Thanks for your Mesa/Gilbert/Scottsdale, AZ Recs!
Thank you to all who gave me the recommendations.
Due to busy schedule and catching a terrible cold during my visit, I did not get to eat as well as I hoped, but the recs. from Chowhounders were extremely helpful. Here is my quick report of 3-week long chow (that took place in May). Overall, I had some great meals and wanted to share my experience.
Two of the best meals I had were from Los Sombreros and Los Dos Molinos and will definitely return to these places if the business takes me to Gilbert/Mesa area.
Los Sombreros in Scottsdale: Wow. We liked everything we ordered. It was a nice cool evening (yes, my visit was in May) and we were able to grab a patio table without any wait on weekday. We started out with an order of guacamole, chunky and fresh, and even my co-worker who usually does not like avocado in general liked it. Since we had a BBQ lunch that day, we were not in a mood for meat dish, although I was tempted to order pork. I had a crab enchilada and my co-worker had a seafood crepes. Both dishes were excellent.
Los Dos Molinos In Mesa: I’ve been warned how hot the food is there, but I did not think it was too bad. We managed to eat everything served, including salsa.. I had shrimp dish of which the name I cannot remember, but it was excellent. Generous numbers of very plump, perfectly cooked shrimp was served with a spicy sauce. Good margaritas too. We did not order any desserts after finishing 2 big margaritas each.
Another good meal was from Brunellos Restaurant in Mesa. The service was very warm, so even though I was dining alone, I did not feel too odd. The entrée came with a choice of soup or salad, so I chose Tortellini soup, which was okay. The fish special I ordered was swordfish cooked in artichoke, capers and lemon-butter sauce. The fish, as well as the side of veggies were cooked just right. I thought the menu in general was kind of boring, the preparation of food is not necessarily innovative. But it’s a neighborhood-type of place that I can see why people would repeatedly go with your family.
I was still recovering from my cold when I visited Elements and Turbell, so maybe it’s no surprise that I did not love them. Not bad but not in hurry to go back to Elements. Since none of the dishes were memorable and it has been 2 months since my visit, I really do not remember what I had.
Duds for me were:
1. Temari Restaurant – I debated between Sushi Mishima and Temari , then decided to go to Temari due to its proximity from my hotel. Since this was recommended on this board, I had a high expectation and decided to order only sushi. Being a native Japanese, I am very weary about these non-Japanese operated Japanese restaurants that pretend to be a traditional Japanese restaurant. I don’t think the chef at Temari knows how to make proper sushi rice. Sushi rice was unusually vinegary, and also a lot of nigiris fell apart after being picked up once from poor preparation. Most of the fish were not bad, but Unagi was really nasty, so we just left them there untouched after one bite. This was probably the most disappointing meal I had in my trip. Please never, ever recommend this place to another ex-pat Japanese! I even had a better experience at Ra Sushi Restaurant in Tempe.
2. Blue Adobe Grill – The salsa was probably the best thing I had here. The fish I was very bland, and my co-worker’s tacos were greasy mess, yet somehow managed to be very bland. I thought the place had a weird ambiance too – trying to be nice sit-down place, but with TVs showing NBA playoff, making me feel like I was in a sports bar instead of a restaurant
Glad you had a good time.
Just a note about Temari: Dennis, the owner, is in fact half-Japanese. The temari collection displayed in the restaurant actually belonged to his late mother. I'm sorry you didn't have better results.
The Mesa Los Dos Molinos was the location I would hit weekly in the mid-90's. I haven't been back since I moved and Sandy and Gilles moved to Manhattan to open that location. It's good to know they're still putting out good food.
I'd also note that in Phoenix the adage about never ordering fish on a weekend is almost doubly true...if you went to ANY seafood place at the end of the week...well, good luck with that. And Dennis Maher used to ONLY hire native Japanese to staff his restaurant - he's not anymore?
We went to Tenari on weekday (Wed. or Thur.), and the freshness of the fish was not really the issue. Also, to answer your question, our server was Asian but not Japanese and not a Japanse speaker.