Friday, May 27, 2016

Another Fast Casual Pizza Concept In Tucson? Yeah, But This One Is Kinda Cool...

Okay, we seem to be on some kind of mission of late, one that focuses on new restaurants opening up in places where others have failed.

There was the fantastic sushi joint on Campbell in a suck hole of proven defeat that we know is going to make it because their food is so darn delicious. Then there was the amazing sandwich depot on 4th Avenue in a nook known to swallow eateries whole but is so tasty and lively we have a real gut feeling it's gonna pull through the hot and unforgiving summers and beyond. Now a pizza place has recently opened up near the Tucson Mall in a corner juncture surrounded by other fast food options famous for making restaurants go bye-bye in less than a year.

But, just like the other two, we have a hunch this one just might survive because it has a budget, a focus and, most importantly, a surprisingly good product.

Method of...dough?

It's called MOD Pizza and at first we thought it was just a flashy local concept come to pass in the bleak rim near the corner of Wetmore and Oracle. The last one to come and go there was a Mongolian BBQ thingy that seemed to draw the crowds but seemingly not enough to keep the ovens on and employees paid. It sat lonely and empty for a spell after closing but then one day a jazzy marquee was set up and before you knew it the place was open for business.

At first we just rolled our eyes and were all, "Yeah, go ahead 'new pizza place'. With thousands of other similar restaurants in this town like you we bet you wont make it to Christmas. Good luck! Bah-hahahaha!"

(Okay, we didn't actually laugh like a sinister mad scientist, but...alright we kinda did.)

The energetic staff making your pizzas to order

Then one day, out of total curiosity, we decided to check out what this MOD Pizza was all about online. We typed in their name on a search engine and what we got was a bit of a shock.

Turns out, MOD Pizza is a chain, not a huge one but a chain none the less. But...we had never heard about it or them. Going to their website we were astonished to find that they had stores all across the country, over a hundred at this point. Wait, what? Who is this MOD Pizza you speak of? And where did you come from?

Checking out their page on restaurant review sites, we were even more floored to see that they averaged a 4-5 star rating, all across the board. 4-5 star rating? For a pizza chain we never even heard of?

Oh. Oh we got to try this one out...

Saucin' it up in full fervor

Apparently the concept for MOD started back in 2008 by a couple of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee Company refugees that wanted to do something fun and cool on their own. After hooking up with other corporate head cheeses (pun intended), the pizza concept started to grow and expand and, we have one here in Tucson.

So on a breezy warm afternoon in late May, the Tucson Homeskillet walked in and this is the result:

Clean, stocked and ready to rock

Right off the bat we were impressed with the layout. It was spacious but not too overbearing. The space was clean, like a "oh, nice" kind of clean; not too sterile but you definitely felt safe eating there. Good table organization too. A few big tops and a smattering of 2-4 top tables, keeping it basic yet really organized.

MOD is a fast casual concept so basically you pick whatever you want on your pizza and they will make it as you wish right on the spot. They have a bunch of concocted options with names such as "Tristan", "Dominic" and "Jasper" (who we later found out were employees that created such genius creations that they named the pizzas after them) but according to the website and on-site menu itself it's apparent they want you to do as you please.

The line formation is easy too. The minute you walk in you are immediately instructed to turn right and a friendly server is there waiting to take your order at the register. MOD Pizza is obviously well thought out through trusted schematics and test runs from soft openings we gathered...but how is the food?

Super hot oven makes for super fast pizza

Unlike another fast casual pizza spread that we endured a while ago, the staff at MOD are really on top of it. Young and eager with a forward customer service attitude, the girls that helped us this day were awesome. Smiling, helpful, playful even (making fun of Metal Mark as he snapped photos...but in a good way), they answered all questions fluidly and with vigor as opposed to the usual "Umm..I dunno" of so many others of this style of eatery's ilk. So we ordered a couple of pizzas and a salad and waited for the outcome.

Alright. The restaurant design was on point. The movement of the patrons and the ease of ordering was good. And the service, the service!, was really what was setting us up to like this place.

Soon after the real test arrived. When they called out our name we grabbed the goods, sat down and started to chow down. 

Let the silent judging as we chew and swallow begin!

Huge Caesar salad...for cheap!

We ordered a Caesar salad, sounds cliche but, c'mon, if a pizza joint can't get a staple salad down correct then why bother. It was very generous and served in a large steel bowl. Tossed with Parmesan cheese, herby croutons, diced tomatoes and fresh romaine lettuce, this thing was definitely shareable between two to four people. The dressing was impressive too; had a good tangy bite with a distinctive anchovy luster. Okay, cool, they can do a Caesar salad well...good job MOD!

Here was our one complaint about the salad: Sure it was tasty and there was a lot of it but we were confused on how to go about and actually, it. It didn't come with tongs or even a spoon to dish the stuff out and none was offered to us. See, with MOD everything is kind of up to you, which we liked, but this idea wasn't calculated well enough we thought.

You get your plastic utensils next to the soda and lemonade fountains and pretty much take care of your own business, which is great. But there wasn't a salad station where you can get little bowls or serving gadgets. Instead you are kind of forced to eat straight from the large steel bowl that teeters as you dig in. Once or twice we almost tipped the thing over attempting to get into the creamy veggie awesome and trying to scrape some of the salad onto the plate almost caused a lettuce and crouton avalanche.  

That was our one complaint.

So far.

If you're good with the basics, you just might make it

Another uber staple of the pizza universe is the ubiquitous pepperoni option. Again, if you mess this one up, you're all washed up in the Tucson pizza business kid.

Nope. It was really tasty.

We ordered two "MOD" sized pizzas, which are roughly around 11 inches, a sort of larger version of a personal pizza. There's a smaller option at 6 inches and something called the "Mega MOD" which doubles up the crust (?) but we kept with the house specialty.

The best thing about the pepperoni pizza was the ratio of toppings. The red sauce was very flavorful and sharp but not over powering or dull. The mozzarella cheese wasn't over done or sloppy with just the correct amount to cover the whole thing and give for a full mouth bite. And you might think that they got a bit stingy with the pepperoni, using only about less than a dozen to swirl the top with, but, honestly, being a fan of New York style pizza, it was the perfect amount.

Sure you got a meaty nib with almost every bite but the mildly conservative placement of the meat didn't make for a greasy flermed pizza. Those coming in and expecting standard corporate ham fisted distribution of cured pork and beef sausage causing a symphony of glistening lips, drippy forearms and the onset of pimples due to its gut churning dole of little red circles contorted into mini pools of lard drip might be disappointed. We weren't. We were very down with the first pie we tried.

But, at MOD you can do what you want so go for the double meat there bucko. It's up to you.

Have fun!

Next on this pizza...uh, one of each I guess

Apparently each store across the US has a signature pie. Here at the one on Wetmore and Oracle, they have a featured one going by the name of "Cooper". This option came equipped with red sauce, mozzarella, ricotta cheese, roasted asparagus and red peppers, red onions, mild Italian sausage and finished with fresh basil.  Unfortunately we caught them after a bit of a lunch rush and the girl assembling this pizza apologized and said they were out of basil. But then they offered me another option if we'd like. So we took the arugula route which honestly we would have preferred in the first place.

Sure there was a lot going on here but, again, it was quite lovely to eat. The combo of the dollops of ricotta and the sausage brought it all together and the rest just made it feel as if you were sort of being "healthy" about it. We know a lot of people out there would find a pizza like this almost offensive but, sorry, this stuff was good. See, if you let yourself juggle your tastebuds a bit between traditional and experimental now and then you might be surprised to find you actually enjoy unconventional toppings on your pie.

Except olives. Olives suck.

Wow, what can we say? MOD Pizza is pretty darn great. The food is yummy and fresh, the establishment is clean and inviting, the service staff is attentive and delightful...overall we'd say that hinge between Total Wine and Home Depot just might be occupied for a few seasons we predict. Even with all of the other fast casual options in that range of retail and tight parking, MOD Pizza gives us a nicely deliberated product that we know will go over well with those on a tight budget and schedule.

The lemonade was good too. As was the music. Turns out they have their own radio station that you can stream at anytime. As we ate and analyzed we were treated to some classic rock, obscure New Wave, old school garage ska and I think we caught the tail end of Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me".

Not too sure. Maybe it was just a dream...

Decent slice for a decent price

Okay MOD's on. The good people of Tucson are now ready to give you guys a shot. You seem to be making it in other parts of the states now it's our turn to see if you got what it takes to make it here, the first city in America to go all UNESCO on all y'all other busters.

We at the Tucson Homeskillet liked them. Yeah, we'll be back. Will you?

Oh did I mention we barely finished all our food and for two pizzas and a huge salad it barely broke the $20 mark? Did we mention that?

I think we did.

No. We did.


T-dizzle represent!

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Few Days Before Memorial Day, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Homeskillet Gets Down With Latin It Up!

"I believe that all anybody really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich."
- Liz Lemon

Just like their food, Latin It Up has a distinct character

It was a bright sunny afternoon just strolling along 4th Avenue when I noticed that the crepe place next to Che's was gone.

"That place was pretty good," my friend interjected. "Too bad nothing really makes it in that spot."

This got me thinking as to why certain areas of town are literally the death knell for eateries. Even if canteens that rock out the proper grub they can oftentimes fall subject to the "restaurant black hole", those weird corners and back areas that seem to always draw a decent concept but then swallows them whole in a short amount of time. That tight nook on 4th is kind of one of them. And, yeah, my pal was correct, that creperie did indeed have a decent product...but I suppose not one enough to keep the lights on.

In its stead a colorful little sandwich shop has taken up the slot and we have a gut feeling that this one will endure summers and winters to come.

Calling themselves Latin It Up, they feature a menu that is just as whimsical as the colors and decor of the place, hosting promises of South American influenced sandwiches and salads in a very relaxed environment that is both welcoming and unconventional at the same time.

A nice lady at the counter with a bright yellow scarf keeping her hair back took our orders once we decided to give this place a shot. Being a big fan of Cubano sandwiches, I just had to try their take on the dish as my friend ordered up the Cilantro Chicken variety.

"It's good," the lady said about the Cilantro Chicken sandwich. "You'll like it. It's a little spicy...kind of like me." Okay, that was awesome and basically made me a fan of this place right off the bat.

 I grabbed something called an Inca Kola and then we sat by the window and watched the flurry of 4th Avenue scoot by as we waited.

"My cola tastes like bubble gum," I said after taking a sip. "Really good but...different."

"Let's just say it is an acquired taste," the lady in the yellow bandana said with a sly smile and nod.

Eventually the food arrived and sparked the reason for this here feature on them.

Irene: the owner, the creator, the one and only

Honestly, I haven't had Latin influenced sandwiches this good since some time spent in Miami or certain Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles. To describe what separates a real Cubano sandwich from a run of the mill ham option with mayo and pickles is like trying to compare a fast food grease squish burger to a half pound grass fed beef one, cooked medium rare and dripping with well thought out goodness and meaty piquancy.

It's the bread. It's the quality of the pulled pork. It's the seasoning of the ham. It's the flavor of the pickles and variety of condiments. Topped with a properly aged Provolone, Latin It Up's Cubano sent me reeling from succulent bites of the past, most coming from carts on the side of the road, cooked and served up by guys that had a little if non-existent grasp of basic English. It didn't matter because we all spoke the same language: Yummy.

When the idea of a sandwich falls in the hands of well honed cooks of Cuban, Brazilian, Peruvian or Latin American decent, the result is a fantastic mash of flavors and styles that translate into one universal notion that if you are going to make a sandwich don't just make any old sandwich...make it mas que increible!

"Dude my sandwich is rad too," noted my pal digging into her Cilantro Chicken sandwich. So I had to take a bite.



After we finished our sandwiches and were  basking in all of its asombroso-ness we just had to sit down with the nice lady in the yellow panuelo to find out what her secrets about concocting the perfect Latin sandwich in Tucson consists of...and how she got here in the first place.

I mean, we just had to know. We were slightly lightheaded from the food, a rarity for us to come in sandwich form.

Behold your next sandwich habit

"Well I ran away from New Jersey, my home state, around, oh, 1984...ish?", says Irene Echeandia, owner and sandwich queen of Latin It Up. "I had a cousin living here in Tucson. But pretty soon after moving here I started to really miss my mom's cooking as well as most of the food from Hudson County which consisted of many different Latin cultures.

"You know, at that time, I really had no clue as to what a taco or even a burrito was," she chuckles. "So I started to recreate my own comfort food style, taking ingredients from Southern Arizona and giving it a back east 'Latin' flair.

"We previously owned and operated Irene's on Congress Street from 1997 to about 2005. In fact, we were the first Peruvian restaurant here in Tucson.

"To try and heal from a tragic accident our family experienced a few years ago, my daughter Christina motivated us all to open the sandwich shop here on 4th to try and heal. We had positive, loving memories of Irene's and we feel this has been our calling. We really enjoy serving the good people of Tucson along with cooking and working with each other."

Goofin', but not fooling around

With so many delicious options written down on their extensive blackboard, I wanted to know what she considers the crowd favorites or at least a signature dish...or two.

"Oh," she beams looking at the menu board, "well, we are definitely known for the Cuban sandwich," to which made me smile and she smiled back. "A local publication mentioned us and our Peruvian Pork sandwich, also known as the Chicharron. Then a big food magazine came by and and really enjoyed our Quinoa Burger and the Cilantro Chicken," which made my friend up and smile.

"But as far as sales go, our Beef al Huacaina (shredded beef) has been surpassing the Cubano as far as sales go. It's fantastic," beams Irene with a swish of her hand. "The beef is topped with a spicy cheese sauce then finished with a chimichurri and shoestring chips. So very very good.

"We've also been serving Peruvian ceviche on the weekends. We made it recently for Good Friday and our patrons loved it so much that it has become our weekend staple. We always have specials going on so it's best that you just come on by and see what we have going on."

You can do that or follow them online HERE.

The Cubano in all of its glory

"We are always faced with challenges," Irene states when asked about the highs and lows of owning your own sandwich depot, especially on the busy byway of 4th Avenue, "but having faith in what we do and having a strong foundation has kept us true to our mission.

"And our mission is a simple one: To introduce the community to diverse, healthy and above all hearty Latin American food. If you love food and enjoy trying out new things then this is the place for you!

"We don't know where we'll end up in the future," shrugs Irene as new customers enter and stare at the beguiling display of menu items and artifacts from Brazil and Peru on their walls and shelves, "but we will certainly continue to plant healthy relationships with the good people of Tucson and serving them the best Latin food around."

It's that passion that not only comes out from Irene and all at Latin It Up that makes us thankful they are open for business and seemingly doing well, but in their food as well. We know you're going to be on 4th Avenue sometime soon (because we all are at some point) and with all of the great food on that stretch of storefront happenings, you need to step up and into the cool South American diner and get yourself a proper sandwich. You've earned it...and Irene's inspired creations deserve the attention from your taste buds and heart as well.

From a different part of the globe, you feel right at home

When we stepped back into the glaring sun of the impending summer months, our bellies were just as warm as the spring breeze that wafted down the well trod avenue. Walking away, slowly, we looked back and gave the bright blue and yellow casa a knowing grin, one that indicated that we just knew that the two of us, and the rest of Tucson, will be hanging out with Irene and her food for quite some time.

Latin It Up is here and it is most likely here to stay.

Gracias Irene! Your sandwiches are muy, muy buena!

Now mover el culo and check it out.

See you there.

Why do all good things have to come to an end?

"Oh! Ham!"
- Liz Lemon

Thank you Latin It Up!

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
About A Week After Cinco de Mayo, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Your New Roving Food Obsession Resides In A Funky Red Truck

I remember the moment I spotted the boxy red coach that rolled into sight and set up shop.

It was a breezy summer evening a year or so ago. We, some friends of mine and I, were all relaxing at our favorite neighborhood bar when I caught sight of the food truck through the window getting ready to serve the crowd who were all beer buzzing and hiding in the free air conditioning.

"They're called Bam Bam," informed the bartender. "Not too sure what the food is like but they say it's a blend of Mexican and Korean. I think."

Always up for a new member of the mobile eatery nation, we waited patiently for the two guys inside to prep and gear for our orders. Eventually one guy began writing on the chalk board next to the pass window:

Yakisoba Noodles (steak, chicken, pork, tofu)
Korean Tacos
Fusion Burritos
Kimchi Quesadillas 

And...that was pretty much it. Simple little menu which I actually liked because when food trucks get mighty ambitious with their offerings, sometimes their point of view gets a bit lost in taste translation. Plus can you imagine cramming endless ingredients and components into such a tight little area? I've seen it being done before and, boy, what a mess. These Bam Bam guys seem to know what they were doing so when they announced that they were ready for service we queued up and asked what was good.

If I say it three times will magic Korean tacos appear?

"Oh everything here is good," assured the bearded man with the thick South American accent at the window. "It's Asian and Mexican fusion so we have traditional yakisoba noodles and house made kimchi paired with Latin spiced meats mixed with cilantro and all sorts of good stuff."


I ordered the steak burrito and waited for the outcome. When it arrived it was about as big as my leg, reminding me of the Mission Style burritos that I got back in San Francisco. And biting into it? Holy mother of wow. Incredible. There was a mesmerizing syncopation of Eastern and Western style flavors and ingredients that just worked on so many levels. The noodles were chewy and seasoned well, the protein had a distinct Latin influence pop and the kimchi, oh man the kimchi!, just brought it all together and made for a very memorable dish.

My friends got the tacos. Again, amazing.

But it wasn't until we ran into Bam Bam again that we got the yakisoba (fried buckwheat) noodles that sent us over the edge and knew that these guys and this truck were a welcome contender for our palates and business. Just simply put, the noodles paired with any kind of protein is a personal favorite. It all just makes sense. 'Fusion' is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the culinary world, some of which works and others, eh...not so much. Bam Bam works.

Like silly works.

For that reason alone we grabbed a chance to hang out with owner and chef Fernando Sanchez to discuss the ways of his wizardry and get a glimpse on what it's like to serve up some of the best food to come out of a little red truck.

Or any color really.

Legend status? I'd be okay saying Fernando is on his way...

"I was born here in Tucson but I was raised in Mexico," says Fernando, writing up the daily specials on the board before opening up recently at Borderlands Brewery. "My passion for cooking started at a very young age. I used to love cooking with my grandmother.

"I actually graduated with a degree in Marketing from the University of Guadalajara, in Guadalajara Mexico, but my real passion is cooking. It's really what I love most in life. I learned to cook Asian food from a Korean friend of ours and it just kind of took off from there."

I am here to say we are glad he switched careers because, boy, I can't imagine him doing anything else.

Steak Yakisoba in full glory

Through countless trials and much errors, eventually Fernando and his team came up with some combinations that perform together in a seemingly effortless style. You wouldn't think that Mexican style pulled pork would pair well with a spicy pickled kimchi but its there that you would think wrong. It does. A little too well.

Like I said, Bam Bam's food is just a shy away from total surrender to addiction.

"Asian cuisine is actually my favorite style of food," Fernando notes. "We just wanted to bring something unique to Tucson that you really can't find in restaurants here.

"This kind of fusion is really popular in California, especially Los Angeles, so I studied what one of my all-time favorite chefs, Roy Choi, does to get the flavors mixed correctly. He is just so talented and creative. Eventually things fell into place and we knew we had something special."

Lucky customer ordering it up

When we first got hold of Bam Bam, Fernando was a bit more mobile. If he wasn't parked in front of some of our favorite bars he could be found in various food truck round ups and the occasional farmer's market or sporting or social event.

Recently Bam Bam was a fixture downtown, inhabiting the space between The Rialto Theater and World of Beer on the busy nights of Thursday through Saturday. Turns out, the surrounding restaurants got fed up with Fernando stealing their business so they politely asked him to set up somewhere else. When that didn't work they took further (legal) action to run him off.

Do you see why I'm not a huge Downtown Tucson fan?

Anyway it all worked out for the best because now Fernando and Bam Bam can be found on 4th Avenue at the Flycatcher most weekend nights, a business marriage that he is most happy about. So when you see a bright crimson food truck after catching a show there, be sure to walk on over and fuel up on their fantastic fusion cuisine.

Korean tacos (I didn't take this picture, came from the internet...sorry)

As Fernando started taking orders from hungry patrons lining up, he had this to say about being in the food truck business here in Tucson:

"It was really hard when we first started years ago because food trucks in Tucson weren't really popular, not like it is today. It was even harder for us because we were doing such different food than anyone else. You know sometimes people are afraid to try something new but...everything has worked out okay because people seem to like what we do."

Oh yes. We do.

If you park it, they will come

"I think today," Fernando continues as the crowds gather, "Tucson is a city with a great variety of food and amazing restaurants. The quality and diversity of the food is what got us the UNESCO designated world city of gastronomy. We are really proud to be a part of that."

With such delicious food to be bestowed to us here in Tucson via Bam Bam, I had to know what he considers his signature item.

"It would have to be the Korean tacos. They're just like...perfect to me."

And what do you consider the crowd favorites?

"Oh, probably, yeah, the tacos. People really love the burritos too. And the yakisoba noodles as well."

So...all of it?

Fernando just smiles.


We went back for seconds

The food is incredible and deserves to be a part of our UNESCO nod. The menu is so tight though. Like I said earlier, that doesn't bother me, at all. Or anybody else really. But with so much attention getting thrown his and Bam Bam's way I had to know if they were planning on expanding any time soon.

"Not at the moment," quipped Fernando as he tried to get orders out, you could see that was the last thing on his mind. Dumb question if you ask me. "We would like to keep our menu simple like it is now. But we do have specials from time to time. You just need to keep up with us online to see where we are and what we are serving up special that night."

You can follow Bam Bam on Facebook or Twitter...and I highly suggest you do both.

Can I has some more please?

On the rare occasion that Fernando isn't working or cooking, he says his favorite downtime activity is "spending time with my wife and kids" which I am sure is a scarce concept to him seeing as he is usually on the move.

And what about the future of Bam Bam? Most food trucks or small business entrepreneurs usually have a five year plan of some kind and I just had to know what was his goal for the near future.

In the midst of grilling meat and tofu and boxing up orders to the line of patrons, all Fernando could get out was, "Oh yeah. I can totally picture myself opening up a small restaurant."

I guess we'll just have to wait a bit for that to happen because the truck part totally seems to be working out for him at present.

Even in a different light, it's still crazy good

Until that time that Bam Bam becomes a brick and mortar here in Tucson (you're going to stay in Tucson...right?), we all will be on the lookout for the funky red truck with the smiling Buddha on the side reminding us that all good things come in small packages. And on wheels. And equipped with a flat top grill. And jammed with noodles and kimchi.

When you do see the lil' red wagon of badassery, do yourself a favor and, like, just order one of each. Because, apparently, the whole menu is a crowd favorite.

We know its ours, for sure.

Now I'm hungry. Where is he parked again tonight?

See you there...

Thank you rule!

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
The Day After Cinco de Mayo, 2016

 Metal Influence:

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pure Deliciousness Hidden In Plain Sight

Nothing survives in that spot.

For years now I have witnessed so many restaurant concepts come and go in that area. You might know the stretch I'm talking about here, the one behind Old Chicago and Sauce on Campbell Avenue in the Campbell Plaza. Better known as the restaurant black hole.

I'm serious here. Not even a Papa John's Pizza made it out of there alive. Countless eateries, even some with a strong following and fan base, would eventually find themselves too cloistered behind the well visible heavy hitters up front near the busy byway. Upscale wine bars, fast casual hot wing joints, a frozen yogurt outlet, so on and so forth, just couldn't take the heat of no foot traffic so they eventually had to close their doors due to lack of business.

Well, I am pretty confident that trend is going to come to an end soon.

Now that a very popular breakfast and lunch eatery that packs them in everyday has taken up residency in the back lot restaurant vortex, right next door is a place that has been open for barely a year now and has already been hailed as one of the best sushi and Japanese restaurants in not only Tucson but Southern Arizona in general.

I give you: K Sushi.

Chef doing what he does best

Taking up residence where the old Yuki's used to be, K Sushi quietly opened up and has been slowly burning a trail to Asian fare greatness. When it did take over in the shell of a once mighty contender in the sushi ring, a lot of us just rolled our eyes and went "Yeah, good luck with that. Nothing survives in that area."

But then one day my wife, She-Ra, who is head bartender and supervisor for the juggernaut that is Old Chicago, decided to walk over and get a roll from K Sushi during a break just to check it out.

"OMG," she texted me that day, "that new sushi place is the bomb."

The bomb she said!

After that she has been a regular customer. Then other food minded friends started piping up about K Sushi, Facebooking and Tweeting images of their wares. Their Yelp page is essentially nothing but 4-5 stars. Instagrams of their ramen and rolls were to be had by various folk impressed enough to share their dining experience there with the world. Alright, I guess this new sushi joint is legit. Let's give it a shot.

So on a rather hot early May day, the Tucson Homeskillet just had to to pop in and see what all the cheering was about.

Green mussels about to go down

First off, we were the only ones there. The parking lot was packed but that was obvious due to the hot new kid in town serving up egg benedicts next door or my wife's place with 110 beers in her selection taking predominance in front. We thought maybe some of those parked around here might be inside K Sushi keeping cool from the near 100 degree heat outside, but...nope.

Just us.

At first I thought this was a sign for what we were about to consume. If a restaurant is this slow on a weekday lunch hour then some caution should be considered. But it didn't matter. We were here, we were hungry and we wanted to see if the hype was correct.

We were greeted at the door by a young and smiling girl who quickly sat us on a comfortable booth near a window. After ordering drinks we began to ponder the rather, uh, generous menu that takes up three different plastic protected folios, each scattered with various options ranging from ramen, to rolls, to sashimi to salads, to... You know, if you've been to a nice sushi restaurant you know what I'm getting at here.

"But you have to get the Bear Down Roll," She-Ra insisted. "It is literally the best thing ever."

So we ordered up a decent selection of stuff to sample and sat back and waited for the outcome.

Sashimi plate was inspired and amazing

As per usual, we got miso soup right up front. It was light and brothy and very tasty if not slightly understated. Then came the edamame. Again, perfect. Hot, salty with each pod delivering a nice chewy bite. So far so good. I mean, if a sushi restaurant screws up miso soup and edamame then my guess is that the food to follow is going to be reflected by the basics: It's probably going to suck.

Our first two introductions definitely did not suck.

Soon after, the real stuff started coming out.

First up was the green mussels. Green mussels? No, chill, it's not the color of the actual mussel itself but the shell they come in. Gosh. These things were really tasty and very well composed. Lightly seared with a topping of a good spicy mayo and then finished with masago and toasted sesame seeds on a bed of perfectly cooked rice. The rice itself actually soaks up some of the run off from the mussel and mayo so you kind of can just pick one up and suck it down like any good hand held shell fish. Thing is, you get two mussels in one shell so for two people this item was a perfect way to start the sushi fest.

Now we were excited to see what was coming up next.

Dynamite Roll: spicy, creamy, delicious

Second we were treated to the fantastic and immaculate sashimi platter. Each cut of the salmon, yellow tail, tuna and white tuna was so fresh and flavorful that we temporarily forgot that we were in a land locked state. With tobiko and scallions covering the yellow tail that feature easily became my favorite. I mean, every piece was amazing but...c'mon. This was melt in your mouth heaven.

For real, just go back two pictures and take in the presentation that K Sushi delivers. Was it because we were the only ones in there at the time? Doubtful. With much obvious ardor that platter was constructed and considered and for that we were very grateful.

Now things were about to only get better.

The Bear Down Roll, aka quite possibly the best thing you will eat anytime soon

The Dynamite Roll was a volcano tower consisting of a California Roll that is paired with baked small sea scallops and then finished with a spicy drizzle of a house awesome dressing. The word decadent comes to mind when savoring each bite with a good fiery sting that lingers after you finish. At this point we were sort of getting close to the wall but carried on because, knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

Then, yes, the much sought after and much applauded Bear Down Roll made it to the table. This thing was huge, long, intimidating. Stuffed with incredible shrimp tempura, the Bear Down is also covered with avocado, spicy kani (crab) and drizzled with a house spicy sauce. Think crunch, think savory, think spice, think full fatty goodness...yes, the Bear Down Roll is one of the best things I have eaten in quite some time and now I owe my wife an apology for thinking otherwise. We couldn't stop eating it and when it was gone, we missed it. Sure we were full but it didn't matter. The flavors happening at that moment were too irresistible to, um...resist.

Trust us here.

Finally we were treated to the Aburi Salmon, something we were not expecting. Two precision cuts of salmon on a bed of rice were seared with a blow torch and finished with a lush sauce that delivered a bit of heat, then on top of that spice we got two big pieces of garden fresh jalapenos. Strictly sumptuous and well crafted with that sneaky burn factor that mind the back of the tongue; an extol scorch for an exquisite lingering sushi session.

To put things in perspective: K Sushi may be new to Tucson but we have a feeling they will be doing what they do here for a bit of time to come. At least we hope so.

No. They will.

Aburi Salmon, slightly charred and mostly incredible

And what exactly does the K stand for? Well, it happens to be the first letter in the last name of the family that runs and owns the place.


That's right, the Kwan family are Chinese, in fact they all hail from Hong Kong. Cool right? So a Chinese family living in Tucson is serving up some of the best Japanese food here or anywhere. For that alone the Tucson Homeskillet salutes them. That'd be like me going to India and operating a Jamaican food stand. Think about that.

You know what...that doesn't sound half bad.

Regardless, you need to get to K Sushi as soon as you can before they get as busy as their neighbors. I heard their ramen was amazing too. So I better stop typing and get moving along the old ramen trail here and get back to K Sushi.

Hopefully, you'll be there too.


Thank you K Sushi!
K Sushi Bar Japanese Restaurant
2962 N. Campbell Ave, Tucson AZ

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Star Wars Day, 2016

Metal Influence: