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Omaha Magazine

Blackstone's Butterfish Packs a Balboa-Sized Punch

May 27, 2021 04:20PM ● By Josefina Loza
egg drop soup in white bowl

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Whether a diner likes it raw, sashimi-style, flash-fried as part of a roll, or chopped up in a poke-style bowl, sushi has become a popular delicacy around the globe. In fact, even Omaha’s sushi scene has become quite competitive. 

 Today, there are almost too many sushi restaurants to count, so offerings really have to stand out beyond the standard California roll if a restaurateur wants to be patronized. 

Nestled in the Blackstone District, Butterfish guns to be one of the best high-end sushi spots in Omaha’s restaurant landscape, offering unusual fish choices and handcrafted cocktails. 

Butterfish manager McKayla Olsen said the eatery opened in 2018 with the vision of offering sushi and Asian small plates. There are twists to sushi rolls with ingredients such as kimchi, caramelized pineapple, pickled shiitake mushrooms, lemongrass curry, and roasted cauliflower. The restaurant also offers traditional items such as sashimi, nigiri, and classic sushi rolls like California, tuna maki, and rainbow. 

While the menu changes seasonally, Butterfish has a minimalist, yet modern and trendy ambiance that diners find appealing. It is eco-friendly, serving farm-to-table, locally sourced ingredients with a robust wine selection. 

Easily considered a contemporary casual restaurant for its offshoot of the fine dining concept, Butterfish caters mostly to young professionals who live and work somewhere between downtown, Blackstone, and Benson.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

 On a Thursday night in March, my family and I decided to focus almost entirely on sushi, as Butterfish brings some creativity with its 18 house rolls.  

The sushi rolls have playful varieties, such as the Green Worm and the Rocky Balboa (many Butterfish rolls have fun names). We ordered the Crispy Gold Coast and the Spider Maki. We also ordered the avocado and California rolls to see how they stacked against other locations. 

The Crispy Gold Coast was hands down our favorite, consisting of crab mix, avocado, cucumber, tempura flakes, and sweet chili sauce. The Spider Maki had a crispy softshell crab, masago, avocado, red pepper, and spicy mayo. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

 The Rocky Balboa is made with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, with the cucumber, crispy garlic, and black and white sesame seeds lending just the right amount of crunch. Offering a trio of seafood items, the Green Worm includes a crab mix with yellowtail hamachi and tuna with avocado, red pepper, masago, spicy mayo, and the cucumber wrap that likely gives it its name. Most of the sushi rolls cost between $13-$16, which is on the higher end for sushi. 

Those who have never tried smoked eel before may be surprised at how rich and meaty this rather delicately textured fish can be. Butterfish did a superb job preparing the dish, which was soft, fluffy, and flaky, quite pleasant to consume without a fishy or earthy aftertaste. The Octopus sashimi  that day was chewy, flavorless, and couldn’t compare to the smoked eel sashimi we had just tasted.

The Blood Orange Thai Mojito (rum, blood orange, Thai basil, mint, and lime) paired nicely with the smoky eel. It’s a drink I’ve now added to my list of favorites. However, on my next visit I might opt to try one of the eatery’s many Asian beers, from Asahi Super Dry to Chang and Tsingtao.

Butterfish isn’t just about the sushi. The other dishes shine as well. 

 The Kimchi Fried Rice was a tasty meal spiked with spice—but in a balanced and flavorful way. The dish consisted of braised pork shoulder, roasted carrot, scallion, pickled Asian pear, soft egg, and nori. OK, who am I kidding? It’s ridiculously flavorful, and the egg on top basically made it heavenly. The Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and sunflower seeds gave just enough crunch. 

The egg drop and miso soups are two widely popular standbys, and both are made in-house.

Executive Sushi Chef Jose Vega said that Butterfish’s commitment to use local purveyors to provide the freshest ingredients remains the same.  

“We use local,” Vega said. “We support as much as we possibly can. Everything is fresh daily.”

When asked how they thought Butterfish fit into Omaha’s sushi scene, Olsen said, “People in Omaha love sushi,” implying that there is definitely room to grow in this market.

“It’s so wonderful seeing everyone come back,” she added. “Commiserating with guests has been great.” Since the pandemic, many restaurants have experienced closures, limited hours of operation, and reduced specialty items. At Butterfish, the menu continues to grow. Not to mention there’s plentiful seating, including some comfortable patio spots for those beautiful summer nights. 

Visit butterfishomaha.com for more information. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.