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Apr 3, 2008 12:30 PM

(PHX) NEW! Far East Mesa - ZUSHI

Within the last week or two a new restaurant, Zushi, has opened on the southwest corner of Power Rd. and McDowell. We are pretty starving for some good restaurants out this way and in the last few years we've started to get a few. Zushi looks to be a great addition, especially since their menu extends way beyond just sushi and has a "bistro" feel to it.

I had a chance to check it out today at lunch and I have to say it looks VERY promising! The interior is much more upscale than the neighboring "Got Sushi" (which I went to once and will not ever go back). You almost forget you are in East Mesa and start to think you might be in Scottsdale. There is a large sushi bar on the right, regular booths and tables in the middle and then a very large bar (alcohol) to the left. Beyond that is a huge outdoor seating area. The fish was fresh and some new and unique rolls were on he menu. In addition to sushi rolls (which there are a lot of) the menu includes hand rolls, nigiri, sashimi, sandwiches, salads, entrees and bento boxes. I'm really excited about trying a bento box soon. On the sandwiches side of the house the options include Kobe burger, Shanghai pork sandwich, seared tuna sandwich and the list goes on. There are some very enticing appetizers and the entrees have me wanting to go back tonight for dinner.

Today we just tried a few rolls for lunch - all of which were very good. Again, fresh fish, unique take on some standard roll options.

Their website isn't up yet but when it is it will be:

6727 E McDowell Rd Ste 112, Mesa, AZ 85215

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  1. We stopped in tonight. I didn't know this existed until I read your post and we live only about a mile away. There are very few things I won't eat but unfortunately sushi is one of them. On the other hand, the bento boxes sounded very appealing. Turns out they only offer them at lunchtime so we settled for steak salads (tasty.) We're planning a lunch trip soon. The music is annoyingly loud inside but you have the option to sit outdoors.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Doug in Mesa

      I've been back two more times since my first post. I have mixed feelings. We went for dinner with my mom and we had a great time, good food, great drinks. We ordered a couple of the fish entrees and some sushi which were all great.

      The second time my fiance and I went we ordered the Zushi bread and it was NOT what we expected. It was basically a pizza. Not bad per se just not what we wanted. We ordered the steamed clams which were just ok, and a little on the salty side. Then we got two rolls. One was good and I can't remember which one it was. The second was the steak roll which sounded good and unique on the menu but totally bombed for us. It was very dry and the combination of the sushi rice with steak and the measly amount of caramelized onions was disappointing.

      I'm not writing them off yet...still more things I'd like to try including the bento boxes. All of the sushi we've tried has been very good with the exception of that steak roll.

      1. re: scorpioscuba

        We made it back for lunch and tried the Bento boxes, teriyaki chicken and bulgogi. The bulgogi was a few strips of beef over rice with what tasted like no more than soy sauce poured over the top. I did spot a few sesame seeds. The chicken disappointed too. The music is so obnoxiously loud that you have to yell to carry on a conversation. We're scratching this one off our list. I wanted to like the place since it is so close to home.

    2. While I'm neither a professional critic... nor even an amateur... I have to at least count myself into the group of "foodies" educated well enough to know when things click, excite the palate, stimulate the senses, and intrigue the recipient as to what is to come...

      I've worked in restaurants in California and Arizona from the time I was in High School... some were small diners, and others featured in some of the better travel guides. However... I again am not a professional nor do I wish to be. I prefer to include myself in the group of the people smart enough to know not to dine out on Holidays or arrive 15 minutes before closing. I like the dives and the local favorites... as long as the food and the service are there.

      To qualify, or hopefully to put some credibility behind the forthcoming review... some favorites of mine are... Richardson's (and it's clone - Blue Adobe Grill in Mesa) Barrio Cafe, Los Sombreros, Sakana (Mesa), Flancer's Cafe, D'vine Bistro, Red White and Brew, Joe's Farm Grill and Joe's Real BBQ, the Salt Cellar, and Roaring Fork (before Robert left). There are of course more, but this again is just a qualifier as to what I like.

      So why do I like the above and what do they have to do with Zushi?

      All of the above restaurants were originals... or damn close... and they took their cuisine and their atmosphere to levels above their competitors. While they may not offer exactly the BEST in each of the categories that make a restaurant excel, they absolutely offered an above average effort in every category, bringing their customer's dining experience to the level of "enjoyment" rather than just a nutritional supplement.

      As a guest, I would imagine every customer would like to walk into an atmosphere where they feel comfortable from the very start... inviting colors, sounds, smells, temperatures, and eventually... tastes. As always, these first impressions can make or break the evening. In each of the previously mentioned establishments, the senses are enlightened. The memory established. The impressions indelible.

      They all have their success based on these principles.

      Zushi can barely pull off its decor and food presentation. It cannot, however, pull off the rest of the above to a level of entertainment, contentment, or culinary satisfaction.

      I arrived at 6:45 on a Friday night. From the horde of BMWs and Lexuses (Lexi?) in the parking lot I was under the impression that the restaurant would be quite busy. A rough estimate put the car count at about 45 to 50. So how shocked was I that the restaurant only had about 45 to 50 people in it? I thought this was East Mesa... not LA.

      The place could easily seat 100+ people, but at prime time of a Friday night the place was at only about 1/3 rd capacity and never went on a wait during the time I was there.

      I was seated quickly at the almost empty sushi bar. Unfortunately the bar was sticky... a pet peeve of mine. Isn't it one of yours?

      I sat for about 7 minutes before I was greeted by a server who asked if I'd like something to drink. I don't want to knock his service, but he never really made me feel like he was there to serve... rather he was just fulfilling his obligation to bring me what I ordered because he was being paid to do so. Know what I mean?

      So I just got a sake and a beer recommended by the server. Unfortunately the sake was just luke warm, and the beer was frozen solid.

      Before any of you food snobs dismiss me for ordering hot sake... it was not to do bombers. I had a cough from allergies today and thought it might sooth my throat. This was also the inspiration behind my mistake in ordering the miso soup. When it arrived, I thought there was some mistake... it neither looked, smelled, nor tasted anything like any miso soup I have ever had. This instead was a seaweed and tofu stew.

      Miso is to be a delicate soup... meant to only slightly cleanse the palate while preparing it for more intense flavors. This was more of a sea weed assault. There was very little of the traditional miso paste evident in the broth... and what was there was drowned in a forest of greenery. The green onion and seaweed were still repeating 3 hours after my meal. Ugh.

      The next disappointment was in watching the lack of organization behind the sushi bar. This is just poor management. The fish cases, usually stocked full, looked sparse... indicating they were expecting little business. The 4 sushi chefs also seemed somewhat lost in their stations... often arguing and complaining about missing ingredients or messed up server orders. Several occurrences throughout my visit ensured these were regular issues. Not exactly a vote of confidence. Add to this a somewhat men's locker room version of a review of a recent Japanese movie they saw and you'll get the idea.

      I ordered a couple of standard pieces of Nigiri, Mackerel and Tobiko, and one of their specialty rolls, the Olive You roll.

      The Mackerel was fresh.

      That’s it. My only real compliment.

      Mackerel is actually a tricky one. It can be dry, over marinated, oily, or even somewhat shredded if it’s not exactly prepared. But for a less inexpensive choice, it’s been one of my favorites used to determine an establishment's ability to serve quality sushi. This was up there with some of the better locations... until... the sushi chef put a mess of what I thought was minced garlic on top of each piece. Unfortunately for both of us, it was not garlic. It was ginger.

      Why on earth would you obliterate the wonderfully marinated flavor of Mackerel with what I equate to Mother Nature’s Lemon Pledge? (I HATE ginger). Fortunately, my server switched out my frozen beer with a less frigid relative and I was able to wash out the remnants of the furniture polish condiment before too much damage had been done.

      Moving on to the Tabiko.

      Again, this was fresh, but it was prepared with the finesse of a Taco Bell cashier... smashed and poorly wrapped and then thrown onto a plate. Most locations will ask if you'd like the quail egg atop the tabiko... but here, each egg will run you an extra charge. The only bright spot was that the chef offered me a ramekin of Ponzu sauce that was a nice touch over the standard soy sauce, low sodium or otherwise.

      Finally, the Olive You roll. This was a "unique" choice as it contained ingredients I had not yet seen on a sushi menu, including an olive tapenade, sun dried tomatoes, cream cheese, and toasted garlic. It was the toasted garlic that sold me as I actually HAD that on a fantastic Albacore Tuna item at Sushi Creek in Queen Creek. Unfortunately, the chef here either forgot the garlic, or did not put enough of it in to be distinguished from the briny olives. I only ate 3 of the 8 pieces.

      I know, I know. "First review I've seen from this guy and he blasts a local place to pieces." Well... I can only say, try it for yourself. I hope I'm the exception to the rest of the crowd as I would love to see East Mesa develop into a culinary destination. Unfortunately, the hype, the loud music, the lack of ambience, and the poor customer service completely undermine what was only mediocre sushi to begin with.

      If the owners or management read this, I would only suggest that this be seen as positive criticism. The staff needs direction and training... the food quality (freshness) is there, it just needs refining and possibly a little trimming... more is not better.
      Ask your customers to fill out those little surveys... find out what you can improve on to fill the place on a Friday night while still serving a quality product and giving your customers an experience rather than just some rice and fish.

      * Clean up your menu, too many items and its not presented to the customer in a neat manner. Mine literally fell apart and had food remnants from previous guests.

      * Train the sushi chefs and servers the finer points of customer service. Your establishment exudes luxury, but the servers think they are working at Oregano's. Far too casual and not very knowledgeable about the products or even their surroundings.

      * The high ceilings draw the customer's eye upwards... unfortunately, there is nothing up there but the air vents. Paint them black so they are no longer the draw... hang some tapestries or photos on fabric. This will provide some desperately needed art while also assisting in reducing the din of the ambient chatter echoed off the concrete floors.

      * Your clientele is NOT the Scottsdale crowd. These are older adults with some money, taste, and expectations. Play on that. Adjust the music to a tolerable level while still playing modern artists. Unusual tracks, acoustic versions of popular hits and live music will also bring in a niche unsatisfied in the East Valley. The younger crowd likes this for dates too... and keeps them from doing sake bombers.

      * Hang some artwork on those big, tall, green walls. This place is screaming for some big black and whites of the beautiful Superstitions. What better way to acknowledge the area?! OH, and lose the piece of @%*(& hanging in the Men's room. That wouldn't have even worked in the 80's. BLECH!

      I wish the proprietors luck... but in the mean time, I'll be at Sakana or Sushi Creek. They may not have the glitz and glam, but the food is fantastic, the service is stellar and appropriate to their approach and decor, and I can be sure of quality over quantity every time.

      Hippiaz (aka John, 38, Mesa. AZ)

      4 Replies
      1. re: hippiaz

        That was a great review! Welcome to the board!

        1. re: hippiaz

          This was a great review and I agree with most of it. I went in about two months ago for lunch and the place felt absolutely cold, all over the place (decor and menu), sterile - and uninviting. It seemed like they were trying to go for a Ra feel, but didn't have the budget or designer to do it. They would have been much better off creating a place half the size with the same budget.

          I can't remember exactly what we had for sushi, but I was completely unimpressed. It was a slow lunch and the bartender and staff were completely in disarray. I did have softshell crab app that wasn't bad - too much batter but still pretty tasty.

          I think this place will go the way of the Spanish joint next to Divine (Zocalo?), it might stay afloat due to the money in the area and lack of dining options, but I doubt they can stick around too long. The last thing I want is to see a restauranteur lose one, but I just don't see how these guys will make it. They'd need to do so MAJOR renos to make it sexy, and due to the size and layout - it will never be intimate.

          I had been planning on trying it again - but based on Hippiaz' review I think I'll save my money. Unless I see a bunch of chowhounder's/yelper's reviews in a couple months that change my mine. And I hope they can turn it, because there still aren't too many sushi options in the EV and we're there for business quite a bit!

          1. re: Maggie Kramer

            Hippiaz - You are totally on point with your Zushi comments. They lost me as soon as they named the place Zushi! The ambience/style is pretty much what I'd expect from a place with the name Zushi. If you happen to live close to Sushi Kee at Power/Main, it's a bit of a hidden gem. It looks pretty low-budget from the outside (it's in an OLD Big Lots! strip mall for heaven's sake!), but on three different trips I've had excellent sushi. Atmosphere is good, service can be hit or miss. I think the sushi bar is probably your best bet. Also, the new sushi conveyer-belt place in downtown Chandler (Sushi Eye) is really good.

            1. re: hungryinaz

              We've completely given up on Zushi. We were hopeful in the beginning but after several negative experiences (food and service) we don't want to waste our money there. We prefer the 25 min drive (for us) to Sushi Eye in Motion. We make the trek religiously every two weeks and never regret it.

        2. Well, I gave Zushi a good try, numerous times. Every time I was there it took such a long time to get my "Zushi" which drives me crazy. Someone needs to let the owners/managers know that the cutesie menu thing is long gone, unless of course your client base is the red hat society, no offense to those ladies, but you know what I mean. Anyway, sushi took so long that it was unenjoyable. There was one time where my pary (4) ordered two hot entrees and two got sushi. Entrees were delivered and eaten before the sushi arrived, I had asked to speak with the manager and my server said they really didn't have one, but the kitchen manager would be able to speak with me after he was done cooking. How nice for the uneducated staff to be running the show for a new restaurant. I seem to remember seeing a manager in the beginning, he was there ALL the time, but hasn't been around in a few weeks. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall. I hate to see restaurants go out of business, but I don't see this one lasting. The rent alone must be killing them, it is an expensive area. I will stick to my local Got Sushi, if I want good sushi. Sorry Zushi, I gave you plenty of tries and I am done.