Yaki Ramen. Photo by Angela Adams

Fall Finds

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Food Reviews Issue: October 2017
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Discover a new neighborhood favorite with our Valleywide roundup of new restaurants.

Original Gravity

The science-fiction-y name of this snazzy new craft beer and wine bar, tucked into a cool repurposed midcentury building at 12th Street and Highland, is a technical term from beer brewing, something to do with alcohol content before fermentation. Drinks are clearly the focus, but the food menu also features a nice variety of indulgent comfort bites that, eaten too regularly, are likely to increase your original gravity. A highlight is the slider trio ($12) chosen from five ethno-regional options. My three all lived up to their names – the Italian, with a pork and brisket meatball topped with provolone and marinara, is a back-East meatball hoagie in miniature; the Hawaiian pairs Spam with pineapple atop a brisket patty; and the Korean packs yet another kimchi-powered punch. The steak frites ($15), with chewy but flavorful sliced flatiron beef, are nicely marinated and come with a cup of superfluous butter sauce.
Must try: The above plates are served with OG Fries, topped with shaved parmesan. They’re among the yummiest fries in town, but they’re at their yummiest as pork belly cheesy fries ($9), with cubes of swine paunch, melted cheese and bracing banana peppers. 
4700 N. 12th St., 602-583-7628

East Valley
Joey’s PSG

The “PSG” in the name stands for pizza, soup and grilled cheese. The place has the look of a standard, comfortable mom-and-pop pizza joint, and the pies are handsome specimens, but the intriguing part of the menu is the many permutations of grilled cheese, that quintessential kid-lunch favorite. The Classic ($7) layers American and cheddar on white bread in the grand tradition, with a side of Joey’s crunchy, deliciously deep-brown, house-made potato chips. Other variations include The Italian Cow ($7), with provolone, mozzarella and asiago on focaccia; The Hot Mama ($7) with pepper jack, cheddar and Muenster plus jalapeños and jalapeño aioli on sourdough; and the wittily named The Peacemaker ($7), with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster on French bread. If you’re a fan of white bread, go for The Tower ($8) – cheddar, Muenster and Gruyère on four slices.
Must try: The Cheese Heaven ($8) is a grilled cheese sandwich with macaroni and cheese plastered right between the bread. Add some soup, and heaven isn’t too much of an exaggeration.
1038 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-476-9300

West Valley
Yaki Ramen

Temperatures are at long, long last starting to cool off. And you know what would be nice? A bowl of soup – partly for the weather, but also because good soup is one of the peerless pleasures of being a human. This new ramen bar at the end of a humdrum suburban strip mall is a surprisingly hip setting for this pleasure – sleek and modern, with a spellbinding décor feature: an anime wall. Over the bar, video projectors show the same baffling anime, in triptych, and the effect is mesmerizing even for non-fans. None of this would matter, of course, if the food wasn’t at least equally captivating. The broths are full-bodied and hearty, complex in their interaction between spice and mellow richness. The tonkatsu ($9) is a nice introduction, with mushrooms, onion, corn and pork belly in a steaming, ginger-scented broth derived from stewed pork bones. From the small plates menu, hard-boiled quail eggs ($3) wrapped in bacon and battered in panko are a decadent concoction.
Must try: The yakitori-style grilled Kobe beef ($6) is a carnival of umami – juicy and fatty, with a nice char.
10605 N. 43rd Ave., Phoenix, 602-284-6265, azramen.com

Sushi Sen

If you want a quail egg in your natto ($3.50) – slimy fermented soybeans – it’ll cost you an extra buck. Having just eaten more quail eggs than I needed at Yaki Ramen, I decided to pass, but I liked the fact that a quail egg in my natto was an option. (Not that it would have improved the stringy texture and cold, clammy, burned-coffee flavor of the dish.) Small but polished, this new Japanese eatery has plenty of conventional options to go with the exotic stuff. My companion inhaled the pan-fried gyoza ($6) from the same à la carte menu, and it proved a strong overture to the menu’s selection of sushi and noodles. The noodles are available in both hot and cold varieties, but I opted for the hot tempura soba ($11), which offered battered, fried shrimp and vegetables alongside the bowl of dark, earthy noodles in a seductive hot broth.
Must try: Vegetable fried rice ($8) would be an easy dish to overlook among the choices on this menu, but Sushi Sen’s version is temptingly clean and non-greasy.
7001 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-483-7000, sushisenaz.com

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