Budget Beat

Budget Beat: Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe

By Jay Bennett

I have declared it to be the "Summer of the Summer Rolls." Not sure whom in the world of officialdom I must talk to in order to make my declaration recognized, so, dear readers of Budget Beat, it might end up being our little secret. But that's okay . . . more for us.

The summer rolls I speak of are to be found at Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe, a charming and unique eatery tucked away in a strip mall at Ninth Street and Camelback Road. This unpretentious and odd little eatery's décor is reminiscent of someplace you might find in the European countryside, but the mostly pasta-based food is all over the map: Japanese (including sushi), Thai, Korean, and, um, Italian. Like I said, odd — but really, really addictive. The missus and I have been there three times in the past week and a half, craving those darn summer rolls.

It's the "Summer of the Summer Rolls." Everybody celebrate.

And I can't wait to go back — especially for Cherryblossom's incredible weekday happy hour special, during which a nice selection of adult beverages, appetizers, and sushi rolls are half-price, and a handful of entrees, normally priced at $10 or $11, are $7.

The delicious summer rolls consist of a spring roll wrapper containing shrimp, super-thinly sliced cucumber, rice vermicelli, lettuce, and avocado. They're served in a fun, boat-shaped dish with a few spoonfuls of tangy Thai peanut sauce. (Have I mentioned we love these things?) We went to Cherryblossom around 6:30 on a recent Saturday night and they were already out of summer rolls. Apparently, we're not the only ones who crave them. So, get 'em while it's hot and they're cool.

Speaking of cool, the sake mojito is a treat. Loaded with mint leaves, this mojito substitutes rum for sake, so it loses some of its alcoholic kick but it becomes a much lighter and more refreshing summertime drink.

At half-price, the sushi rolls are a real steal. At full price . . . let's just say I'm probably ordering something else, like Cherryblossom's excellent pad thai or hakata yakisoba, a peppery Japanese noodle dish with cabbage, shrimp, and pork, or the hot Thai beef salad.

For sushi, we tried the spicy tuna, spicy salmon, and Caterpillar (which contains unagi, with avocado on the outside). They tasted okay and they seemed fresh, but they were not spectacular, especially the tuna and salmon. My biggest complaint was, the rice was too cold and too sticky for my tastes. Still, it's decent sushi and it's only about $3 a roll — I won't complain too much. (On a side note, our fave sushi place, Mishima, closed late last year and we're still looking for a replacement favorite. If ya got any suggestions, send them along.)

The spicy tuna roll and the Caterpillar — all for about $7! (Photos by Laura Hahnefeld)

For an order of summer rolls, three sushi rolls, and two Kirin lagers (plus the complimentary basket of warm rolls and banana bread), our bill was $16. And we were stuffed. I call that an amazing bargain — sometimes you can't get out of a Japanese restaurant for less than $50. This happy hour deal at Cherryblossom almost can't be beat. I will say that the hours — 3 to 6 p.m. — may prove slightly prohibitive for many folks. But if you can cut out of work a bit early some day to get in under the wire, I'll think you'll find it worth the effort to nosh at Cherryblossom.

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett