of cooked rice in his hand as he squeezed a small nugget without looking down.
Each knife is sharpened with similar attention to detail, fine-tuning the chef’s primary tool to ensure it can trace every fillet with exacting efficiency.
After all, “sushi is art,” Tran says.
It’s a catchy saying, but it’s also Tran’s philosophy dating back nine years to when he was first trained in the traditional Japanese delicacy.
That’s the tradition he’s bringing to Main Street and downtown Kalispell.
“This is what Kalispell deserves,” says Tran, who moved here from Tampa, where he operated the renowned Ocean Blue restaurant.
Last week the executive chef and owner of Blue Samurai gathered with his staff and a large group of community members to celebrate the grand opening of downtown’s latest restaurant. The sushi bar and grill opened its doors earlier this year but last week marked the official arrival of its full menu and beer and wine list, including sake.
The sushi menu boasts an impressive variety of seafood not common to the inland reaches of Montana, offering nigiri (slices of fish on pressed rice), sashimi (fresh slices of raw fish) and rolls. Tran’s favorite roll so far is the surf and turf, featuring tempura lobster, avocado, Japanese mayo and asparagus topped with seared waygu beef, sesame paste, kabayaki sauce and truffle microgreens.
It perhaps best sums up Blue Samurai’s appeal: tasting its unique blend of seafood, beef and toppings is both a delicacy and experience. That’s Tran’s goal.
“I want this to be an experience that stays with them when they leave,” he says.
Blue Samurai is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Dinner reservations are recommended by calling (406) 890-BLUE or by visiting https://www.bluesamuraimt.com.