Over the last few months, I have been covering many restaurants that reopened following the COVID-19 shut down. I continue to be impressed with the efforts all have taken to mitigate the spread of the virus while providing diners with unparalleled service in a safe environment. Specifically for this post I am focusing on four reopened asian dining concepts in Phoenix, AZ that I have visited in the last few weeks. If you are more comfortable with dining in the comfort of your home, I encourage you to take a look at their websites for To Go options. The lengths in which many have taken to provide service to all levels of comfort is truly impressive. I hope you enjoy the read. Kampai! xoM
Kasai is an Asian dining experience located on Scottsdale Road, north of Thunderbird, that features teppanyaki, Asian fusion, and sushi. Kasai is in the building that many of you may remember as Sapporo, built in 2001 as an impressive stand-alone that quickly distinguished itself as the sushi hotspot. In 2009, Sapporo was sold to Tavistock Restaurants LLC, a privately held company owning several boutique restaurant concepts in the US. The original owners purchased Sapporo back in November 2018, with the intent of reinventing and reopening. The new name of Kasai is Japanese for fire/flame, and in adding 4 additional teppanyaki tables, Kasai serves a 7-course meal with entertainment, and, yes, a lot of fire. Kasai is now the #1 Teppanyaki restaurant in Arizona.
Our teppan chef, Pedro, did not disappoint, adding showmanship and comic relief by tossing spatulas, bowls of fried rice and eggs with expertise. The food was delicious, and we were thoroughly entertained, vowing to bring the kids back over the holidays. Knowing that the 7-course meal was coming, we ordered a small appetizer of a Tuna Tower before making our teppanyaki protein selection of salmon. The meal starts with a miso-ginger salad and simple broth mushroom soup, followed by teppanyaki shrimp and seasonal vegetables, fried rice, your choice of protein – ours being salmon – and ending with a Dole Whip Pineapple Frozen dessert. With the complete teppanyaki experience of food, fire and fun, Kasai is not to be missed.
14344 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ www.kasaiscottsdale.com
The Clever Koi
Born and Raised Hospitality’s Clever Koi is an Asian-inspired kitchen & craft cocktail bar with locations in Central Phoenix and the (newly reopened) historic downtown Gilbert. Clever Koi’s owners Nick Campisano and Josh James completely remodeled the Gilbert space that closed due to damage from a kitchen fire. The result is a beautiful open, bright, and airy space with a dog-friendly outdoor patio. We tried their famous ramen dishes, voted by USA Today as the best in Arizona. They have a nice variety from Pork to Lemon Pepper Chicken to the Cashew Vegan. Don’t miss the daily happy hour offered at the stylish craft cocktail bar featuring an eclectic beer, wine & sake list, which includes the Arizona Junmai Ginzo from Holbrook, AZ. We certainly didn’t miss out of the cocktails, ordering a couple of Piña Coladas and some fried calamari before tucking in to the warm, broth ramen.
60 W Vaughn Ave #101, Gilbert, AZ www.thecleverkoi.com
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Bitter & Twisted is an asian dining concept in Phoenix, AZ that was established in 2014 in a charming corner space inside Phoenix’s first high-rise, the historic Luhrs Building. For those of you who think that Phoenix is filled with nothing but strip malls, you must visit this elegant 1924 10-story brick and stone building downtown on Jefferson St. Inside there are soaring ceilings and windows, and rows of red leather banquets. Where formerly guests could flip through their large cocktail book, presently cocktails and food menus are found by using QR codes. Nonetheless, you will still find a nice selection of new and classic drinks. To cue off this cocktail list, Bitter & Twisted’s team of chefs developed a small, eclectic, continually evolving menu of Asian inspired dishes. Once settled into a booth, we were presented with some tasty Hurricane Popcorn, flavored with butter, garlic, furikake, shichimi, and spicy rice crackers on which to snack while making our choices. I always feel you can judge a place by their margarita, kind of like in The Hundred-Foot Journey when the chef was judged by his making of a classic French omelet. The Passion Fruit margarita I ordered was outstanding, and we then went on to order some Shrimp Shumai, Tuna Tataki, and Sichuan Barbacoa Tacos. I am looking foward to returning this month to try the Sippin’ Santa Pop Up, where the interior is decorated as a island-style hideaway serving a custom menu and tiki drinks like the North Pole Punch and the Parrot in a Pear Tree.
1 W Jefferson St, Phoenix, AZ www.bitterandtwistedaz.com
Sushi Roku, a subsidiary of Innovative Dining Group, can be described as a contemporary California sushi concept with Latin and European influences. While I have been to the W Hotel in Scottsdale many times to eat at Sushi Roku, what I learned when doing my research is that the original co-founder/owner, Michael Cardenas, is a former general manager at Matsuhisa, the fabulous Nobu restaurant in Aspen. Sushi Roku opened its first location in Santa Monica, and now includes locations in Pasadena, Newport Beach, Las Vegas and our Scottsdale location.
Armando Meza is the current manager and we found him to be charismatic and passionate about hospitality. You will continue to find outstanding sushi and the famous dishes reminiscent of Nobu, like the Hamachi Serrano and the Baked Cod in Miso. Plus, Sushi Roku’s new executive chef, David Miles, plans to expand their menu of farm-fresh vegetarian and vegan dishes, such as the innovative Vegan Omakase (see my post here), or chef’s choice menu. One thing I have been wanting to try is the Hot Family pack to go that feeds 4 for $98, and includes Miso Soup, Edamame, Garlic Green Beans, Popcorn Shrimp, Gyoza, Japanese Fried Chicken, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Chicken Fried Rice. Also offered to go are the Bento Boxes and the Sushi Family Pack. I love to see the creative ways of how concepts are adapting with the times!
7277 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ www.sushiroku.com