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Cafe Assessment: A Tune of Rice and Fireplace From Two New Japanese Eateries


For our September café evaluate, we go to two new Japanese eateries. The primary: Nanaya Japanese Kitchen, the place the menu is generally Japanese with a number of imaginative dishes that fuse previous Southwestern dishes with Japanese. The opposite is Kaizen PHX — a warehouse-district sushi kitchen that provides uncooked fish past the standard nigiri, maki, temaki, and sashimi. Let’s go.

A Shock Pivot to Japanese Consolation Meals in Arcadia

In spring, as COVID crept in, the house owners of Nanaya Japanese Kitchen, a then-unopened restaurant in Arcadia, needed to assume quick. That they had deliberate to serve izakaya. However izakaya doesn’t translate properly to takeout, in order that they reshuffled the menu, shifting to “Japanese consolation meals.”

The outcome? Certainly one of my favourite openings of the yr.

These house owners, Eddie Chow and Akira Nakasu, are Valley newbies however business veterans. Nakasu is a restauranteur with grocery store and bakery expertise in Japan and Shanghai. Chow has run eateries in Taiwan, together with cafes, an American restaurant, and a pho idea. Trying to the U.S. for his or her subsequent initiatives, they settled on metro Phoenix. They’ve large plans for downtown Scottsdale and hope to chop ribbons in early 2021.

However that’s one other story, and you’ll style this one now.

Nanaya’s chef, Spencer Shin, is a considerably current transplant from the Bay Space. Most of Nanaya’s meals is Japanese, like ramen, karaage, gyoza. Some veers into improv or a playful fusion of Japanese and Southwestern. You will observe good touches of thought and care: ribs cooked each sous vide (sluggish) and frying (quick), or using dehydrated lime and tomato for a Japanese tackle frybread.

The place to start with this thrilling starter? Initially: it’s a plank of dough, deep-fried.

Shavings of beef wealthy with miso-yuzu marinade adorn chewy bread, completed with cheese, dehydrated lime, and dried tomatoes. If you happen to pressure, it vaguely calls to thoughts a easy purple chile frybread eaten from a roadside stand, however with a brand new path. I might spend extra time plumbing this, however we’ve bought lots to chew over.

The opposite starters are satisfying. Iidako, child octopuses the scale of ping pong balls, are crunchy-fried, jacketed in potato and corn starch. Gyoza ripple with flavorful, juicy floor pork. If you’d like, seize elote with Japanese mayo, however I’d save room.


“Rattling, that pork cutlet is thick!”

Chris Malloy

Entrees fall into three camps: ramen, katsu sandwiches, and seize bag.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t order ramen from a spot that focuses on dishes far past the soup. However the tori paitan ramen, created, as with a number of of Nanaya’s dishes, in session with cooks from Japan, makes a case towards this rule. It has a whisper of creaminess and a ton of rolling depth, its broth imbued with the healthful, roasty high quality of excellent poultry.

I might say ordering the ramen is optionally available however ordering a katsu sandwich is obligatory. You’re at residence, rifling by way of your takeout containers in a brown bag or two. You come to your katsu. Its package deal — butcher paper mounted with twine — stops you in an sudden second of small magnificence. You unwrap your sandwich. Rattling, that pork cutlet is thick! However ah, the cutlet appears to be like dry. On tender Japanese milk bread, the sandwich will get all of the slight juiciness it wants from its pork, to not point out muted sweetness from sponge-soft bread. It is a very nice sandwich.

I loved each entrée at Nanaya. One other hit was the tempura-fried pork ribs, all however sloughing from their bones. Sadly, the kitchen tends to expire of salmon yuanyaki — salmon stomach skewers turned over charcoal. Oh properly. As soon as the pandemic wanes, the oldsters behind this promising younger restaurant hope to steer again into kaiseki territory.

An Thrilling Sushi Outpost in The Warehouse District

Not removed from Seventh Road, in the identical lofty complicated that homes the expertise incubator Impress, Kaizen is including new wrinkles to Phoenix sushi. After all, maki, temaki, nigiri, sashimi, and far of Kaizen’s on-paper menu may also be spied on 100 Valley sushi restaurant menus. Kaizen’s charms come, reasonably, from primary dishes that channel flavors of the Americas.

Kaizen shares area with The Larry, a low-key, all-day restaurant. Each are by Conceptually Social, a hospitality group that lately bought a number of holdings, like The Dressing Room, in an effort to regroup within the boiling wake of COVID.

The culinary expertise behind Kaizen consists of Gustavo Munoz, a Mexican chef who additionally helms the sushi arm of Conceptually Social’s catering. At Kaizen, Munoz attracts from raw-fish preparations and flavors from Mexico and South America.

Technically, within the artistic primary dish part, he strikes past sushi, introducing unique touches, some centering nice maritime meals like tiradito.

Tiradito is a sashimi-adjacent, Peruvian-Japanese meals of slivered fish, usually served within the creamy, chile-citrus sauce leche de tigre. At Kaizen, gingery spicing warms a silky sauce. Its chile tingle? Fiery habanero, fruity flashes brightened by lime. That is a chic, brilliantly fresh-tasting plate of seafood, although it’s best to go for snapper reasonably than octopus, because the octopus’s slight rubber grabs outsize focus.

Kaizan’s Hotate Aguachile.EXPAND

Kaizan’s Hotate Aguachile.

Jackie Mercandetti Photograph

In a metropolis blessed with aguachile choices, Kaizen shoots its shot. A inexperienced sauce zinging with citrus and unripe chile warmth checks a key aguachile field: the screamingly intense cool broth that offers the dish its identify. Coin-thin scallops from Hokkaido, uncooked and slippery, encircle cucumber beneath herbs with intense grassiness. The herbaceous affect is a pleasant contact, jiving easily with delicately candy slices of scallop.

Different zones of the menu are price exploration, although the pleasures are much less riveting. King crab nigiri spill candy meat over its tight ledges of well-cooked rice. Handrolls are respectable, easy, and recent in the best way of excellent sushi. Gyoza are linked by a dumpling skirt, although its lacy snap could soften on the highway.

No worries. If you happen to stay close to Kaizen, they’ll ship. By “they” I imply Kaizen, as Conceptually Social doesn’t work with third-party supply providers, hoping, reasonably, to manage high quality all the best way to the doorstep.

Inside your takeout or supply bag, you’ll discover color-coded packaging, conveying which sauces go along with which sushi field. It is a small factor. Nevertheless it’s the sort of clever transfer that speaks to the precision and intention that makes these Japanese eating places, although new and grappling with a pandemic, surprisingly thrilling.

Nanaya Japanese Kitchen
3606 East Indian College Highway, Suite B
Hours: Midday to 2:30 p.m., four to eight p.m., Wednesday to Monday

Iidako $6.50
Nanaya spareribs $14.50
Tori Paitan ramen $11
Tonkatsu sando $8

Kaizen PHX
515 East Grant Road
Hours: four to 9 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Hane gyoza $9
Hotate aguachile $17
Tiradito $17
King crab nigiri $10