The Hours: Happy Hour is offered Monday through Saturday from 3 until 6 p.m.
The Interior: Jared Porter has already brought chic to pizza with The Parlor, so it's no wonder that his newest venture, Clever Koi, is a knockout. Modern, clean, simple, but with just the right amount of kitschy hipster touches, Clever Koi is the kind of place that Phoenix needs to establish its relevancy in the restaurant world. Sit at the bar, on the patio or at a table inside to enjoy the happy hour menu and find out if all of this style has the substance to back it.
The Food: With three $5 options on the happy hour menu, Clever Koi doesn't have an overwhelming selection for deal seekers. However, the roasted beet salad, chicken wings and roasted pork ramen all seem solid enough to carry the menu from their descriptions alone. The beet salad, with crispy tempura bean curd, mizuna, cucumber and pickled ginger, is easily the kind of dish you'd spend $8 on at another restaurant. Fresh ingredients make the salad pop, though we did notice the tempura on the bean curd was a little too salty for our taste and the dressing a bit too acidic.
Normally those two factors wouldn't raise much concern in an otherwise delicious salad, but the roasted pork ramen seemed to suffer from the same heavy hand with salt and acid. While the pork, bacon, noodles, poached egg, hearty slices of shitake mushrooms and pickled mustard greens were all great components with the surprisingly peanutty broth, there was just a little too much salt all together, as if each had been treated to seasoning on its own, rather than as part of a dish. Overall, those small issues aren't enough to condemn the place. We mean, where else in town can you get a bowl of ramen that great for only $5?
The Drink: With $2 Buds, Millers and Coors, $3 draft beer and $2 off glasses of wine, there's plenty for light imbibers to enjoy during Clever Koi's happy hour. However, a glance at the house cocktail list, all of which are $7 during happy hour, reveals an attention to flavor, quality ingredients and fusion much like the food menu. On the sweeter, herbal side, we loved the Temperance Trap and Sloe Burn, while the Koi Reviver stole the show for us with its gin base, absinthe rinse and light acidity. While we weren't fully impressed with the draft cocktails, which seemed pretty one-dimensional in terms of flavor, there's definitely a lot of exciting experimentation going on behind Clever Koi's bar.
The Conclusion: While the food selection is small, some of our dishes' components were too salty or acidic and the draft cocktails didn't blow us away, we see great potential in Clever Koi. As a brand new restaurant, there's still some growing to do, but you really can't beat the $12 combo of craft cocktail and roasted pork ramen.