Since coming to the United States from Tokyo in the 1960s (when the California Roll was born), sushi has been found everywhere from grocery stores and restaurants to convenience marts in all 50 states and popular culture. (Hell, even Tony and Carmela ate it in The Sopranos' final-season opener.)
And with sushi creations ranging from the seriously simple to gourmet goodness to just plain crazy and fun, picking the Valley's best depends on what you're in the mood for. That's why we've selected 11 of our favorite places for sushi -- in no particular order and tailored to a variety of tastes.
This strip-mall eatery in Glendale serves up pretty plates of sushi from a sizable selection. There are baked creations like scallop rolls, standard but flavorful spicy tuna rolls, and specialty creations like the Hotty Hamachi, a jalapeño-and-ponzu-infused yellowtail delight, and the mighty Coyotes Roll, made with salmon, eel, cream cheese, avocado and topped with orange tobiko. Solid service goes with the rolls.
Two miles from ASU's Tempe campus, Chef Eric Wang brings his Japanese fusion cuisine to this colorful and casual restaurant, featuring several adventurous rolls in addition to the popular beer cocktail known as the sake bomb. Dare to check out the fried chimichanga roll with (gulp) fried chicken, avocado, and jalapeño and the Volcano made with spicy tuna. Extra points for kung fu movies on the television sets.
This crazy-popular and sometimes chaotic Ahwatukee Foothills restaurant from the former proprietors of Tucson's Sushi Ten may be bare bones in appearance, but its satisfying and reasonably priced sushi (several rolls are available for around $5 each) make up for the minimal décor. Try the uni and mackerel, and don't miss the chirashi, or "scattered" sushi. Wallet-wise, lunch specials are also a bonus.
No gimmicks at this cozy little gem in North Phoenix owned by chef Yasu Hashino. With impeccably fresh fish (don't miss the black cod and tuna carpaccio) and specials of the day such as sanma (mackerel pike) and ankimo (monkfish liver pate), guests may have a tough time deciding on sushi or Hashino's specialty, sumibiyaki, which are dishes grilled over Japanese oak charcoal.
Served up at four clean, cafe-like locations throughout the Valley (Ahwatukee, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Superstition Springs) this small chain's solid and fresh thick-sliced sushi won't break the bank. All the usual suspects are here, including shrimp, yellowtail, spicy scallop, and a few signature rolls made with tasty ingredients like soft-shell crab and crunchy eel. And if it's lunchtime, don't miss the Sakana lunch combo for $9.99.
This sophisticated restaurant in a tiny storefront on the southwest corner of the Asian-centric intersection of Warner and Dobson in Chandler does traditional sushi with grace and flavor, courtesy of owner Yoshio Otomo. Standouts include pristine rolls such as spicy tuna and yellowtail, teriyaki-drenched beef rolls wrapped around tofu, portabella mushrooms, and shishito (a mild Japanese chile pepper), and black cod topped with a persimmon chutney.
Chef and owner Matthew Chin goes big in this tiny eatery in Gilbert with a sizable (and sometimes overwhelming) three-page menu of specialty sushi rolls. Don't miss creations like the Primo, spicy Hot & Saucy, and the aptly named Heavyweight, made with lobster tempura, yellowtail, asparagus, spicy mayo, and jalapeño. Good little sushi eaters are rewarded with a small scoop of ice cream after the meal.
Thanks to owners Paul and Sue Cho (who opened Sushi Eye in Tempe in 2005), the Valley got its first kaitenzushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurant in 2007 in Chandler. Entertaining, spontaneous, and super-affordable, the parade of colorful dishes glide by on a conveyor belt, and what might come 'round is anyone's guess -- shrimp tempura, a handroll wrapped in crisp nori, a Rocky Roll? Not for sushi geeks, this mesmerizing experience is strictly for kicks.
At this humble, family-run CenPho eatery, chef Rick "Koji" Hashimoto makes serving up slabs of fresh sushi selections like sake and buttery hamachi draped over compact rice balls into an art form. A specials board often includes must-haves like abalone, ankimo (monkfish liver), and aji (Spanish mackerel). And guests who order lots of goodies get their own sushi boat, complete with a flaming sugar cube.
No flash and trendiness-free, this easy-to-love mom-and-pop restaurant in North Scottsdale is quaint, cozy, and specializes in sushi. Try anything on the get-it-while-you-can specials board behind the sushi bar. Or, go with top-notch selections like mild striped bass, aji nigiri (Spanish mackerel) drizzled with ponzu and topped with scallions, uni (sea urchin), or specialty rolls such as the Arizona, made with asparagus, scallops, cucumber, and avocado.
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This 2012 James Beard Award Semifinalist opened last May courtesy of chef Shinji Kurita, former owner of the now-closed Awhatukee sushi spot of the same name. Tucked away in an strip-mall at Indian Bend and Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, Kurita's low-profile yet chic eatery is nothing short of dazzling in its fare, with an ever-changing menu that includes sushi of the highest quality like pike, keiji salmon, and bluefin otoro.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here.