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).
With a nod to its namesake warriors, Ninja Japanese Restaurant assassinates insatiable appetites and sour moods alike for a fun and lively dining escape. At the outset, distinctively authentic decor transports guests to a trans-Pacific land without requiring them to buy a plane ticket or get really good at kayaking. Slim wooden logs form a roof over intricate wooden gates branded with Japanese characters, opening to reveal seating options that steer the evening's experience. Perched on chairs tucked under a U-shaped bar, diners watch chefs artfully roll fresh sushi from an edible palette of pink salmon, yellowtail tuna, or chunky avocado. The hibachi room, on the other hand, cranks up the heat. There, hungry diners sit up close to an iron teppanyaki griddle where a chef chops and sizzles fresh seafood and veggies, at once creating a meal and a spectacle to sate hungry stomachs and hungry eyes.
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.