Those who may have heard (and believed) people who say, "You can't get decent seafood in the Valley 'cause we live in a desert," might also want to keep an eye out for while-you-were-sleeping organ harvesters and tendon-slashing gang members who wait under cars at the gas pump. It is an unfortunate myth. And given the number of non-oceanside cities known for outstanding seafood (my last home of Chicago being one of them), one that simply doesn't make sense.
Stellar ocean fare can be found in Phoenix. And to prove it, we've listed 10 of our favorite spots to find it, for believers and non-believers alike.
This chic restaurant in Scottsdale's Gainey Village had better know its seafood -- its owners are Jerry Tingle, formerly a general manager at Eddie V's Prime Seafood restaurants and Wildfish Seafood, and chef Brian Feirstein, ex-executive chef for Eddie V's. Don't-miss dishes include seared Georges Bank diver scallops, Chilean sea bass with a Macadamia nut crust, and rainbow trout from Clear Springs Farms in Idaho.
In October 2011, this small chain of three restaurants, along with sister chain Eddie V's Prime Seafood, was sold to the world's largest full-service restaurant company for $59 million. We're hoping all those clams won't change a thing at Wildfish's sleek location at the Scottsdale Waterfront, where diners can enjoy Australian barramundi with fresh Jonah crab, seared Pacific ahi steak, and starters like crispy cashew calamari or the signature all-lump crab cake.
At this humble, family-run eatery in Central Phoenix, chef and co-owner Lori 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 don't miss one of Hashimoto's favorites, the Hana lobster, a nine-ounce, warm-water Brazilian lobster sautéed with garlic and asparagus.
This Central Phoenix eatery known for its alluring patio, island-style eats, and tropical cocktails, regularly has its fish flown in from Hawaii. Featuring fan favorites like seared ahi wontons, spicy Thai fish cakes, and Hawaiian lobster bisque, diners can also choose their favorite fresh catch (think ahi, butterfish, mahi, and hapu) and have it prepared to their liking.
This festive and family-owned Mexican seafood spot in Phoenix serves up its ocean fare in wallet-friendly style. Choose from stellar seafood cocktails, the 7 Seas Soup loaded with seven different ocean critters, and platters of octopus and shrimp prepared in various sauces like dreamy garlic butter. Those in search of a shrimp dish (a la Puerto Peñasco) should order the tomato-doused, citrus-spiked seafood ceviche.
James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda serves stellar Japanese cuisine with a creative twist (including dishes using the freshest catches from the sea) at his chic but unpretentious izakaya in a Heritage Square bungalow. Look for inventive dishes like Big-Eye Tuna Tataki seared with roast beet puree, house-cured salmon, and a standout sandwich of crunchy soft shell crab tucked into fried, house-made focaccia with sliced cucumber, arugula, and kanzuri aioli.
For over 20 years, this quaint little eatery in Gilbert has been serving up great-tasting, seriously large portions of eclectic cuisine (including several seafood delights) from regions such as Italy and Greece courtesy of owner and chef Romeo Taus. Try the spicy Salmon La Scala, Shellfish Tortellini with sauteéd shrimp and scallops, or the popular Shrimp Corfu with asparagus, scallions, red peppers, tomatoes, and capers.
At this hidden-away gem in Central Phoenix, Chef Cullen Campbell serves up creative, Italian-inspired dishes including raw and cooked premium seafood with a beautiful balance of flavors. The crudo, or raw section, includes stellar selections such as albacore with apples and black garlic, and the cotto, or cooked category, includes Campbell's signature squid ink risotto with tuna. If it's on the menu, don't miss the grilled escolar with housemade salsa verde.
Chef Shinji Kurita expertly creates cuisine based on a traditional, Japanese-style coursed menu with a modern twist at his low-profile yet chic Scottsdale restaurant, which was a James Beard Award Semifinalist in 2012. With a penchant for sourcing only the highest quality seafood, Kurita's ever-changing menu includes sushi of the highest quality like pike, keiji salmon, and bluefin otoro. For a pricey-but-worth-it experience, take advantage Kurita's omakase.
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This upscale yet comfortable Phoenix restaurant of contemporary American cuisine sources its seafood from elite purveyor Ingrid Bengis (known for supplying Maine lobster and halibut to luminaries like Thomas Keller.) Chef Matt Taylor makes a changing menu of seafood dishes shine with fresh catches like Carolina white shrimp, Chatham cod from Massachusetts, and Peekytoe Crab. Don't miss the buttery-good gourmet lobster roll on Wednesday afternoons.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists: 10 Favorite Gelato Spots 10 Favorite Burrito Joints in Metro Phoenix 10 Favorite Spots for Wings in Metro Phoenix 11 Things to Eat and Drink Before You Leave Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Hot Sauces and Salsas Top Ten Spots for Mac 'n' Cheese in the Valley Three Favorite Espresso Shots in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eleven Favorite Favorite Places for Sushi in the Valley Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Cupcakes Eleven Favorite Barbecue Joints in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Wine Bars Ten Favorite Phoenix Irish Restaurant & Pubs Six Favorite Specialty Cocktails in Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Craft Beer Bars Ten Favorite Gourmet Pizza Shops in the Valley Five Favorite Japanese Restaurants in Phoenix Ten Favorite Margaritas in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Coffee Shops in Phoenix Five Favorite Thai Restaurants in Metro Phoenix Eleven Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Happy Hours Five Favorite Sonoran Dogs in the Valley Ten Favorite Hot Dogs in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Desserts in Phoenix Ten Favorite First Date Restaurants Ten Favorite Burgers in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Downtown Phoenix Restaurants for Late Night Dining Ten Favorite Vegetarian Entrees in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix