You can’t say it gets any more unique than a Japanese restaurant sitting just a block or two from Buffalo Bill’s famous old “Hotel in the Rockies”, The Irma, on main street in Cody, WY. It may not be as unusual as you would think, considering one piece of local history: Heart Mountain. Shiki sits about 10 miles south of Heart Mountain itself, and about 12 miles southwest of its infamous namesake: The Heart Mountain relocation center. One of several Japanese internment camps set up in World War II by the U.S. Government. Makes the fact that Shiki is here all that more interesting.
Shiki is a simple restaurant, with a series of tables up front that would not be out of place if this were a casual diner. There are a few seats at the “Sushi bar” on the left, and a series of Japanese style booths along the right wall further inside. The rectangular tables invite you to take your shoes off, and sit at the low central table. I believe there are some private rooms further back, but I didn’t go far enough in to see them.
It took four or five minutes for the waiter to greet us and to take our drink order: water and an unsweetened tea. It took about the same amount of time to get them to our table. I should add there were only two other tables here at 1:00 in the afternoon. This delay gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu. The selection is fair, with a number of “locally inspired” rolls, such as the Heart Mountain, the Cody, etc. We settled on two bowls of “Spicy Fish Soup” to start,(at $6.00 each) , and to split a 10 piece “Volcano Roll”, and one other 8 piece roll ($10.00) that I don’t recall the name of. We ordered, and once again, the wait was moderate, at 8 to 10 minutes, just to get our soup.
So here comes the soup. One word – Phenomenal. One of the best things I have eaten in a long time. Pleasing warm chunks of tuna, nicely firmed by the hot broth, a flaky white fish, shrimp, thinly sliced carrots and scallions, and the most fantastic “just right” spicy broth. There was also a small scallop left clinging to its parental shell nestled along the side of the bowl (as seen in the accompanying photo). I can’t recommend this dish enough. Go just for this. Sell something if you have to, to get this soup. Was there a down side? Yep – heavily chipped soup bowl (see pic). Not a proper bowl for broth this good.
Just as we were finishing our soup, the sushi rolls arrived. They were warm, as if the rice had just come out of the pot. Unfortunately, this translated to two roll that fell apart when you tried to lift them, with none of the firm texture I am used to when hefting sushi with a set of chopsticks. The Volcano roll was especially difficult to eat, as it had a warm crab mixture on top that made it hard to delineate where one piece ended and the next piece began. It was flavorful enough, with cucumber and cream cheese to accompany the deep fried crab, but only OK. The same lack of firmness applied to the second roll, which had eel, scallions and a spicy mayo tucked inside. OK, but also hard to handle. This whole thing was accompanied by a sufficient amount of wasabi and ginger, as well as a couple of little mixing dishes for the soy sauce.
We wished to know what type of white fish and spice was in the soup, so we asked our waiter for that info. After he checked with the “Sushi chef”, he told us no one in the kitchen knew what the ingredients were. This was disappointing to say the least. We also found out later that they have a lunch special Monday through Friday, but this was not mentioned. If it was noted on the menu, we certainly missed it.
So the good parts – Sushi in Cody and the most wonderful Spicy Fish Soup I’ve ever had. The bad parts – Slow service, so-so structurally flawed sushi rolls, a lack of ingredient knowledge, minimal décor, high prices, and a “tired” feel to the place.
One ice tea, two bowls of soup, two sushi rolls, a moderate tip, and a $50 bill and I parted company there. Pretty expensive for what we got, but it was my daughter’s birthday weekend, and hey, she felt like sushi, and we were in Cody. I would come back for the soup, and would give the sushi one more try, but I will definitely come back for that soup.