Bang Bang sushi restaurant, cocktail bar and club gets rolling in Tempe | Phoenix New Times

Bang Bang brings sushi, Asian-inspired cocktails and house music to Tempe

Originally from San Diego, Bang Bang has landed in Tempe with sushi boats and DJ sets.
Bang Bang transitions throughout the night from a seated restaurant to a lively dancefloor. The dual concept opened in Tempe in December.
Bang Bang transitions throughout the night from a seated restaurant to a lively dancefloor. The dual concept opened in Tempe in December. Bang Bang Tempe
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At Bang Bang, sushi takes a spin with pulsating electronica and custom mixed beverages. Located in Tempe, on the corner of Mill Avenue and Fifth Street, Bang Bang is an Asian-fusion restaurant, bar and dance club rolled into one.

"Here we curate an excellent experience with great food with that sexy House music playing," JD DiPalma, Bang Bang's Director of Operations, says as he takes a seat on a blue-colored velvet couch paired with a marble-top coffee table. He explains, "This is reserved for couples when they eat dinner and afterward for bottle service. There's three on each side of the club, and they get red ropes for the VIPs later at night."

Bar-height tables and seating are spread throughout the 9,300 square-foot space. The multi-concept dining and dancing destination opened in December.
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JD DiPalma, Bang Bang's Director of Operations, is sitting in one of six VIP areas by the dancefloor.
Mike Madriaga

Cocktails set the scene at Bang Bang

The massive bar located on the left side of the dance floor packs a bevy of beverages from beer on tap to top shelf sake.

Kirin, a Japanese lager on tap, is one of the more popular beers amongst Coors, Modelo and local favorite Church Music. Sapporo and Echigo Koshihikari are other Japanese-made options served in a can or bottle.

The Signature Cocktails section of the menu contains an Asian-influenced roster. The Filipino-inspired Pinoy Collins drink has Bulldog Gin, simple syrup, club soda, and calamansi juice. Calamansi is a hybrid Southeast Asian native citrus.

DiPalma points to a drink served in a wine glass, "That's an Espresso Martini right there, the best in Tempe. We got vodka, Mr. Black (coffee liqueur) and more espresso. I built some of the cocktail list and the menu. In this margarita, we use Mandarin juice instead of normal juice," he says, referring to the $14 Spicy Mandarin Margarita with Serrano pepper and a Tajín rim.

Another fun cocktail is the $14 Tokyo Mule. It contains ginger beer, Grey Goose vodka, lime, cucumber and sake. Bang Bang imports higher-end sake made by HeavenSake and Tyku and also makes Sake Bombs.

The Asian Pear Mojito is served in a tiki head-shaped glass topped with a mint leaf. The $13 beverage contains Bacardi Rum and Midori pear liqueur and is shaken with pineapple and lime juice.

"It's a top seller," DiPalma says. "It's like one of those things when you see it go out, and other patrons say, 'I want that.'"

click to enlarge Tiki cocktail at Bang Bang.
The Asian Pear Mojito is made with Bacardi Rum and Midori pear liqueur shaken with pineapple and lime juice.
Mike Madriaga

What to expect on the food menu

The raw menu has an array of finger-sized treats, including classic rolls, carpaccio, sashimi and nigiri.

Then there are specialty rolls, of which the Hello Kitty roll is the most popular, DiPalma notes. The $16 roll is wrapped in pink soy paper, stuffed with spicy tuna, avocado and shrimp tempura, and topped with scallops, spicy crab, eel sauce, spicy mayonnaise and panko flakes.

The $17 Zorro Roll contains salmon and cream cheese; it's topped with spicy crab, jalapeños, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise.

The first location of Bang Bang opened in San Diego just over ten years ago, and DiPalma explains, "we get our fish daily fresh from the same place we do in San Diego. We have a high standard coming from the coast."

All the specialty rolls are less than $20 each and play on other iconic Asian pop-culture motifs. The Karate Kick is packed with crab mix, spicy tuna, avocado, cream cheese and jalapeño peppers. It's deep-fried, then topped with spicy mayonnaise, tangy eel sauce,and a sprinkle of chives.

The Kill Bill roll also packs some heat with spicy yellowtail, cucumber and cilantro. It's then covered with big-eye tuna, garlic soy sauce, eel sauce and fried onions.

click to enlarge Food items at Bang Bang.
The kitchen churns out a selection of hot and cold dishes. The Hello Kitty Roll (bottom right) is made with spicy tuna, avocado and shrimp tempura.
Mike Madriaga
The menu also has classic rolls, nigiri and sashimi. Itamae, or sushi chefs, handcraft the delectable pieces in plain sight at the sushi bar underneath a massive Eva Rodriguez print.

Artist Rodriguez, who used to be a sushi waitress at the Bang Bang location in San Diego, designed many of the massive prints inside the restaurant.

To the sushi bar's right is a hallway packed with more of Rodriguez's art and neon tubes designed in hiragana, Japanese characters. The hallway leads to the kitchen entrance, where the chefs make hot dishes and finger foods, including chicken katsu and fried rice, poke nachos, warm crab hand rolls and a smorgasbord of signature dishes, soups and salads.

A popular side dish for the nearby ASU students dropping sake bombs is a plate of six crab rangoons with a side of tangy Bang Bang sauce.

For larger parties, the $110 Kitchen Party boat, served in a miniature wooden boat, includes Bang Bang chicken wings, shishito peppers, gyoza, Bang Bang puffs, katsu bao, spicy tuna crispy rice and edamame.

There's also the Roll Party boat, a $140 splurge that DiPalma says is the best-seller.

"That's eight specialty rolls. We push big parties, and what do they want? They want that finger-food stuff where they order one or two big items, and everyone is just chipping away," he says. "It's a hit."

click to enlarge Bang Bang nightclub.
After 10 p.m., Bang Bang puts away the dining tables and turns into a nightclub.
Bang Bang Tempe

Dinner and dancing at Bang Bang

The original Bang Bang concept, which opened in San Diego in 2013, was the brainchild of Islam Ahmed. DiPalma worked at the original nightclub and restaurant for two years prior to relocating to the Valley to open Bang Bang in Tempe last fall. He spearheaded the expansion with the same branding — including the club and restaurant's design concepts and music choices.

At Bang Bang's 5th Street entrance, patrons are welcomed with Rodriguez's artwork over the elevator doors just right of the stairway. Immediately to the left of the entrance, people are greeted by a receptionist surrounded by glossy subway tile that spells out Bang Bang Tempe. A directory sign hangs from the ceiling.

"On club nights, people wait in line up the stairs," DiPalma says. Club nights start at 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and sometimes on Thursday. During club nights, the kitchen stops taking food orders at about 9 p.m. prior to the club opening.

Along the long flight of stairs are neon lights, slat-wood benches and walls, living bamboo plants and exposed piping reminiscent of the Tokyo subway tunnel influences.

"We want basically by the time you come up here, you took five photos," he says. At the top, the patrons are greeted by another host surrounded by white-colored faux flowers and a dozen elongated Japanese lanterns. The first thing most people see is a ginormous gold and silver mirror ball spinning amid LED strips on the dining area's ceiling.

"All the tables here are on wheels, and later at 10 p.m., when the club gets going, the tables are wheeled outside or to [the] side of the room," DiPalma says.

On the second level, the sexy house, EDM, electronica, techno, trance or progressive music playing on the booming Pioneer sound system ties everything together.

"It's about the whole experience," DiPalma says. "Here, you can get dinner and stay for the DJ show; it's all in one."

Bang Bang

420 S. Mill Ave. #201, Tempe

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