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Shimogamo vs. Harumi: Sushi Smack Down

Typically here at Chow Bella we love pitting similar dishes from two different restaurants against each other for a traditional Battle of the Dishes. But this time around, the stakes have risen. In this battle, it is not simply a fight for the best dish, but a fight for the honor of a family name, or in this case, a restaurant name. Two local Japanese joints, Shimogamo and Harumi Sushi, are serving up their own namesake sushi rolls, but only one can roll away the winner.

In This Corner: Shimogamo

Setting:Located in a shopping plaza off of Warner and Dobson in Chandler, Shimogamo appears to be a small and rather ordinary sushi bar. The unassuming exterior is quickly replaced however, by a very tastefully put together interior. Stone grey walls, spot lighting and dark wood seating give the dining area a sumptuous vibe, just as an evening of sushi and drinks should feel. Don't be surprised if the owner stops by to straighten up your table with the attention to detail the Japanese are known for.

The Good: The Shimogamo Roll brings together panko shrimp, tobiko (the small orange orbs of flying fish roe), cabbage, lemon, cucumber-miso mayo, and avocado into a single bite. When the roll is placed in front of you, the first thing to appreciate is the clean and appealing presentation. The panko shrimp run through the entire roll, coming to a tail and burst of shredded cabbage at the end. Looking at the list of ingredients, lemon undoubtedly stuck out. The flavor seems a fitting addition for seafood, but is very rarely used as a highlighted ingredient in a sushi roll. The lemon quickly became the aspect of the Shimogamo roll that we liked the best. Though the panko shrimp had a great crispiness and the cabbage lent a good bit of freshness to the roll, it was the lemon, which was subtly acidic and even slightly bitter (possibly from use of the rind), that set this roll apart.

The Bad: The creaminess from the avocado and the cucumber-mayo was not consistent through the entire roll. Instead, it was rather light in the front and heaviest with the last piece. On another note, though all the ingredients in this roll made for a delicious bite, we did slightly miss the raw fish component that was foregone in this roll.

In This Corner: Harumi Sushi

Setting: Located in the heart of downtown Phoenix, Harumi at lunch time often has a snaking line of business people picking up a pre-prepared tray of grab and go sushi made freshly in the morning. The dining establishment lends itself well to a more relaxed and casual sushi experience with self-service drinks and a top 40s track playing in the background.

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The Good: The Harumi roll is a mash-up of tempura shrimp, crab salad and avocado, all topped with fresh tuna, tobiko, spicy mayo, olive oil and some shredded daikon for garnish. If there is one texture that the Harumi roll has going for it, it is the creaminess is packs into every piece. This is surely accomplished by the combination of three decadent components: avocado, spicy mayo and buttery crab. The roll is rather sizeable and made all the more satisfying with the addition of slices of tuna placed atop the roll. Though the tuna could have easily been overwhelmed by the rolls creamier components, it was portioned into generously thick slices that managed to assert their own presence. The shredded daikon tendrils added at the very end made for a nice presentation while also giving a bit of crunch.

The Bad: A trademark of Harumi is the use of black rice, rather than traditional white sushi rice, for their rolls. While the intense purple color makes for an interesting visual, the grains were a bit too mushy and lacked that nice and tangy vinegar flavor that traditional sushi rice has. There was a touch too much crab in the roll proportionate to everything else and the tempura batter encasing the shrimp was too thick and more spongy than crunchy.

The Winner: In this battle of bringing honor to the family name, Shimogamo managed to create a roll with clean and interesting flavors while Harumi constructed a substantial roll with crowd-pleasing flavors. For those who enjoy a denser sushi roll, the Harumi roll is sure to satisfy. However, for our tastes the Shimogamo roll snagged the win for managing to excite, but not overwhelm.

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