A Single Spoonful Delivers Big Flavor in Downtown Phoenix

Jacob Tyler Dunn
Welcome to The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.

28: Sashimi at Nobuo at Teeter House

There is much to love about dining at Nobuo at Teeter House. There is Teeter House itself, a well-preserved turn-of-the-century brick bungalow at the Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix. There's the restaurant's extensive drink menu, which features hard-to-find Japanese distilled spirits, including strong sippers like shochu.

But the main draw, of course, is chef Nobuo Fukuda's award-winning interpretation of modern Japanese cuisine. The duck salad at Nobuo has been known to seduce even those who usually avoid duck, and the shiromi carpaccio plate, featuring white fish that's lightly seared with hot sesame oil right at your table, is memorable and delicious.
For an indelible taste of Fukuda's mastery of flavor, though, try some sashimi. The bite-sized servings of raw fish, which more typically feature ingredients like wasabi and soy, here become showpieces for the chef's creativity and deftness. Fukuda's sashimis often feature unconventional ingredients like vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and even cheese. They come artfully arranged on white ceramic spoons, designed to be eaten from the back, and experienced as a single, complex and multi-sensory bite.

Every white spoon represents its own small universe of bright, rich flavor. Perhaps Nobuo's most famous combination involves a bite of citrus-kissed hamachi, buoyed by grapefruit, avocado, and a white truffle ponzu. A spoon of the house-cured salmon, meanwhile, ingeniously evokes the Mediterranean with some basil oil and a flake of Pecorino-Romano cheese. A tako and tomato spoon, another house favorite, features fresh-grilled octopus complemented with some fresh-made mozzarella and confit of tomato, the mellow, deep flavors heightened by a bright wasabi aioli.

The experience of eating a single sashimi at Nobuo at Teeter House spans no more than a few seconds. Every bite-sized, well-composed spoonful goes down smoothly and deliciously. The pleasure is so brief, going through a round of sashimi spoons during one of the restaurant's tasting menus is an almost tragically ephemeral act. But although the food disappears in a second, the memory of every bite may stretch on forever.

The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.
49: "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
48: Dizzy Fig Empanada at Republica Empanada.
47: Linguine Carbonara at Avanti.
46: The Food Court at Mercado de los Cielos.
45: Chicken Feta Salad at George’s Kitchen.
44: Spinach & Cheese Chimi Burro at Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant.
43: Dinner at Rustler's Rooste.
42: Gyro Omelet at Mel's Diner.
41: Zipps Wings at Zipps Sports Grill.
40: Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.
39: Asian Nachos at Moto.
38: Olive Oil Tasting at Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill.
37: Baby Back Ribs at Don & Charlie's.
36: Limoncello at Cibo.
35: Chili Salt Chicken Wings at Asian Café Express.
34: Smoked Prime Rib at Texaz.
33: Steak Salad at Feeney's.
32: Tasting Menu at Kai Restaurant.
31: Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic.
30: Big Jim at Welcome Diner.
29: Sonoran Hot Dog at El Caprichoso.
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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.

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