Dragons and wagons 

North end sushi spot soars and lumbers with ambitious creations

Bacon. On sushi. It's delectable enough to name after your restaurant, particularly when paired with asparagus and baked salmon. And thus you have the Bara Roll ($10), ambassador of oily, rich yumminess for Briargate's new seaweed spot, Bara Sushi & Grill.

An extension of a like-named flagship operation on Denver's Belleview Avenue, this Bara sports sharp, ultramodern décor: Warm brown earth tones on the walls meet dark wood floors, and angular half-wall booths embrace sleek black granite tables. Funky lights hang from the high ceiling, and a modest flat-screen television above the back kitchen pays homage to authentic Japanese sushi counters.

On lunch and dinner visits, our servers were cheerful and helpfully ensured that we ordered the right amount of food. Provided how widely sushi places vary in roll girth and piece quantity, informed guidance helps to not completely obliterate budgets. And Bara did prove as pricey, if not a smidge more expensive, than other local fresh fish houses, especially considering that its rolls were a little skinnier than most — far from the two-bite monsters with which a handful of local places dazzle diners.

After a lovely seaweed salad rendition ($5.50) and outstanding spicy miso soup ($4.50) that delivered ample heat, we put away two fresh-enough salmon nigiri pieces ($4.25) before moving to the gorgeously presented Red Rose plate ($12).

Competent hands had fashioned thick, flash-seared sashimi tuna slivers into a small flower atop overlapping bamboo leaves. Fairly mild jalapeño slivers and a faint Yuzu Ponzu sauce enlivened the meat a bit, but we weren't entirely romanced for the price.

Enter the Red Dragon ($12), a specialty roll of tempura-fried lobster salad combined with avocado, eel and potato crunch, wrapped in shiso (an herb in the mint family), under a garnish of spicy mayo. Complex and pretty good, but I could have gone for a little more fire in its breath; the mayo, perhaps, muted the "crunch" and the flavors of the shiso, eel and lobster.

Next up: the Pikes Peak or Bust roll ($9.50), a thin offering whose advertised crunch and mango flavor fell flat amid avocado, eel and shrimp tempura. I wanted these rolls to pop a little more, again considering the cost.

At lunch, an eel tempura roll ($5.75) and spicy tuna roll ($4.50; included in the $10.50 lunch box) scored average while the lunch box proved well worth the price, considering it was composed of miso soup, a light house salad, rice (choice of brown, steamed or fried) and diverse options for a roll, tempura item and meat selection. We opted for teriyaki chicken, and shrimp and veggie tempura with the tuna roll; the tempura was beautifully battered and tasty, though the chicken slivers a little dry and lackluster.

A chef's choice, 10-piece, Deluxe Nigiri Sushi plate ($14, includes a California or tuna roll) also proved a fair value; ours included fresh tuna, salmon, halibut, shrimp, yellow tail and krab. All paired nicely with an earthy green tea ($2), and a delicious, semi-sweet red bean and green tea mochi (ice cream in sticky rice, $4) finished us off satisfactorily.

It needs to widen some rolls and tighten some ingredient ratios, but Bara offers enough standouts — bacon-blessed and otherwise — to avoid a bust on the north end.



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