Original Zen

Slurping sake in the raw

Urchins, octopus and eel, oh my! Bite Me shore do love her some sushi. But such was not always the case. She's only taken to it in the last few years. Prior to that, the idea of chomping on raw fish didn't do much for her. Now that she's been converted, she wondered if y'all felt the same way. She weren't sure whether she could get a decent slab of shimmering sashimi in her new town. But then she found Zen 32.

The elegant decor thrilled her, the spicy tuna, caterpillar and salmon skin rolls titillated her, and the service floored her. But Bite Me knew she was really going to adore Zen 32 when she found out that for only eight bucks, she was brought four brimming glasses of cold sake. That's right! Four heaping helpings of Japanese rotgut, all sitting on the cutest little serving tray you ever saw. Each little glass had a label in front of it, telling your thirsty host what sort of elixir was held in each container – Ruby, Silver, Diamond and Pearl.

Now, it was plain to Bite Me right off that the Pearl sake was a different animal altogether. It looked like watered-down milk, but tasted just fine.

Stephanie Landherr
Stephanie Landherr
Tina Martlage
Tina Martlage

Location Info

Map

Zen 32

3160 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: East Phoenix

Details

3160 East Camelback, 602-954-8700. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; sushi bar closes at midnight. Appetizers: $3-$12; entrees: $8-$19; sushi: $4-$26. Major cards.

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The other three jewels were clear as a bell, and Bite Me later realized the idea was to gingerly sip each one, comparing and contrasting their tastes like a good connoisseur. Shya-right. They disappeared almost as quickly as the sushi combo she and her gay companion wolfed down.

"Well, did you taste any difference in the sakes?" her bosom buddy asked.

"Oh, was that the point?" Bite Me said with her mouth full of uncooked salmon. "Better get another round."

Luckily for her, nearly everyone Bite Me ran into at Zen 32 was a better judge of fine foods than she was. It was like a regular convention of foodies, which Bite Me figured was a damn good sign – Zen 32 is a restaurant so good, other restaurant people love to go there. And after this, so does Bite Me, especially for the four-for-one drink special!

Stephanie Landherr
German hotel office manager

Bite Me: What does your last name mean?

Stephanie: It means country gentleman or country mister.

Bite Me: I hear that mister means something entirely different here in Arizona. They spray you with water during the summer with a mister everywhere you go. Hey, you speak good English.

Stephanie: Yes, I know. I was living in England six months.

Bite Me: Wow. Do they eat sushi in Germany?

Stephanie: It's my first time. It was delicious. I had a California roll.

Bite Me: Do you guys eat loads of potatoes? (Bite Me joined a gourmet club to learn how to cook when she first finished college. She and all her friends would pick a different theme every month and everyone had to cook something to share. Bite Me loooooved German night because there were potatoes for miles. Every kind of potato. She'd get really full but it sure soaked up that German beer. A favorite gourmet theme was White Trash night when everyone brought things like KFC, wiener roll-ups, Spam, Hamburger Helper and Keystone. Bite Me was especially pleased when the outfit she wore won special recognition. The only thing was, she wasn't dressed in anything different than normal.)

Stephanie: No, vegetables and salads.

Bite Me: Do you travel a lot?

Stephanie: Too much. I'm a globetrotter.

Bite Me: Are you married?

Stephanie: I'm single and living my life. I enjoy it. I love lying at the pool. In Germany there is no sun. It's 20 degrees under zero there right now, cold and snowing. I get here and it's 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bite Me: Yeah. I'm all into this winter weather they got goin'.

Mary Pat Cox and Gunther Wolf
Restaurant catering sales manager and restaurant manager, Camelback Inn's Navajo dining room

Mary Pat: What'd you eat tonight? (Mary Pat's an animated type who right away turned the tables on Bite Me.)

Bite Me: Baby octopus. And it didn't gross me out but the waitress did caution us that it sometimes freaked people out. I wasn't too big on it but not because it was an actual baby octopus. It was just kinda chewy in a weird way. And hey, I had the eel, which was fabulous, but you people out here eat some weird stuff.

Mary Pat: But you're from L.A.

Bite Me: Yeah, but it's just the dead things you eat here, the game, the antelope. You guys don't eat a lot of turkey burgers here. So is your job stressful?

Mary Pat: Sometimes, but I have really nice guests.

Bite Me: I bet you're calm under pressure.

Mary Pat: Yeah, 'cause you have to be. I used to be a chef. And I had a catering business so I know that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But I have to say, we have some of the best food in the Valley. We serve a baked potato pie, and when they bring the dish back to the kitchen, I want to grab a spoon and say, helloooooo, slow down with that thing, I'll clean it. It's like Hamburger Helper.

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