Sushi restaurants are everywhere in metro Phoenix, populating workaday strip malls, sleek uptown lounges, and every kind of place in between. Most of the sushi offerings around town fall under the big tent of contemporary American-style sushi — souped-up rolls with funny names and creamy lashings of spicy mayo. (We even have Mexi-sushi spots making unabashedly baroque rolls stuffed with ingredients like carne asada and pollo.)
What could we use more of?
High-profile sushi restaurants willing to take the lead in terms of sustainable seafood options. Several Valley restaurants feature species of bluefin tuna, a fish that by all accounts is speeding toward extinction. On that sobering note, here are 10 metro Phoenix restaurants making traditional and contemporary sushi and nigiri (sliced fish served over pressed rice) with ample skill and care.
Yasu Sushi Bistro
4316 East Cactus Road
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 5:30 to 9 p.m.; Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; closed Sunday
The focal point of chef-owner Yasu Hashino’s much-lauded, upscale north Phoenix restaurant is charcoal-grilled dishes and modern izakaya (Japanese tavern) fare. For sushi fanatics, though, a visit to Yasu is a must. The chef sources much of his fish from the Tokyo fish market, and the nigiri, sashimi, and sushi menu is replete with pristine fish and well-crafted pairings, such as wild ocean trout served with nicely seasoned sushi rice that’s not too sticky or tightly pressed. The most popular house roll is the creamy-crunchy Red Roll — tender and spicy tuna layered over an artfully stuffed roll bulging with tempura-battered shrimp.
Hana Japanese Eatery
5524 North Seventh Avenue
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday
Since it opened a decade ago, Hana Japanese Eatery has emerged as one of central Phoenix’s great neighborhood restaurants — and a consistent purveyor of artful, thoughtfully crafted sushi. A stand-out roll is the Hana Pride, a florid, beautifully composed dish featuring crisp cucumber wrapped around yellowtail, tuna, salmon, crab, albacore, and white fish accented by the clean notes of pickled burdock root and asparagus. Conventional rolls often get unique, subtly flavorful twists. To wit: the popular tuna tataki roll, featuring gently seared tuna paired with roasted garlic chips and green onions, and lightly dressed with the fragrant, house-made tataki sauce.
2051 West Warner Road #14, Chandler
Hours: Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.
Shimogamo, a white-tablecloth restaurant tucked into a sleepy-looking shopping plaza near the intersection of Dobson and Warner roads in Chandler, serves some of the most refined and creative sushi on the east side. Try the restaurant’s signature Shimogamo roll, which features panko shrimp colorfully garnished with orange-hued tobiko (flying fish roe), and brilliantly accented with fresh citrus. The Zen roll, which brings together spicy yellowtail, yamagobo (pickled burdock root), and shishito peppers, is memorable and delicious. If you have an appreciation for nigiri topped with harder-to-find fish like sea urchin and escolar, you’ll find it here. Be sure to make a reservation — the restaurant is open for dinner only, and tables get booked quickly, especially on the weekends.
7299 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 4:30 to 11 p.m.
At the heart of the Roka Akor experience is the restaurant’s massive Robata grill, where Japanese oak charcoal burning at ultra-high temperatures yields beautifully smoky and intensely flavorful skewered meats, vegetables, and seafood. But this tony fine dining spot — an ounce of certified Kobe beef will run you about $60 — is also a good destination for sashimi, nigiri, and sushi rolls. Unlike most workaday sushi spots around town, fresh wasabi — and not the fake pistachio-green horseradish stuff — is the standard here. Don’t miss the subtly sweet dynamite roll, made with snow crab and topped with gently seared scallop. Or the Hamachi serrano maki, with buttery yellowtail and gently seasoned rice buoyed by crisp, green rounds of serrano pepper.
9393 North 90th Street, Scottsdale
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.
Part of the thrill of a good sushi bar is getting a glimpse of the impeccable knife work of a few talented sushi chefs in action. It’s the reason why the bar seating at Hiro Sushi, a strip-mall gem in north Scottsdale, is consistently in high demand. Settle into the bar and take note of the board behind the counter, which lists chef-owner Hiro Nakano’s daily specials — this is almost always a good starting point for a memorable sushi lunch or dinner. Otherwise, the menu is pretty extensive, running the gamut from familiar options (California rolls, made using real crab) to sushi bar delicacies (inari, delightfully crispy, deep-fried tofu rice rolls).
114 West Adams Street, Suite C101
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday
This small, buzzy restaurant is a solid pick for contemporary sushi and nigiri in downtown Phoenix. The first thing you’ll probably notice is the restaurant’s signature “purple” rice — Harumi uses nutrient-rich Forbidden black rice, which turns a burgundy-like color after being soaked and cooked. Highlights include the H3, a pleasantly snappy and creamy roll featuring spicy tuna and salmon, adorned with spoonfuls of delicate fish roe. Harumi is also home to one of the more accessible omakase (chef’s choice) dinners around town — $35 scores you a substantial, mix-and-match platter of maki rolls and nigiri. There probably won’t be any deep cuts or slightly obscure fish on your plate, but it more than delivers on the timeless pairing of cleanly carved fish pressed against rice.
5795 West Bell Road, #1, Glendale
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
This casual Peoria sushi bar is the kind of neighborhood hangout spot where regulars have their Polaroids up on the wall. The ambiance is loose and friendly, but the main attraction is the expansive sushi and nigiri menu. Normally, a long menu is not necessarily something you think of when you think of the very best sushi spots. But Tokyo Lobby’s sushi chefs — working behind the counter fluidly and methodically — demonstrate impressive knife skills. Come for crowd-pleasers like the What the Heck Roll (a creamy-spicy roll draped in tuna and stuffed with spicy crab), but stay for exquisite nigiri like spicy bay scallops pressed over rice. If you just want to have fun — or impress your date — order up one of the restaurant’s fish-laden, novelty sushi boats.
OBON Sushi Bar Ramen
15037 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
This stylish Scottsdale restaurant (an outpost of downtown Tucson’s popular sushi and ramen spot) may not replace your favorite neighborhood sushi bar. But raw fish fanatics will find the restaurant’s creative, modern menu of sushi, nigiri, and crudos well worth exploring. If you’re predisposed to tuna tataki, try chef Paulo Im’s unorthodox Tataki Maki, a creamy-crunchy roll stuffed with shrimp tempura, topped with seared tuna, and lightly dressed in an Asian-inspired chimichurri sauce. Or savor the stripped-down Hafu roll, which features tuna and salmon brightened by spicy ponzu and touch of wasabi oil.
7557 West Greenway Road, #104, Peoria
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday
Peoria has a pretty healthy sushi scene, including newer sushi restaurants like Nagoya, a friendly, family-owned spot tucked into a quiet strip mall. The restaurant offers a strong nigiri menu, including harder-to-find options like sweet shrimp, whose nicely briny and sweet notes dovetail beautifully with rice. There’s plenty of modern, slightly off-the-wall sushi, too — check out the “popcorn lobster” roll, which features deep-fried lobster over spicy tuna. It certainly won’t win over the hearts and minds of sushi purists, but it’s well-calibrated for flavor and texture. There’s nothing particularly flashy about Nagoya, but consistently fresh cuts, friendly ambiance, and affordability makes this west side spot a clear-cut winner.
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7277 East Camelback Rd, Scottsdale
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
You might be tempted to skip Sushi Roku on principle — it’s a buzzy chain restaurant located in the ultra-stylish, selfie capital of downtown Scottsdale, the W Scottsdale hotel. But the restaurant’s artfully prepared selection of nigiri and sushi options is hard to pass up. Some of the most singular bites here include rich, sweet sea bream paired with pungent shiso herb and a citrusy yuzu jelly; a scallop hand roll that pulsates with spicy flavor; and clean, delicate fluke sliced so paper-thin, it’s nearly transparent. From the specialty roll menu, there’s a credible and well-balanced tuna jalapeño roll that’s bolstered by the gently tart notes of yuzu olive oil.