Sushi, and Japanese cuisine more generally, is one of those things that can be really easy to eat gluten-free… or not. It all depends on the restaurant. In theory, the execution of a gluten-free meal is easy – Japanese cuisine is grounded in rice, not bread, and tends to incorporate fresh fish, vegetables, and meats. Stick with rice noodles, and avoid the wheat-based soba and other noodles. Stay away from traditional soy and teriyaki sauces, and stick with tamari wheat-free soy sauce. And stay away from the tempura, which is typically battered in unfriendly flour (though not necessarily so).
It surprises me, though, how many times I’ve walked into a sushi restaurant, asked if they have tamari wheat-free soy sauce, and they respond with a puzzled look as if I’d just asked for an enchilada. Such a response always raises my “possible gluten contamination threat level” to orange or red. Thankfully, though, there are some sushi restaurants that are in the know about gluten-free dining, and happily, Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar is one of them.
Hapa has a handful of locations, all in Colorado. I’ve been dining there for years, since long before I was diagnosed and switched to a gluten-free diet. The restaurant serves high quality, fresh sushi, and the inspired menu offers up a phenomenal blend of Japanese and Hawaiian influences. Much to my delight, Hapa offers tamari wheat-free soy sauce, and the knowledgable wait staff and sushi chefs have easily informed me in the past as to which sushi rolls are and are not gluten-free.
Recently, Hapa made the gluten-free dining experience exponentially easier with the addition of a new gluten-free menu. Its diverse offerings span appetizers (i.e. edamame), salads, and a wonderful assortment of sushi rolls. You’ll find many of the more straightforward rolls, like tekka maki (tuna), negihama (yellowtail with scallions), and California rolls (made with real crab meat). You’ll also find more elaborate sushi rolls, as well as my Hapa favorite – the Rock N Roll (rock shrimp with cucumber in a spicy sauce). And to wash it all down, Hapa is serving Bard’s Tale GF beer.
Hapa is one of those delightful instances where you’ll find great food that will please both the gluten-free and the gluten-ous palate. If sushi is your thing, make haste to Hapa.