The number and breadth of Asian restaurants we have in the Valley keeps expanding. We got some great ones at the end of 2017 (Glai Baan, for example). And we have gotten some winners in 2018. From sushi to noodles to sandwiches to fried chicken, here are four new Asian restaurants more than worth checking out ASAP. These places bring flavors that will have you hoping the eastern Renaissance continues.
4025 East Chandler Boulevard
If you didn’t know any better, you could confuse Sushi Nakano with any run-of-the-mill sushi parlor in the city. Peel back the strip mall veneer, though, and you’ll find that Sushi Nakano is closer in spirit and substance to a traditional Tokyo sushi bar. For starters, there’s a pretty great selection of sakana bar snacks, including standard delicacies like geso karaage – deep-fried squid sheathed in an exceptionally light batter. The dish, at once crisp and chewy, really shines here. Sushi, nigiri, and sashimi options are plentiful. Nakano’s nigiri and sashimi game is strong. Unagi, lightly torched freshwater eel pressed against rice, is delightfully savory and earthy. A light glaze of eel sauce draws out the fish’s sweet notes. On the whole, sushi rolls are well-balanced and creative, without veering into the realm of novelty. Options include simple, traditional rolls with ingredients like Japanese cucumber or fermented soybeans, as well as popular standards like the ubiquitous salmon skin roll. Sushi Nakano also offers a small selection of hot noodle dishes and bento boxes.
1933 West Main Street, #8, Mesa
One of Korea’s hottest culinary exports of the past decade – crispy, juicy Korean fried chicken, or KFC – is still kind of scarce in metro Phoenix. Po Chicken goes a long way toward filling this void. The restaurant sells three varieties of KFC, along with other hard-to-find Korean delicacies. Namely, Po Chicken also specializes in juk – Korean-style rice porridges, which are served with a small but elegant array of banchan, the tiny side dishes that typically land on the table at the beginning of a Korean meal. So what makes KFC different from American-style fried chicken? The magic is in its thin, delicate, very crisp crust. The chicken is only lightly battered and often double-fried, which produces fried chicken with a thin, crackly rind. The crust is a delicious foil to the bird’s moist, juicy interior. The apotheosis of this style is achieved in Po’s basic, sparingly seasoned fried chicken platter, which is labeled on the menu as crispy fried chicken. If you prefer your KFC with a flavorful kick, order it yang nyum-style, which comes dressed in a sweet-spicy sauce.
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15693 North Reems Road, #113, Surprise
As the city of Surprise continues to expand, so do the dining options in the far west part of the Valley. One of the recent additions is Surprise Pho, a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant that opened in January. The menu features the standard selection: soups, rice plates, vermicelli bowls with various grilled meats, stir-fried egg noodles, and hot-stone barbecue dishes served sizzling on a skillet. For vegetarians and vegans, there are six options, including spring rolls, vegetable pho, and rice or noodles with tofu, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, and other produce. Menu photos provide a handy guide for folks who are new to Vietnamese cuisine or want to try something different. Just don't skip the egg rolls. Order them as an appetizer or in a combination vermicelli bowl. Bite into the crackling deep-fried wrapper for an earthy mouthful of ground pork and shrimp, onion, carrot, taro, jicama, and glass noodles. The egg rolls are rich and indulgent without being overly greasy – the kind that make you want to take a second helping home for later.
CreAsian Bar and Grill
1212 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
CreAsian Bar and Grill opened in January, bringing a new Vietnamese fusion concept to Phoenix. And as of April, just months later, it has expanded to a second location in Tempe. The locally owned restaurant offers both traditional and original dishes with an American twist, served up in a laid-back atmosphere complete with drinking games. Though CreAsian’s menu has staples such as four types of pho (the restaurant’s specialty), fresh spring rolls, and vermicelli noodle bowls with grilled meats, it also features more unusual dishes. Stand out appetizers include the deep-fried quail, wild boar baby back ribs, and grilled mussels. The impressive list of more than 20 skewer options includes small bites of camel, beaver, kangaroo, alligator, antelope, elk, and more.