"Really? Sushi in Wyoming?”
It’s a sentiment that Dusty Rasnick hears with relative frequency at Suda Izakaya, a Japanese restaurant in downtown Jackson Hole. Uninitiated visitors often express a level of surprise (tinged with varying levels of skepticism) at the prospect of eating raw fish well over 500 miles from the nearest briny coastline.
“Lots of times people come in kind of mumbling and unsure what it’s going to be like,” Dusty laughs. “And they usually leave going: Wow! I can’t believe how great that was!” Diners frequently ask Dusty how this culinary feat is achieved.
“My answer is usually the same,” he explains. “Fish that goes to New York from Japan has to fly over Jackson Hole.” And when the fish’s destination is Dusty’s kitchen, it’s bound to end up on a stunning and delectable plate.
Dusty moved to Jackson Hole to pursue an opportunity at Sudachi, Suda’s sister restaurant, over a decade ago. “I moved for the job opportunity, but was stoked on the snowboard opportunity, too,” he recalls. While he’s less frequently on the slopes these days — you’re more likely to find him at the restaurant or rock climbing — he relishes the unique elements of Jackson Hole and the surrounding wild spaces.
“Another reason that Jackson is so great is that we have a good clientele that really knows sushi,” Dusty says. “They know what they like, they’ve eaten around the world; a lot of them have been to Japan, or have eaten sushi in L.A., New York, or Seattle.”
To serve sushi that can hold its own against big-name restaurants in coastal cities, Dusty and his team only use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients — an element that can be tricky for a restaurant in the Rocky Mountains.
“To get good sushi, it costs money,” says Dusty. “Most of our fish is not pre-packaged or pre-broken down; almost all of our fish comes in as whole fish. When we receive and start processing the fish, we can instantly freeze it in our super freezer. It keeps the color and quality because the cells stay intact.”
That dedication to quality doesn’t go unnoticed. Suda and Sudachi are not just surviving, but thriving — even in a mountain locale where the main ingredient has to be flown in regularly at a high cost.
Dusty emphasizes that while fish is an important element in Japanese cuisine, the nuances are richer than many diners realize. “It’s not just the fish on the plate. It’s the other components of the plate — how it’s dressed, how you cut the fish. Every little step along the way — starting with the rice.
FROM THE SEA TO YOUR PLATE
A fish’s journey to Jackson Hole
Though the fish at Suda and Sudachi come from a wide variety of locales — Hawaii, Alaska, California, and the East Coast — some of the menu’s star ingredients come from Japan. One popular example is the wild caught bluefin tuna, which begins its journey on a fishing boat thousands of miles away …
- The bluefin tuna are caught by fishermen off the coast of Japan who deliver their catch to Tokyo
- At Toyosu, the city’s wholesale fish market, the tuna are auctioned off to purveyors.
- The tuna is then quartered and packaged on ice — often with other types of fish and seafood — and sent via overnight jet to the West Coast of the U.S.
- After going through customs in Los Angeles or Seattle, the tuna is sent to Salt Lake
- From Salt Lake City, it’s flown into its final destination: Jackson Hole.
Though there’s no exact timeline, Chef Dusty Rasnick says that most bluefin tuna arrive in Jackson Hole perfectly aged and ready to eat. “For big fish, just like for big game, it’s better if it ages a little longer. It needs time to rest. When you catch a tuna, you want to put it on ice — let the naturally occurring enzymes and acids tenderize the meat. It’s just like shooting an elk — you want to let it hang. Right around three days, that’s ideal for tuna.”