K-Bop

K-pop has become a global phenomenon so ubiquitous that it needs little explanation. A country that years ago had relatively little cultural impact beyond its borders now produces some of the world’s top-selling popular music with extravagant videos and concert tours that reach an international audience. With that kind of influence, it’s easy to understand why plays on words involving the letter “K” as a prefix have become a shorthand for all aspects of Korean influence, including food. K-Bop, a Tempe restaurant, takes that approach to popularizing Korean cuisine.

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Maisen Katsu

Whether it’s German schnitzel, Mexican milanesa, or Italian parmigiana, many of the world’s culinary traditions incorporate a dish made of thinly cut meat that is breaded and then fried to yield a contrast between a crunchy crust on the outside and tender meat on the inside. Japan is no different with its katsu, usually made with panko bread crumbs encasing a flat piece of pork or chicken. In the food court at H Mart in the Mesa Asian District, Maisen Katsu celebrates katsu by serving hearty platters of crisp, breaded meat, as well as appetizers, sides, and noodles.

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Kuka

Over the past decade, Apache Boulevard in Tempe has begun a transformation from a low-rise corridor of motor hotels, mobile home parks, and strip malls to a canyon of multi-story apartment buildings. A few restaurants have been lost in the process when the land they occupied was sold to developers looking to build with more density. At the same time, many of the new complexes have ground floor retail spaces providing opportunity for new businesses to grow. One of the new breed on Apache is Kuka, which identifies itself as a sushi bar and izakaya.

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Ramen Kagawa

The movie “Blade Runner,” set in a fictional version of 2019, shows a bleak future. With 2020 being defined by a global pandemic, record heat, and social unrest, the actual present doesn’t always seem much better than the world envisioned in the movie. One memorable scene involves a stop for a meal at a crowded noodle shop in a busy alley. The experience of a quick stop for nourishment in a bustling environment is hard to find with so many downtown workers at home for now, but Ramen Kagawa has bravely opened in the middle of all the malaise.

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Shady Park

Whenever a sweet spring turns into scorching summer, residents of the Sonoran Desert always begin to appreciate just how precious shade can be. Local communities have decidedly mixed records in cultivating shade, sometimes leaving master plans unfulfilled for years and relying on engineered shade structures that may be artistic but also less effective than planting more trees. When a place offers genuine shade, then, it’s worth celebrating. Shady Park, a combination of a restaurant and a nightclub in Tempe, calls out its two abundantly shaded patios in its name.

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Yama Sushi House

Maybe there’s already a serious research study out there somewhere, but one question that’s interesting to ponder is what relationship, if any, there is between the size of a restaurant and the size of its menu. A food cart that sells only two or three items makes sense. So does a banquet hall with an expansive menu. On the other hand, a large restaurant that serves a small menu suggests mass production rather than craft. What about the opposite: a small restaurant with an unexpectedly large menu? In the case of Yama Sushi House, the combination actually works.

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SoSoBa

One of the most interesting food scenes in Arizona isn’t anywhere in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It’s nearly 150 miles to the north of the state capital in Flagstaff. The mountain city of just over 70,000 people has recently garnered culinary respect for its homegrown restaurants and local purveyors. Beyond favorable media coverage and social media chatter, there’s one important indicator of Flagstaff’s gastronomic success — one of the city’s eateries branching out to open a second location in the much larger and more competitive Phoenix market. Continue reading “SoSoBa”

The Clever Koi

The colorful fish known as koi is just a few steps removed from ordinary gray carp. Centuries of careful breeding, blending both Asian and European varieties, has resulted in the vibrant animals stocked in so many lakes and aquarium tanks today. Likewise, some thoughtful cultivation of traits from numerous Asian cuisines, along with a few European influences, appears to have gone into creating the Clever Koi, a restaurant at the north end of Midtown Phoenix. Located just a block north of the Indian School / Central light rail station, the restaurant is now celebrating its first anniversary. Continue reading “The Clever Koi”

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