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.
Sushi Eye’s head chef Richard Cho playfully invents tangles of traditional and unorthodox sushi ingredients that earned the restaurant the Best Sushi title in 2006 and Best Maki award in 2007 from the Phoenix New Times. “Cho's a real maestro of maki and is always adding new ones to his menu, so repeat visits are obligatory,” the writer reported, going on to laud items such as the ASU roll, a bundle of shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and macadamia nuts. Many of the rolls can be seen topped with Sushi Eye's signature garnish of macadamia nuts and tobiko or drizzled with unagi sauce. Away from the sushi bar, flames lap hungrily at short ribs marinated in a mild sweet sauce, and broiled unagi donburi combines eel with veggies, eggs, and rice.
Sage-green walls and expanses of sleek, dark wood surround diners as they busy their hands with chopsticks, thick morsels of sashimi, or reenactments of famous pickle-jar openings. Playful zephyrs slip through the bar, which bridges the dining room and the covered outdoor patio. Ice jingles in an array of cocktails beneath flat-screen televisions, and heat lamps and fairy lights radiate warmth and luminescence over clusters of cushioned benches. Their wine list features more than 60 bottles along with dozens of craft beers to choose from.