There aren’t a lot of purple foods, but those that lie somewhere between red and blue tend to be vibrant and surprising. Think of the complex purple of grapes, the nearly black purple of an eggplant, and the unexpected purple found in some varieties of cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes. The pigments responsible are called “anthocyanins,” and they also have a role to play in making a type of rice appear black in its raw state and purple after some time in the rice cooker. That black/purple rice is a key feature at Harumi Sushi in Downtown Phoenix.
Despite an official address on Adams, Harumi’s entrance is actually on First Avenue. The restaurant is halfway between the Van Buren light rail stations to the north and the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) couplet to the south. From any of those platforms, the restaurant is an easy walk of no more than two blocks. For those who arrive via bicycle, parking meters with side loops for bike lock-up are found across the street on the east side of First Avenue, as well as around the corner on both Adams and Monroe streets.
The space on the ground floor of the Orpheum Lofts building was once narrow and box-shaped but has since expanded into the adjacent space as part of Harumi’s growth. There’s a central sushi bar with two and four-top tables wrapping around it on both sides. Another counter, used mostly by solo diners, faces outward toward First Avenue. Despite Harumi’s annexation of the neighboring spot and the doubling of its seating capacity, the restaurant’s popularity has grown to such a level that a line is seen outside the door almost every day during peak dining hours.
The menu is a two-sided piece of paper with sushi, sashimi, and everything else listed on both sides for markup with the small pencil provided. The appetizers include standards such as seaweed salad, miso soup, and edamame. Gyoza come pan fried, eight to an order, and stuffed with minced chicken. Other choices include small plates of sashimi, sushi, and tempura. More unusual choices include jalapenos stuffed with tuna, crab salad, and cream cheese, along with a “Sexy Crab” salad of radishes and avocado combined with a bit of imitation crustacean meat.
All rolls and nigiri, whether traditional or trendy, incorporate the restaurant’s signature style of rice. The result is sushi much darker than is typically seen and a slightly nutty taste due to the black rice. The flavor and texture of Harumi’s rice are as distinctive as its color; however, they never overpower the clean, simple, and fresh taste of the fish. Chef’s selections of sushi and sashimi are good choices for those who don’t want to pick and choose a la carte. Harumi also offers the option of chirashi, an assortment of fish, vegetables, egg, and roe over sushi rice.
The menu of sushi and sashimi offers the usual staples and more. Salmon, albacore,and yellowtail are consistently good and distinguished not only by the suppleness of the fish, but also by the vibrant pigment of the rice underneath. If there’s ever any doubt if Harumi has appeal beyond its colorful rice, the sashimi selection should prove the fish has plenty of appeal of its own. In fact, the Oasis Roll is an entirely rice-less preparation. A core of tuna, salmon, and avocado is wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber instead of the usual outer layer of grain.
Most of the rolls, whether classic or creative, do include rice. The Crunch Mango roll combines tuna and salmon with the popular tropical fruit. The “crunch” comes from little tempura flakes. The spicy salmon roll shines by never letting the added ingredients overpower the fish. The rainbow roll is clever with a standard California roll wrapped in an outer layer of fresh fish: salmon, tuna, hamachi. A meatless choice is the asparagus roll, a simple, light creation of asparagus and cucumber unencumbered by cream cheese or other heavy ingredients.
During the lunch hour, Harumi offers five different value-priced specials in addition to its all-day regular menu. Most are combinations of popular sushi items with sides like miso soup, gyoza, or seaweed salad, and one is a bowl of udon noodle soup served with a choice of two miniature versions of popular hand rolls. The ahi poke bowl is also a popular lunch choice, and is uniquely presented in a nearly vertical fashion with a long leaf rising out of a bowl full of copious cubes of tuna with a bit of spice from sriracha over a bed or purple rice with avocado and scallions.
For customers torn between Harumi’s different creative rolls, a mini-roll combo is an effective sampler platter. From a list of eight possibilities, diners can choose a customized assemblage of any three rolls in reduced size formats, effectively creating a sushi flight from choices like the Arizona roll with tempura shrimp, crab salad, cream cheese, and avocado or the Las Vegas roll that uses a similar approach with Scottish salmon. The flight approach also extends to Harumi’s recently expanded sake selection, which is available in several small pours as an introduction.
There is also a selection of Japanese beers and some wine. Harumi keeps it simple by offering only mochi ice cream for dessert. There are some other nice flourishes like real wasabi rather than concentrated green paste, but for the most part, the focus is on the fish and, of course, the black-turns-to-purple kind of rice that stands out at Harumi. Anthocyanins explain the rice’s color, and antioxidants account for its nutritional benefits, but the fundamentals of fresh fish flown in every day make the restaurant the appealing stop that it is for sushi and sashimi.
114 W Adams St., Phoenix AZ 85003