SoChu House in Phoenix: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: SoChu House 2801 North Central Avenue, Phoenix 602-340-9777 www.sochuhouse.com

See Also: - Pig & Pickle in Scottsdale: Happy Hour Report Card - Tastemakers 2012: Johnny Chu - Miu's Cuisine: Sichuan Food That's Anything but Familiar

The Hours: Happy Hour is offered daily from 3 until 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. until close.

The Interior: We've always been a fan of Johnny Chu, from Sens to Fate. His new(ish) hip bar in CenPho opened last July and has made a name for itself with great DJ nights and that same tasty Chu cuisine we've come to love. The dark ambiance and furniture combined with colorful lighting and a clean, white bar make for a great place to hang out in the summer that's cool in more ways than one.

The Food: Chu's neo-Asian cuisine is so flavorful and unique that it'd be easy to pick out what dish is his in a blind taste test. The $5 tapas plates during happy hour are a great way to try out a lot of what he can do while sparing your bank account. Different types of edamame, wontons, pot stickers and a gyoza soup are all great plates to start. His crispy, chewy, perfectly fried tofu is offered with either wasabi sauce or with a pineapple-ginger and sesame dipping sauce for the SoChu tofu.

We went for the spicy chicken wontons with a sweet wasabi sauce. The smooth filling and crunchy wrapper hit the spot, but it's the sauces at SoChu house that really make the dish. Our next pick, the sugar cane pork, was the same way. The crispy pork fried on the bone like little pig lollipops were well-prepared, but the sweet and tangy pineapple-ginger sauce made them irresistible. Our one complaint is that there wasn't enough sauce for our pork, which made the meat a little dry, but our friend's crispy tofu salad was practically swimming in it.

The Drink: With half-priced sake bottles, $5 wines by the glass, $3 mugs of select drafts and $5 well cocktails, there's a lot of options for happy hour imbibing. Nine different sake options and eight different wine options are sure to keep you captivated, but we had to go for the $5 martini du jour. When we visited, the martini was a strawberry basil variety that was so refreshing it was hard to stray away from just ordering that again and again. However, we decided to pair our pork with a draft, which was a choice of an IPA or nut brown.

The Conclusion: Chu definitely knows how to make a great sauce to pair with his cheap little tapas plates. While there were minor preparation issues with our dishes, they were overall great in quality and value. We also love having a place to get cheap sake during happy hour and those strawberry basil martinis were definitely something to go back for. Plus we love that they do typical happy hours and late night happy hours too.

Grade: B+

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