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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Kaizen

Call them “ghost”, “virtual,” or “cloud” kitchens. Regardless of the name, the idea of restaurants with their own menus and brands but no on-site dining was already taking off in 2019. The pandemic of 2020 has only accelerated the trend, sometimes without much transparency. A single kitchen may prepare several types of food under myriad brands with availability limited to third-party delivery services with steep fees. Kaizen, named for the Japanese idea of quality improvement, lives up to its name with a better version of a virtual restaurant focused on sushi. Continue reading “Kaizen”

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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Harumi Sushi

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. Continue reading “Harumi Sushi”

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. Continue reading “Yama Sushi House”

Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen

The word “Moira,” at least as a given name for a person, is derived from a Greek word meaning “fate” or “destiny.” It’s not clear if Moira Sushi Bar and Kitchen, a Japanese restaurant in the Evans Churchill neighborhood of Downtown Phoenix, has any link to that Mediterranean lineage. Nevertheless, the name is fitting because Moira has been a harbinger of what is now occurring all around it. When the restaurant opened in 2009, it felt lonely, occupying the ground floor of the 215 East McKinley condominium building with vacant lots on surrounding blocks in every direction. Continue reading “Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen”

Sushi 101

Sushi seems to be one of the most polarizing foods around. Some people genuinely love it, some people eat it because they think it’s cool to do so, and others find the idea of uncooked fish repulsive. Even among those who enjoy sushi, there are still factions. At one end are fans of various see-and-be-seen places, many of them chains. At other end of the spectrum are those who are so convinced that everyone should eat the purest, most authentic Japanese food that they shun rolls and sake bombers in favor of omakase at every meal.

mackerel sashimi

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