Readers' Pick: Is it just us or does it seem like the smaller the sushi portions get, the higher the bill goes? And somehow your pockets get empty before your stomach gets full. Allow us to suggest Sushi Ten. We're not sure what the "ten" stands for, but we assume it's for "great" and "big." They've even got a great big place to sit lots and lots of sushi eaters. The only thing not "big" about Sushi Ten is the check. And that's what makes it all the greater.
Staff Pick: Housenka Restaurant, 1800 E. Fort Lowell Road. Forget about those knife-juggling chefs you see in TV commercials. If you want excitement and attitude with your sushi, go to Housenka. Mina, the owner and sushi chef, has a habit of telling customers exactly what she thinks. She's made frat boys cry and refused to serve rival sushi chefs. But her occasionally harsh words can't hide the generosity and creativity revealed by her sushi. Naturally, Mina uses only the best and freshest ingredients: tender tuna that rivals any steak we've had, yellowtail that melts on the tongue and a perfect unagi (eel) whose crunchy skin gives way to moist, savory meat enhanced by a tangy teriyaki-like sauce. Mina's presentation is Eastern artful, but her portions are Western-size satisfying. Vegetarian? On a recent visit Mina needed only a list of favorite ingredients to create an exquisite and unique roll that satisfied hunger and aesthetics. Mina also serves a wide range of Korean dinners and exotic desserts. Everybody seems to like the odd-sounding red bean ice cream, but, trust us on this, the green tea ice cream is strangely addictive. And no matter what Mina says to us, we'll be back.
Of Mythic Proportions: Sakura Teppan Steak and Sushi, 6534 E. Tanque Verde Road and 6091 N. Oracle Road. This staple of the Tanque Verde "restaurant row" doesn't disappoint, and now boasts a new location on Oracle. Sakura is best at making the sushi experience non-threatening for the uninitiated. If you go elsewhere your first time, it's trial by fire. But not at Sakura, which sports a wide assortment of fully-cooked sushi items for the squeamish (try the Shrimp Tempura Roll or the Calamari Roll) along with almost every other type of sushi and sashimi. There's a decent representation of fully vegetarian rolls, and if you want to get really crazy, there are plenty of fishy ways to experiment. Also, the sushi chefs tend to heckle novices less at Sakura than elsewhere. If you ain't a sushi-nado, fear not. There are tons of offerings from the Teppan grill, or hell, you can drink, dance, or watch sports on big-screen. We've seen guys do all three at once.