From afar, the inside of Hon machi Sushi & Cocktail could look like a thriving marina, as salmon, eel, and tuna from around the world board wooden boats that dock at tables framed with lush plants and paper lanterns. Seasoned sushi chefs outfit each these passengers with a layer of seaweed or rice before granting eight of them passage on the Hon machi boat along with three types of sashimi and a rainbow roll. In their wake, hot Japanese entrees such as chicken yakisoba and pork katsu emanate savory scents from Teppanyaki tables. In addition to captaining sushi boats, the staff gives specific driving directions to sushi and noodles, which show up at homes, parties, and corporate events.
Sushi chef Pancho doesn’t hide behind the walls of a kitchen. Dressed in a brightly colored happi coat emblazoned with tropical fish, Pancho can often be seen distributing hot towels and cracking jokes while he crafts sushi rolls filled with spicy crabmeat, masago, or yellowtail in front of diners at his sushi bar. Of course, chefs still create hot specialties in the kitchen—entrées such as teriyaki salmon, vegetable tempura, and breaded pork tonkatsu add a dose of heat like an eager dragon in his first day as an AC repairman. The eatery cuts down on diners' bills with daily specials, including a half-price sushi happy hour and all-you-can-eat sushi for around $20.
Sushi Eye in Motion, which the Phoenix New Times crowned with the title of Best Sushi in 2006, tempts customers with traditional Japanese fare and freshly made sushi. Head chef Richard Cho has created a maki menu that travels down the sushi bar's conveyor belt, where customers can pick their selections or test their Hot Wheels' horsepower. For an appetizer, try the agedashi tofu, which chefs batter and fry with a mild, sweet sauce ($3), or the tender fried octopus of the tako karaage ($7).
Born in Seoul, South Korea, chef Yohan Yun first began working in sushi restaurants when he was 16. However, he credits his father with teaching him many of the skills that he still uses at Big Eye Sushi Bar to craft miso, soy sauce, and nato, a type of fermented soybean. The menu spotlights never-frozen fish; even the maki use rice sparingly. The rolls instead accessorize the tightly bundled fish and vegetables with such adventurous ingredients as chipotle cream sauce and thin slices of lemon. Orders of sashimi arrive with fragrant ginger sauce or jalapeños, keeping diners from tossing chopsticks to rakish musketeers having sword duels.
Sushi Roku’s menu is loaded with delicious cuisine and numerous sushi options. Light your appetite’s fuse with a selection of hot and cold appetizers, such as edamame hummus with wonton chips ($8) or the sauteed Chinese green bean dish known as ingen itame ($7). After miso soup with tofu ($4), taste-test the restaurant’s voluminous collection of sushi ($4¬–$10 for two pieces) and sashimi ($8–$20 for four pieces) options, which include freshwater eel, squid, smelt egg, yellowtail, and luck dragon. Hunger assassins artfully disguise themselves as plates of grilled filet mignon served with mashed potatoes and homemade teriyaki sauce ($31), or panko-crusted salmon accompanied by wasabi cream and tonkatsu sauce ($21).
Dai Hayashi traveled the world for nearly 20 years before learning that his favorite home wasn't somewhere on a map, but in the kitchen. After leaving Tokyo in 1977 and exploring Russia and Europe, he found himself in Los Angeles, in the kitchen of Hana Sushi, where he became an astute apprentice in the Japanese culinary art of careful slicing and assembly. Dai stayed put in Southern California for 24 years, during which time he worked as a chef and eventually opened his first restaurant.
In 1993, Dai packed up his spatulas, kids, and other inanimate objects and moved to Scottsdale, where he harnessed his years of expertise to open Sushi Ko. Today, he works alongside his children—Ika and Hikaru—behind the sushi bar, slicing fresh fillets and dutifully participating in wasabi-eating contests.