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Five Favorite Sushi Experiences in Metro Phoenix

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For most of us, going out for sushi isn't just about scarfing down immense amounts of raw fish in our best walrus imitation. That's why this week we asked our sushi-obsessed Chow Bella contributors to count down their favorite Valley sushi experiences -- taking price, atmosphere and people watching into consideration, as well. Get your chopsticks ready.

5. Sapporo Scottsdale
For some reason, everything in North Scottsdale is bigger -- big flames, big breasts, big furniture, big restaurant spaces. Yes, Sapporo is definitely known for their big demonstration of North Scottsdale stereotypes but let's face it, the only thing that really matters here is a big plate of high quality Japanese sushi. Fresh tasting fish, warm cream cheese filling and moist sticky rice makes Sapporo's Philadelphia Roll the best in town. Even better is their all-day summer happy hour that offers these delectable little sushi morsels at a cheap $5 price.

Slurp up the rest of our sushi selections after the jump.

4. Teharu Sushi
Teharu is not what you might call great sushi. It's good. If we're being really honest, it's passable. But Teharu is not the place to go to when you're craving hand-crafted sushi perfected over decades by a chef who spent ten years learning how to cook rice. No, Teharu is the sort of sushi joint you go to when you want to stuff your face with cheap sushi and chase it with a couple of extra large Kirins.

You should know that Teharu is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or a kaitenzushi. That means that a team of chefs located centrally in the restaurant assemble plates of sushi and then place them on a conveyor belt. Eventually, their creations reach you, led by tiny, hand-written signs indicating just exactly what is on the next row of plates. The color of the plates denotes the monetary value. At the end of your meal, a waitress stacks them up and adds them all together.

Undoubtedly, your plates will stack high. It's hard not to eat sushi this cheap. Somehow, knowing what a bargain it all is has the MSG-like quality of making everything taste a little better.

3. Stingray Sushi

It's loud, it's full of "pretty people" and the joint is normally packed to the gills on Friday and Saturday nights -- but we don't mind the wait 'cause the sushi here is off-the-charts good. Stingray serves up some of the best modern Japanese food in town; the people watching is a huge bonus. Stay away from the traditional rolls and go for something more exciting like the cucumber wrapped Moto Rolls with yellowtail and avocado or the Lobster Ceviche. The prices are a little high but it's definitely worth it for the experience.

2. Hana Japanese Eatery
The quaint atmosphere only adds to the charm of this little uptown Phoenix sushi spot -- the fish comes first. Flown in from Hawaii, New Zealand, California and other places around the globe, Hana will only serve the freshest and best fish to its customers; their website even has a list of where each and every fish is sourced from. You won't find any fancypants rolls on this website, but if you're in the mood for authentic sashimi or up for trying exotic fish from faraway lands, this is your spot. Make sure you ask for fresh wasabi and don't forget to bring a bottle of wine -- it's BYOB (and they don't charge a corking fee!).

1. Sushi Ken
We knew that Sushi Ken was the right place to eat sushi in the Valley before we ever sat down at its bar and filled in our choices with a golf pencil. We knew it because we heard the restaurant's head chef (whom we can only assume is named Ken) arguing with a fish monger...in Japanese.

Our Japanese isn't the best, but it's likely better than yours, and we did make out one very important thing that the head chef said to the fish monger: "It's just not fresh enough. I can't use it."

Let's be honest with each other here. Eating fish in a desert is a risky enterprise that by all rights probably should not be undertaken. Still, the siren's call sung by strips of salmon atop glistening, starchy globules flecked with wasabi is hard to resist. So if you're going to eat fish (especially raw fish) you'd better eat the freshest possible. In our experience, that is precisely what you can expect from Sushi Ken.

If there's one more reason to make the exhaustive drive to Ahwatukee to eat at Sushi Ken it is that unlike a great many of the sushi restaurants in the Valley, Sushi Ken is fairly traditional. Yeah, there's a roll or two with cream cheese in them that Ken will reluctantly roll together for you. There are one or two rolls that make an excessive use of Sriacha mayo and come deep fried. But look closer at the menu and you'll see that they're kept to a minimum. And when you're done looking at the menu, check out the dining room. Chances are you'll see most of Phoenix's Japanese population. If that isn't a good sign, we don't know what is.

Share your own sushi experiences in our comments section.

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