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Award-winning chef opens sushi restaurant in Vail

Sushi, sake and plenty of whisky is on the menu at Grand Hyatt Vail

Enjoy your sushi creekside at Makoto Vail restaurant at Grand Hyatt Vail. The new partnership between the resort and Makoto Okuwa, an award-winning chef with more than twenty-five years of experience in traditional Japanese cooking, is the brand’s first outpost at a resort.

“This is definitely our first restaurant in a ski resort, and hopefully not the last. We have many restaurants in warm climates, but this is a first in snow country,” Okuwa said.  

Okuwa has acclaimed restaurants in Miami, Florida; Washington, D.C., Panama City, Panama; Mexico City, Mexico and S茫o Paulo, Brazil. He has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation for outstanding contribution and was on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”



Okuwa was in Vail for the grand opening during Presidents Day Weekend. The staff was putting the finishing touches on the new restaurant that is in a recently remodeled space across from the front desk at Grand Hyatt Vail. The setting is along Gore Creek with large windows bringing the outdoors in, so the guests feel like they are in nature.

“My other restaurants don’t feature this lighter wood and tone. We may have a darker wood or something that is bright but a different type of material, but I feel quite comfortable because I think that Japanese culture is associated with this lighter wood color, it makes me feel at home. I used to snowboard, I used to ski, so this is definitely a dream come true for me,” Okuwa said.

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The Grand Hyatt Vail has teamed up with acclaimed chef Makoto Okuwa to bring together a natural synergy of global tastes and refined experiences at the new Makoto Vail restaurant.
Makoto Vail/Courtesy photo

A master of modern Japanese cuisine, Makoto Vail’s menu will be inspired by traditional Japanese cooking combined with the chef’s own innovative style with a selection of both raw and cooked dishes, and Okuwa does have a favorite item on the menu.

“We do have signature cuts of meat that we dry age, we use a koji butter and we mix it with the miso and we wrap that around the meat and age it for three weeks 鈥 that piece of meat is to die for 鈥 the koji butter aged steak,” Okuwa said. “But our all-time signature cuisine is sushi. Sushi is in my blood, it’s me, we don’t mess around. Sushi is the core concept of our restaurant and who we are.”

Look for a long list of sake and whisky selections at Makoto Vail.
Tricia Swenson/Vail Daily

The beverage program at Makoto Vail is impressive as well. Look for a large list of sakes by the glass or bottle, with many selections exclusive to the restaurant and the state of Colorado. There is also a substantial list – nearly 60 types – of Japanese whisky (spelled without the “e” because it is done in the Scottish tradition). “This is by far the largest selection in the state and one of the larger lists in the entire country,” said Mark Stone, Okuwa’s business partner.

“Japanese whisky is really popular right now and there is a high demand for it. We have a number of whiskys that are very allocated and I think people are going to enjoy them, they are really delicious,” Stone said.

The wine program features wines that pair beautifully with sushi and fish as well as the meats that are on the menu. Look for a wide variety of Japanese beers from stout and IPA to amber and lager.

“Many think that most Asian beers are made in the classic lager style, made from rice, and we have some of those, but we also have a number of more unusual varieties including some with matcha green tea and a lot of fun styles,” Stone said.

Makoto Vail is open from 5 to 9 p.m. and dinner reservations are required.
Tricia Swenson/Vail Daily

And then there’s the cocktail list. Highball drinks are very popular in Japan and Makoto Vail brings in some Colorado flavor with its gin highball.

“Our gin highball uses the flavors of the Colorado spruce which is a wonderful way to compliment the botanicals that are in gin. A few other favorites on the menu incorporate Japanese whisky and shochu, which is a popular distilled beverage in Japan,” Stone said. “We also have cocktails with tequila and mescal and so forth that everyone is going to appreciate.”

Dinner reservations are required and the restaurant is open from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information go to or call 970- 479-1536.


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