Earlier this year, New Times celebrated the cream of the crop with our 36th annual Best of Phoenix edition. Here are our top picks for ethnic dishes in metro Phoenix.
Best Ramen: Hana Japanese Eatery A wise chef once told us that there are as many types of ramen as there are chefs who make the dish. In short, it's a highly personal food and everyone has a favorite style. We're confident in saying the bowl of tonkotsu ramen at Hana Japanese Eatery has to be one of the best anywhere. It's a simple but elegant take on the dish, made with a pork-based broth that's thick, opaque, and full of rich, meaty flavor. The toppings, too, are basic in the best way. You'll get just a couple of slices of fish cake and some housemade char siu along with scallions, memma, and sheets of broth-soaked seaweed. When it comes to the art of doing simple food well, it doesn't get any better than this.
Best Dim Sum: Great Wall Cuisine You never know who you'll run into at Great Wall Cuisine on Sunday mornings. We've seen local politicians, chefs, and everyone in between standing outside the unremarkable strip mall restaurant waiting for a table. The inevitably large and diverse Sunday crowd gathers and waits (sometimes for up to an hour) because Great Wall is the best place in metro Phoenix for Chinese brunch. If you've never had dim sum at Great Wall, the experience can be overwhelming. Immediately after you take your seat, cart after cart of delicate shrimp shumai, fried noodles, and gelatinous pigs feet will roll by -- all you have to do is grab anything and everything you want to try. The noise, the crowd, and the unique flavors of the Chinese cuisine can be difficult to handle, but once you've mastered the art of dim sum-style dining, you'll be addicted to the restaurant's high quality and diverse spread.
Best Sushi: Yasu Sushi Bistro Sure, Yasu Sushi Bistro is no new kid on the block. This tiny North Phoenix spot has been around for more than five years. And though time has passed and trends have changed, we continue to love what chef-owner Yasu Hashino does behind the restaurant's sushi counter. Yes, the nigiri, sashimi, and maki rolls are all delicious. But what really keeps us coming back are the chef's specials.
Hashino does an excellent job of letting his fresh ingredients shine, whether it be by serving fresh-off-the-boat oysters simply on the half shell or by taking delicate blue crab meat and creating a perfectly spicy handroll made with just the right amount of fresh wasabi. Our favorite bite is almost always the nigiri salmon served Yasu-style or lightly seared with a touch of ponzu and a sprinkle of green onion. We also love that the restaurant truly is a neighborhood spot, where families and couples crowd the cozy dining room just about every night of the week.
Best Crepes: Crepe Bar No one does crepes like Jeff Kraus. At Crepe Bar, the chef constantly looks for ways to break down the traditional notions about this classic French dish and make it something uniquely his own. It started simply enough with dishes like the Breakfast Burro, a breakfast burrito by way of France, but since has evolved into creations like the elaborate Grand Prix. The deconstructed dish features a coffee crepe made by mixing cold-brewed coffee into the crepe batter, which is then complemented with pieces of maple-glazed pork jowl and crisp pork belly.
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Other unexpected ingredients found on the Crepe Bar menu include pimento cheese, candied mustard seeds, and pork chorizo, which Kraus uses to create savory crepes like you've never had before. On the sweet side, there's plenty to enjoy as well. Including the Pick Me Up, which offers a coffee crepe with espresso mascarpone and hazelnut streusel.
Best Gourmet Pizza: La Piazza PHX Sometimes it's hard to know whether what you're ordering is truly "authentic" unless you've traveled to the source and tasted a dish when it was created. Fortunately, that is not the case when you order a Neapolitan pizza at downtown Phoenix's La Piazza PHX. The restaurant, the second from the man behind downtown Glendale's La Piazza al Forno, is certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana, an Italian nonprofit organization that protects the culture of true artisan Neapolitan pizzas around the world. The menu of 16 excellent thin-crust pizzas includes the Regina Margherita D.O.C., made with the highest-quality ingredients money can buy. The flash-baked crust, near-perfect with its blackened crust and chewy interior, comes layered with with San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P., mozzarella di bufala, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil to create a pizza unlike any you've had before -- at least here in the States.