Ototo – Goodness from the Grill

Sushi Den is a well-known establishment in Colorado. If you are a local, you probably know it as the BEST place to get sushi in Denver and have probably been on numerous occasions. Sushi Den opened its doors in 1984 by Toshi Kizaki. Since then, they have expanded. Next door to Sushi Den is Izakaya Den with a similar menu but with a twist. It is also known for its creative and relaxing, spa-like ambiance. On the other corner across from Sushi Den is Ototo.

This concept lends a more casual atmosphere and focuses its menu on smalls plates, a raw bar, Robata grilled skewers, and its extensive sake and Japanese whisky list. All three of these establishments form the trifecta that is “Den Corner.”

Ototo, being the newest of the three, is not as talked about as the other two restaurants. The menu is not as sushi-centered but there are tons of other choices that make this menu especially amazing and unique. The ambiance is also a big reason I frequent here. The inside can be a cozy dimly lit spot for ramen in the winters but also opens up with big wooden panel windows, allowing the space to expand and open up during the summers. When you walk by at night you can’t help but notice the relaxing lighting and the hum of guests laughing and enjoying their meals.  

Upon my last visit, we started our meal with a sake flight. Ototo prides itself on its expansive list of sake and whisky. Both can come in flight form, which is great for tasting if you are unsure of what you want or are looking to try. My favorite is unfiltered sake, which they also have plenty of. If you decide on one you like, you can order these by the glass. The servers are knowledgeable and can help you decide on a drink that fits what you are looking for, whether it be sake, whisky or something else on the menu, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!

The style of the restaurant is small plates that are meant for sharing. This makes it fun to get lots of different flavors into your meal and try different dishes. One of the most popular items on the menu is the Crispy Spicy Tuna. This dish is the closest thing to resemble any sushi roll on the menu. It is flash-fried tempura sushi rice, that is topped with spicy tuna tartare, sliced avocado, jalapenos, tobiko, scallions, and eel sauce. It is warm and crunchy and perfect in your mouth. This is a definite crowd pleaser.

A personal favorite is the Sashimi – Fresh Catch of the Day. This is a lovely plate of freshly caught fish served sashimi style. Like it’s brothers, Ototo gets fresh fish in from Japan daily to serve to Denver’s seafood lovers. If you are looking for something simple, FRESH and delicious, always start with this.

The Robata grill is something that makes Ototo stand out. Robatayaki in Japanese means “fire-side cooking.” This is a special type of slow grilling over charcoals that is traditional to Japanese culture and offers a delicious charred flavor to the foods. There are several options when it comes to picking out a dish from the grill. We enjoyed the Bacon Wrapped Scallops. These skewers were lined with plump scallops, wrapped in bacon and wedged between cherry tomatoes perfectly charred. These simple bites were so flavorful and delicious. We also ordered the Shishito Peppers which were very tasty. This is one of many vegetables you can choose to have grilled. Others include two different kinds of mushrooms or yu choy.

Next, we enjoyed the Pork Steamed Buns. Who doesn’t love a fresh puffy warm bun full of freshly ground pork mixed with shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onion, ginger, oyster sauce, and sesame oil? These are filling and have so much dough and meat, but they are a tasty item on the menu and come with a dipping sauce to soak into the spongey bun for a yummy warm bite.

To make sure we got in enough seafood, we decided to wrap it up with the Black Tiger Jumbo Prawns. These huge shrimp are really as jumbo as they sound. Some menu’s say jumbo, but Ototo really means it. These three giant shrimp are tempura battered and drizzled with spicy aioli then sprinkled with candied pecans. The perfect combination for a spicy nutty bite. Certainly delectable.

Though we were full of fish, we ended on a strong note with dessert. Ototo has a strong dessert list with things like Mochi Cake, Green Tea Ice Cream, Banana Cream Pie, Dessert Cocktails and a variety of sorbets. Per the manager’s suggestion, we opted for the Yuzu + Black Peppercorn Sorbet. It turns out it was just as delicious as it was intriguing. The black pepper is subtle and pairs nicely with the tartness in the sorbet. I would definitely order this again. We also had a Chocolatini, which was just divine.

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Ultimately the evening was just as enchanting as always. If you are a fan of the other Den Corner Concepts, I encourage you to branch out and try a new twist on some amazing cuisine. If you are in Colorado and are looking for the freshest most delicious seafood in Denver, this is your stop. You will not be disappointed.

If you are a fan of Den Corner itself, be sure to check out their Summer Rooftop Party. Each year, Den Corner holds a 2-day Japanese street fair which is host to several Japanese Chefs and James Beard Award winners from around town. Everyone gives some culinary insight into the food for the party and fun is had by all. Not only is it an amazing time but it is also a fundraiser. Tickets go on sale in early June, so stayed tuned. The event will be held on August 27 and 28th from 5:30-10pm.