moira sushi bar & kitchen
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Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen
December, 2009, Page 144
Photos by David Moore
soft-shell crab roll with avocado and cucumber topped with eel sauce (front); Fuji roll with tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, tuna, spicy cream sauce and tempura bits (back)
Unforgettable unagi, a hip staff and stylish surroundings mark the first serious sushi spot in Downtown Phoenix.
Absorbed with our meal, we looked up when a party seated by the window burst into a flurry of delighted exclamations. Two brown horses ambled by outside as part of a police patrol – their coats shining under the street lamps. It was a charming big city moment in a Downtown that’s still pretty quiet.
Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen, which opened last March, has the advantage of being the first serious sushi purveyor in the area. (The name, which sounds like an Irish heroine in one of Maeve Binchy’s books, is actually Greek and means “destiny.”) It’s a wide, shallow space on the ground floor of a residential building. The sushi bar, sparked by blue lights in the evening, dominates. Apart from that, décor is sparse, done in shades of gray and black with red accents. Tiny tables are ringed with metal webbed chairs that guarantee you and your companions can play tic-tac-toe on each other’s backs by the end of the evening.
The young, hip staff ranges from charming and accommodating to going-through-the-motions. It seems that the kitchen follows suit, though presentations are uniformly tidy and attractive. A huge menu starts with appetizers and salads. Deliciously crunchy shrimp gyoza ($7) and crudo, strips of delicate yellowtail matched with the sharp bite of radish sprouts ($8), were great; ditto the terrific crackling calamari ($7). A sweet, tangy squid and seaweed salad (could it really be cuttlefish or octopus?) was good ($7), but a cloying mayonnaise dressing overwhelmed a potentially excellent salmon salad ($8).
Inside Moira Sushi
Moira is home to the best unagi ever – the eel is generously cut, fatty and smokily succulent, whether enjoyed in a roll, nigiri, sashimi or temaki-style ($7, $6, $10, $7). Other rolls vary; one time the soft-shell crab roll was exemplary, the next flabby ($12).
We lucked out with snapping-crisp salmon roe, chewy octopus and rich tuna belly ($9, $9, market price). In each case, sashimi was a better bet than nigiri because Moira’s rice is not properly sticky.
The “Hot Kitchen” part of the menu lists various combinations of veggies, which are wok-cooked with your choice of meat, seafood or tofu. While the slippery udon noodles and plenteous, tender beef and wokked veggies were fine, the sauce was one-dimensional and bland ($11).
Moira is definitely worth a visit, particularly during the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour. There is one big issue though, and it is inescapable. A pervasive odor of used cooking oil saturates the room and escapes the front door. It is the first thing that greets customers and the last impression upon exiting. Better ventilation is a must.
Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen
: 215 E. McKinley St., Phoenix.
: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday; dinner, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.
: Shrimp gyoza ($7); crudo ($8); crackling calamari ($7); squid and seaweed salad ($7); eel in any form ($6-$10)
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