Chow Bella


Yes, it was as good as it looks: Asada en crema de mulato

They say music is the universal language, and I can't disagree, but food seems to have a more universal appeal. (Right up there with sleep and sex, I guess.) Since I started writing New Times' restaurant reviews last year, I've been really impressed with how passionate Phoenicians are about cooking, shopping for food, and dining out -- and how much they love to share their ideas and opinions. I'll get random voicemails, quick notes, and detailed emails from all kinds of people, everyone from new restaurant owners to readers who just want to give props to someplace they love (or bitch about someplace they don't).

The other week, I got a call from a lady named Iris who just opened a sushi place in Glendale, called Fresh Wasabi. I've been too busy to check it out, but it's definitely been on my list. Then just the other day, I got this lovely email from a reader whom I've never met but whose thoughtfully-written letters always describe new discoveries and recent eating adventures:

"I like to bar-hop. Sushi, that is. While exploring a pair at lunch last Friday, I stumbled across a place in Glendale that does the real deal on wasabi. In addition to pickled ginger and the typical green toothpaste, you get a portion of genuine, sinus-exploding stuff like they give you at Sushi Kee. However, they give it to you on the side rather than slathering it all over your sashimi the way S.K. does it.

In keeping with the concept, the name of the place is "Fresh Wasabi." It used to be "The Sushi" but is now under new management/ownership. 6645 W Bell Rd (SE corner of 67th & Bell, a few doors east of the supermarket). There's also a sushi bar on the north side of Bell almost directly across the street from this one. It's lame.

We went to Sophie's Saturday. Excellent, as usual. I told my wife that if we ever hit the jackpot, I'm buying the house directly north of (i.e., behind) Sophie's and installing a gate in the fence.

I had dinner at Rio Sabor on Friday while waiting for my wife's flight to arrive. All the meats were way over-salted. Service was fast, friendly and efficient, but that can't offset the food. We might try Fogo e Brasa this weekend; I hope it doesn't exhibit the same properties.

Aside from your write-ups for the last couple of weeks, how have your gustatory forays been lately?"

Well, since you asked, and since I was meaning to blog about it anyway, the most notable meal I've had that wasn't potential column fodder was at Tucson's Cafe Poca Cosa, a sleek eatery done up in shades of brick red, cream, and gray. One of my friends had a spare ticket for a Brazilian jazz concert at U of A, so we hit the road one afternoon, armed with an early dinner reservation. The place filled up surprisingly early, but it was easy to understand why. (Take a look at the photos above and below.) Amazing food, of course, plus great service and atmosphere. I loved the huge Daniel Martin Diaz paintings on the walls -- I met him a couple First Fridays ago, when he was showing his work at Perihelion.

Each server hand-writes the menu on a board that he or she presents at the table. (Apologies if my Spanish is off -- someone needs to come up with an "Intensive Spanish for Foodies" course, and I'll be the first to enroll.) My asada came in this wonderful savory sauce that was creamy and gently spiced -- I kept eating it even after I was full. And my friend's fish dish was tangy and addictive, dressed up with shrimp, peppers and tomatoes. We polished off a piece of flourless chocolate torte for dessert.

I need more road trips like this!

This is what my friend ordered: Pescado al ajillo con tequila y guero y camarones

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig