300 W San Juan Ave., Telluride, 970/728-1292
While sitting at a table at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant of Telluride, chef and owner Chad Scothorn explained his restaurant’s approach to its sushi offerings. “I don’t like going into sushi restaurants, opening the menu and being burdened with so many options,” said Scothorn, gesturing as if opening a newspaper. “When the menu is huge, I just look at the waitperson and say, ‘Can I just have two really good rolls?’”
Scothorn has applied this simple approach to Cosmo’s sushi offerings, differentiating Cosmo from Telluride’s other sushi establishments. Throughout his years at the helm of the Cosmopolitan, he’s carved out a niche by offering daily half-priced sushi rolls and calamari as well as $5 cosmopolitans from 5-6 p.m. in the restaurant’s bar or lobby (the lobby is shared with the conjoining Hotel Columbia).
Scothorn, a renowned chef with prestigious awards and recognitions to prove it, is the first to say sushi is not his foray. Rather than taking on the task of mastering the roll, Scothorn sent his sous chef, Chuy Ayer, to the California Sushi Academy to become Cosmo’s in-house sushi guru. While at sushi academy, Ayer learned what Scothorn refers to as ‘modern sushi,’ a style that emphasizes the use of sauces either drizzled atop the rolls, or served in dish on the side.
To flex his creative muscles, Ayer constantly changes the sushi menu items, but one roll has remained a constant player on Cosmo’s roster: the Hamachi Volcano Roll. The reason for keeping it on the list became clear as the waitress served it: the roll actually resembles an erupting volcano.
The tightly wrapped seaweed and rice bottom looked like the base of a mighty mountain. Lava-like sweet and spicy wasabi sauces cascaded down the diced salmon that topped each piece. While every ingredient in the roll delivers spice, the fire is balanced by a sprinkling of refreshing basil that sits above the sauces. This roll toed the line of visual beauty and unforgettable taste.
After a few pieces of the Hamachi, my attention turned to a classic (and a favorite of mine): the Spicy Tuna Roll.
The dark-red cuts of fresh, soft tuna that topped each piece were the first thing I noticed. With yin-yang accents, sprinkled sesame and tiny dollops of black tobiko sat atop each colorful roll, contrasting starkly with the gleaming white plate. Crunchy, refreshing kaiware sprouted from heels of the roll that, together with the mango and cucumber innards, checked the tuna’s warm spice, making for a full-palate experience.
Scothorn eventually left me alone to indulge in the rolls and the wine the wait staff had perfectly paired with the food. As I ate, my attention turned from the sushi to the calming atmosphere of the restaurant. The depth of Scothorn’s knowledge of restaurants became clear as my eyes wandered through the various sections of the restaurant. No matter where I looked, from the more formal dining section to the bar seating, every seating area was an inviting and pleasant place for dining.
Each section of the elegant restaurant offers a modern feel, from its calm lighting to its tasteful furniture and art. And this is the restaurant’s pièce de résistance; no matter where you sit and what you order, you’ll walk away from Cosmo happier and fuller than when you arrived.
Vibe: Knowledgeable, friendly staff set the tone of this restaurant, creating a calming atmosphere complete with soft lighting and a modern, casual feel.
Extras: Grab a table in the bar or lobby between 5 and 6 p.m. daily and enjoy the half-priced sushi and calamari and $5 cosmopolitans in the bar and lobby area. Cosmo also offers $6 glasses of quality red and white wine daily.
The digs: The Cosmopolitan Restaurant of Telluride is located inside the Hotel Columbia lobby, and is steps from the gondola. While happy hour sushi and calamari is limited to the bar and lobby areas, Cosmo offers multiple seating areas: the dining room, wine tasting cellar, patio, and heated outdoor seating.
Price Point: During happy hour, two rolls and a cocktail will cost around $25.