If you’re looking for a good way to celebrate International Sushi Day on June 18, consider this fashion-forward sushi monger, which serves familiar specialty rolls with flair, from the Climax Roll ($12) with shrimp tempura and cream cheese to the even more explosive Second Climax Roll ($12), a spicy tuna number slathered with creamy wasabi. There are also interesting innovations, like the Bagel Roll ($8.50) – cream cheese inside and salmon on top – and the deep-fried Chimichanga ($7.50), that show how culturally adaptable this once-exotic delicacy has proven itself. If you aren’t a sushiholic when you go in, you probably will be by the time you leave.
Must try: Sushiholic winningly pairs sashimi slices with fruit, like the “Albacorange,” the “Yellowgrapefruitail,” the “Berry Ono” (tuna with blueberry and strawberry) and – my choice – the Kiwi Salmon ($15, pictured).
3957 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-956-2354, sushiholicaz.com
At the other end of Bell Road – the twisty, far-east end – you’ll find this quiet little chapel to Poseidon’s gifts. A few checkmarks on your menu, and they’ll bring anything from a humble but snarf-able California roll ($5) to blissfully rich Spanish mackerel nigiri ($7 and up) to the Double Dragon roll (a combo of freshwater eel, avocado and other goodies, $16). But Nori’s hot food is also worthwhile. The udon soup ($15) overcomes a watery broth with satisfying thick noodles and tempura shrimp and vegetables. Better still is the heavenly Jjam-Pong ($15), a treasure of assorted tender shellfish submerged in a creamy white broth.
Must try: The tobiko (flying fish eggs; $5 and up) put up a lovely, poppy token resistance to being devoured.
10115 E. Bell Rd., Scottsdale, 480-513-6488, noriaz.com
Per the sushi joint norm, the atmosphere at this tiny nook on Bell Road is spare and spotlessly antiseptic. The classic-style rolls, however, ranging from the soy-paper-wrapped Superman Burrito ($9.95) to the Buddha Heart Burn ($11.95) – your choice of tuna or salmon with enlightenment-blocking jalapeños – are varied, colorful works of art for eye and tongue. The Dragon Roll ($11.95) – shrimp, cucumber and avocado topped with eel – was flawlessly executed and my favorite of the bunch. Of the nigiri options, only the uni (sea urchin naughty bits, $6.50) seemed off – a little too gritty and clammy. Who cares, when there’s banana tempura with green tea ice cream ($4.95) for dessert?
Must try: Pay homage to the soft-shell crab appetizer ($6.95), the beautiful ruin of a noble crustacean still dressed in an edible suit of armor.
6334 W. Bell Rd., Glendale, 623-748-8006, sushicatcher.com
GANGNAM SUSHI & GRILL
As the name implies, this cool Asian hangout in the strip mall across from the Tempe Improv has a lot of Seoul. Alongside grand sushi concoctions like the Crazy Monkey ($12.95) – spicy tuna and salmon, pickled jalapeños and cucumber – are bibimbap (choice of meat over rice with egg and vegetables), kalbi (short ribs) and other favorites from the land of Psy, as well as complimentary side dishes of fish cake, marinated sprouts and a kimchi that’s like having a little electric eel in your mouth. In a good way. The bento lunches (starting at $10.95) are the best of both worlds. Those who want some turf with their surf might opt for the bulgogi (beef and scallions) with four pieces of nigiri (tuna, salmon, shrimp and the like draped over rice), miso soup and salad ($13.95).
Must try: The soft tofu soup ($8.95 and up), is a gloriously steaming brew of coagulated soy in various combinations; go for the kimchi, adjustable from volcanic to merely sinus-clearing.
933 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-629-4062
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