Com Tam Thuan Kieu

It was 45 years ago that Bert Lance, then serving as the Carter Administration’s budget director, popularized the folksy phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Since then, the slogan has settled into widespread use and is typically meant to tell people to leave well enough alone. Nevertheless, the words stop short of advising what should be done when something is already broke(n). In the Mesa Asian District, a Vietnamese restaurant known as Com Tam Thuan Kieu has answered that question by using broken grains of rice as the foundation of its distinctive menu.

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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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EZbachi

There seems to be no limit to what kind of food can be prepared on a truck. While mobile operations might traditionally have been associated with hot dogs, tacos, and other hand foods, chefs and entrepreneurs seem to thrive on finding ways to prepare items like pizzas or lobster rolls in the cramped space of a kitchen on wheels. Along Central Avenue, EZbachi has created its own niche with a food truck version of teppanyaki, the Japanese method of hot iron plate cooking that is a longstanding, if somewhat Americanized, tradition at chains like Benihana.

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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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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.

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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”

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