Dessert First

Almond Fritters with Azuki Bean Syrup at Nobuo Teeter House

With James Beard Award-winning Chef Nobuo Fukuda at the helm, it's no wonder that Nobuo Teeter House has one of the best restaurant reputations in town. However, it seems like every time someone says, "Their food is absolutely incredible," the high praise is followed by, "...but so expensive." Served tapas-style, the small plates -- at $6 to $26 a pop -- can add up quickly. There's also a four-course sample tasting menu available on Fridays and Saturdays for $60 (not including drinks or the recommended add-ons).

We're always trying to find ways to enjoy top-notch cuisine at affordable prices, and Nobuo is surprisingly agreeable, offering a few ways to enjoy its impeccable menu without breaking the bank. (Check out how to score lunch at Nobuo for $10.) And we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it's possible to cap off your evening with a $6 dessert there. Of course with that kind of steal, we had to taste two to find out if one -- or both of them -- is worthy of a visit on its own.

These desserts will knock your socks off, and you will love every second of it. Promise. The Almond Fritters with Azuki Bean Syrup and Chocolate Tofu Mousse with Green Tea Ice Cream both display the clean flavors and attention to detail that Nubuo Teeter House's savory dishes have garnered acclaim for. Perhaps the desserts' most impressive quality is the way that American comfort foods and Asian flavors are seamlessly integrated.

The Almond Fritters bring to mind fresh donuts, and the Azuki Bean Syrup adds a savory-sweet flavor, complementing the fritters in a way similar to real maple syrup; it hits that sweet spot where sugary goodness and rich, savory flavors intersect. While the Asian penchant for using beans in dessert can be off-putting to a lot of Western palates, this dessert is an excellent introduction to how great the combination can be. The fried fritters themselves, which are made with ground almonds and orange blossoms, have a light, soft texture that will keep diners in a culinary comfort zone, and the azuki bean sauce and jasmine tea ice cream add an Asian twist. Warning: This is a truly addictive dessert.

Our second dessert was just as satisfying but brought something a little different to the table. The Chocolate Tofu Mousse with Green Tea Ice Cream is reminiscent of classic French desserts in that the flavors are clean and controlled: the mousse is rich chocolate, the ice cream distinctly green tea, and candied orange peel adds a spark of citrus. Each flavor can be enjoyed alone, but something extra special happens when they come together, blending to make something equally familiar and unique. The balance and minimalism represent the art of Japanese cuisine, executed with flavors that hit home with Americans. Chocolate and oranges (my favorite) are always a winning dessert pairing; add the delicate flavor of green tea to the mix, and it only gets better. This dish also benefits from the silken tofu used in the mousse, which adds a depth, a je ne sais quoi that brings simple, one-note chocolate mousse to a new level. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it's there.

Both of these desserts are rich enough to be shared, but can also be scarfed down by a very happy solo diner. They're well worth the $6 price tag, and more importantly, they're without a doubt delicious enough to order first.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dominique Chatterjee