Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tropic Thunder Roll at BLUE WASABI

BLUE WASABI of Arizona

The wasabi is blue.

No, really—it’s not green, but blue in color, thanks to food coloring and a brilliant gimmick that’s so clever, they even named the restaurant after it.

Introducing Blue Wasabi Sushi & Martini Bar in Arizona, a hip and highly addictive sushi joint that combines culinary wizardry with creative genius. Take the sushi rolls, for example: There’s Squid Vicious, (fried calamari with “vicious” sauce), Get Clucked (a tempura chicken roll), and Dirty Sanchez (a tempura number with eel, avocado, crab, jalapeno and cream cheese, smeared with a “sweet soy glaze”). Or how about a P.I.T.A. (Pain in the Ass) Roll? Perhaps so named, I surmise, because it’s a pain in the ass to fashion the cucumber wrap in which this roll is encased?

But just because the names are a play on words, that doesn’t mean taste is not serious business in this place. Each plate is fit for a queen—er, diva—with the presentation so perfect that you almost don’t want to touch it, decent-size portions, and a deliciousness so potent that it feels like it should be illegal.

After they plunk down your napkin and mini dish of ginger and cobalt-blue wasabi (you suspect it tastes different but it tastes just like regular wasabi), you are handed the martini menu—which is also chockfull of delightfully naughty titles, such as Nice Melons, Eve’s Appletini, Milky Way, Buttah Face. Little happy face logos next to a drink’s name indicate that it’s 50 percent off during happy hour (between 4:30 and 6:30 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays). In keeping with the color scheme, the restaurant also hosts “Blue Sundays,” when all alcohol is half off if you wear something that is blue in hue.

Tropic Thunder, touted as a “New Taste!” on the menu, is worth every cent of its $13.50 price. Recommended to me by the restaurant manager, who insists it is like “a party in the mouth,” this pineapple-salsa-laden wonder boasts panko-crusted shrimp, spicy crab and avocado, with shrimp draped across the top. The hot crunch of the fried shrimp blends perfectly with the cold and refreshing tropical essence of the salsa, which besides pineapple has jalapeno and cilantro in it.

Badda Bing, Surf and Turf, & Yo Adrian! Rolls

Doing the Blue

I was pleasantly surprised to read on the menu that the Badda Bing roll is topped with a balsamic glaze, making a vegetarian choice a tasty one with its center of roasted bell peppers, asparagus, cream cheese and roasted garlic. I have seen balsamic vinegar used in a few sushi bars—usually the high-end ones—but it marries magnificently with eel; certainly, I knew this drizzle would work for this dish, and it did. Badda Bing, which costs $8, is aromatic and sweet without being cloying, and it’s so good that it’s easy to forget there’s no meat in it.

But to get back to the meat: The Surf and Turf roll serves up the beef—this is a roll of shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber that’s topped with seared beef tenderloin, green onions, and a sesame onion dressing which rivals that of Miki Izumisawa, who owns 242 CafĂ© Fusion Sushi and Sushi Gallery Miki, which is saying a mouthful. According to the chef, it is one of their best rolls, even though I hadn’t yet tried one that didn’t taste top-notch.

And yet another undeniably smart hook that makes it impossible not to return: when you spend more than $25, your receipt may be redeemed for “50 percent off food” on the following Monday.

And so, like the devout sushi addict I was, I revisited next Monday and this time tried the Yo Adrian!—a roll of cream cheese, imitation crab and green onion tempura with smoked salmon and a dusting of dill on top. This is the only place where I have ever seen deep-fried green onion in a sushi roll, and it suits the other ingredients oh so well. And knowing that all my food was half off this time around, I ate until I was blue in the face.

Blue Wasabi
6137 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ


2080 E. Williams Field Rd.

Gilbert, AZ