At Sushi Avenue, chefs HaeChung Lee and Nansook Choi?or Harry and Nana, as they're known?curate a selection of more than 45 specialty sushi rolls filled with everything from apple to fresh crab. Along with the myriad maki?christened with names such as King Kong, Samurai, and Red Caterpillar?the restaurant also serves entrees such as orange chicken and classic appetizers such as miso soup, putting chopsticks to plenty of uses other than practicing Morse code.
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).
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.
It's not unusual to find Tammy, owner of Pearl Sushi Lounge & Bomber Bar, standing behind the bar at one of her two restaurant locations, chatting with customers while they sip her signature cocktails and sake bombs. Her crew of bartenders takes their tasks seriously, mixing up martinis infused with soju, sake, fresh fruit juices, and muddled blackberries, or pouring red and white wines straight from the special tap designed to prevent oxidation. Inside the kitchens, the chefs work with equal dedication, whether crafting classic california sushi rolls or the more inventive White Snake roll stuffed with sweet-potato tempura, tamago, asparagus, and cream cheese, and topped with escolar and a spicy peach sauce. Small plates sport crispy calamari sautéed with fresh ginger and garlic while Big Plate meals feature wok-charred beef and teriyaki salmon flanked with miso soup, salad, and steamed edamame.