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Sushi Roku: From Skepticism to Stupefaction. Beautiful Food and Amazing Flavors.

OK guys, look. If you've been reading for a while or if you know me at all, you know that I'm not really a fancy food or restaurant girl. My culinary skills involve LOTS of sugar and baking. When I go out, I LOVE sports, sports bars, big burgers, super sweet drinks and desserts. Oh yeah...and anything Mexican! I hate snobby restaurants, snobby servers, and I REALLY hate snobby patrons. I am anti-snob. Don't get me wrong, sushi is definitely on the menu, but sushi at Sushi Roku inside the W Hotel in downtown Scottsdale isn't a place you'd normally find me hanging out on a Friday night. Until now.

We arrived fairly early at Sushi Roku and parked with the valet at the W Hotel. The Bentleys and Benzos weren't out on display yet, so I felt assured that we had beaten the "it" crowd. We were seated quickly, out on the patio and were able to enjoy one of the last, perfectly cool evenings in Scottsdale for several months. Jennah was our server, and she was anything but snobby. She was excited that we were first time guests, made some incredible recommendations, and brought out my requested Reisling right away. She had no idea I was so skeptical. Silly girl.

We started our foodie adventure with the Fluke Kumquat. I love the word Kumquat. It feels like I'm saying something incredibly vulgar. Ok, back to the food.

The Fluke Kumquat consisted of incredibly light, fresh slices of Fluke, adorned with cilantro leaves and Kumquat zest. The slices of Fluke were sitting in a Yuzu vinaigrette, so this usually flavorless fish was popping with big, bright colors and flavors.

I immediately saw and appreciated something I hadn't seen in a while. In all my years of competitive baking and cooking, presentation was always the one thing that REALLY took talent. You can either plate a dish to look spectacular, or you can make it look like a Jackson-Pollock painting on a plate. Presentation was always the one thing that gave us competitors that .001 that put us over the edge. It's always the difference between a $10,000 prize and a set of steak knives.

That being said, look at the plate above. EVERY single cilantro leaf is facing the same way. EVERY piece of fish has only 3-5 pieces of kumquat zest. Those black sesame seeds...someone had to put 5-8 of them in their hand and place them EXACTLY in the center of each piece of fish, EXACTLY 1/4" from the edge. This person knows how to plate a dish. Now I was getting excited. The food geek in me had been awakened and the skeptical sports bar gal was going to sleep.

I was ready for more. The Shishito Japanese Pepper appetizer was next. This was one of Jennah's recommendations. How did she know that I LOOVE shishito peppers?! Was she reading my mind?! They were perfectly blistered and sitting in the most perfect of oyster sauces. It was sweet, salty, rich and decadent. If you haven't tried Shishito peppers, I recommend doing it here first. The oyster sauce compliments them perfectly and Sushi Roku's peppers are big and juicy! I love finding the hot ones (only 1 in 10 Shisito peppers are spicy), so this dish didn't last long.

Now, speaking of Shishito peppers, our next adventure came in a glass. It was the "ISH" . Grey Goose vodka, Cynar (Italian bitters), passion fruit, L'orgeat (almond liqueur), lemon juice, and you guessed it...shishito pepper! I tried as hard as I could to drink it slowly, as I'd already downed a glass of Reisling upon arrival, and hadn't yet had much to eat. But the light and fruity flavor of the passion fruit made it go down smoother than I could handle. I quickly became a bit flushed, my speech began to slur and the corners of my mouth began to incessantly turn up with delight. I could probably only drink about 5-12 more of these before I'd have to be carried out on a stretcher in inconsolable bliss.

I had to stay focused. It was a marathon not a sprint, and we still had a long way to go. My husband decided to take the sober route, as downtown Scottsdale tends to be the local PD's playing ground for handing out DUI's. UBER, folks. IT'S WORTH IT...or should I say, IT'S WORTH ISH!

So now, the skepticism is ALMOST gone. I'm starting to trust that these people REALLY care about what they put on a plate. They know their product, and they're not afraid to take risks...BIG risks. Like this next dish. And like me, you may be a bit skeptical about the combination of...raw tuna, truffle and PARMESAN. Normally, I'm in with ANTHING that has to do with truffle slices, but the combination of fish and cheese has just always made my skin crawl. Until now. The Bluefin Special came out, and it was just about the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Rose-like rolled pristine, bluefin tuna, micro greens, thinly sliced truffle and parmagiano reggiano. Everything married together in my mouth perfectly with the light, wasabi truffle soy sauce. I was sad to see the beautiful presentation go, but there was a serious party going on in my mouth. Photos save lives, people. It was gorgeous.

And now it was time for entrees, or so I thought. I had mentioned to Jennah that I'd never tried octopus. I had just always imagined suction cups and tentacles writhing slowly in my mouth with a slimy and chewy texture. My foodie friends had always told me that I was wrong, and that if it was prepared correctly, it would be delicious. And the next thing I knew, here was Jennah. She was standing in front of me with a big grin on her face, and a grilled octopus arm on a plate. It was time to trust implicitly, which is something I NEVER do, but I couldn't say no. I was goin' in.

HAHA! It tasted like CHICKEN !!!! It was grilled perfectly, tender and juicy with TONS of flavor. I did't finish it, simply because of the miles to go in the marathon, but you can bet I DID eat that little arm that was staring me in the face! It was so much fun!

A word of warning on this next plate. It's HOT. It's served on a hot stone, and my sweet Jennah poured a delicious soy mirin sauce over the top, which immediately began to boil and sizzle for some presentation and flare. So what did my husband do next?! He grabbed one and stuck it right into his mouth. Don't be like my husband. Enjoy the sizzle and flare for a few minutes. Take a photo or a video, have another ISH and let it cool for a minute! I was glad that I waited, because this was literally one of the best things I've eaten in a while. If you're not a sushi or fish person, but you're being a trooper for your tribe, order the Beef Ribeye Wrapped Asparagus. It's a keeper.

It was getting dark. The Bentleys and the Benzos were starting to show up outside, and my middle-class-mommy GMC Acadia was starting to get lost in the valet shuffle. But I didn't care. I had complete trust in Jennah, the managers, and the chefs. Until someone showed up with Sea Bass. I can't remember who put it in front of me (perhaps I'm choosing to block it out), but my heart sank. I've NEVER enjoyed sea bass. It has ALWAYS been chewy and rubbery. It's such a thick fish, its either under cooked or overcooked. There's a very, very fine line for this fish...and all too often, the walk from the kitchen to the table is five seconds too long and the dish is ruined. I dug in anyway.

On this night so far, I've noticed that Sushi Roku does and AMAZING job with ALL their sauces. The Yuzu vinaigrette was light and fresh with the Fluke. The Oyster sauce was sweet and rich with the Shishito peppers. The Soy Mirin sauce was delightful with the Ribeye Wrapped Asparagus. And this seabass dish was drenched in a Truffle Miso sauce, so if the fish didn't work out, my plan was to grab a straw and suck the sauce off and eat the spinach on the side. Well, there was no need to worry. Because this seabass was so good, it just about knocked me out of my chair. I wasn't hungry because I'd been eating all night, but I found myself DIGGING into the fish, getting to the center, the sides and the bottom, and drenching it in this super sauce. I had NEVER had seabass like this, and I probably never will. I was done.

I was done, but the folks at Sushi Roku had ONE more dish for me. The pastry chef wanted to tout his skills, and well...being a hard core sugar monger, I'm not one to say no. My heart skipped a beat when the plate came out. I started snapping photos right away, not only because it was beautiful, but also because I wanted to STEAL the presentation for my own plating ideas! Again, these people REALLY care about what comes out on a plate. The dehydrated lemon alone on this dish is ingenious and gorgeous. The home made granola gave the dish the perfect textural crunch. The sweet raspberry coulis balanced beautifully with the tart lemon sorbet and the lemon whipped cream.

We left with full hearts and overstuffed stomachs. I was still reeling over the seabass. I was already dreaming of drinking another ISH. I staggered around the Bentleys and the Benzos to get to my mommy-mobile, but I was feeling pampered and prestigious. I was now the queen of the "it" crowd, thanks to Sushi Roku!

Note and Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are NOT paid. At times restaurants do trade complimentary meals in exchange for photos and/or reviews, but those reviews are NOT expected by the restaurants to be positive. I choose however ONLY to document my positive experiences. If I encounter a meal or a restaurant experience that I don't think is a good one, I simply don't publish the result. This website is all about GOOD FOOD and GREAT PLACES!

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