Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hana Sushi - return visit.

After the carb overload at JP earlier, I was in a sushi mood. Luckily Tara was agreeable and we went back to Hana at Missouri and 7th Ave. Again, we managed to miss any crowds and had the sushi bar all to ourselves in front of the chef. Tara wanted another Hana roll and also got a yakisoba noodle dish with shrimp. I got the shrimp tempura appetizer for starters and some nigiri: tuna, albacore, and unagi. We also ended up getting an order of the scrumptious tuna ceviche on tortilla chip appetizer. The tuna has always gotten raves, and it lived up to it. Silky, buttery, and melt in your mouth. I loved it. The albacore wasn't as good as the last time. Something tasted bitter in the sauce over it. The eel was a return to excellence. Perfectly toasted with just the right amount of sauce. The tempura was very good, although I missed getting a hunk of sweet potato. The Hana roll was very good as well and vanished in short order between Tara and myself. Tara's noodle dish was also very good. The noodles had a nice body and texture, and the spices came through well. The shrimp were cooked perfectly. Tara really enjoyed it. The ceviche was addictive. We got the usual four chip complimentary plate, but had to order more. The srichi sauce gradually got the best of Tara, but I managed to polish off the remainder. We each were given a small bowl with two cream puff tempura balls and a two halves of strawberry moochi covered with hot chocolate and whipped cream. Apparently you only get them when you dine at the sushi bar. They are wonderful and were a perfect capper to a great meal. We went a bit overboard and the bill with tip was about $70 for the two of us. However, given the quality and the fact that it's sushi, it's still a pretty good deal. Most of the waitstaff remembered us from our prior visit, mostly because we were the only ones left and Tara did some Midwest bonding with the Wisconsin-born staff. We are torn because we really want to go more often, but it's not cheap.

JP Pancake - Scottsdale

UPDATE 6/29/2008: The original owners of JP have sold the restaurant and opened a place called Flapjacks in Fountain Hills. This review predates them selling the restaurant.

I can't really review JP Pancake objectively. We've been going here for a long time and basically love it. A few weeks ago we tried to and saw a sign in the window saying they were closed for remodeling. It didn't look much different at that point, but there was some plastic sheeting blocking the kitchen area. The sign said they would be open on June 12. We went on June 16, and the sign now said on or around June 20. I called on Wednesday, and they said they hoped to be open on Sat, June 23. I called their number last evening and a person actually answered the phone. She confirmed they'd be open today. We were very happy at that news.

We headed over this morning at about 11am. We got there at 11:20. At first blush, the interior looked the same. The same semi-circle booths lining the walls were still there, as were the mixture of round and square tables in the center. The walls were very bare and had obviously been repainted. The counter in the back was missing the upper section of shelves and the coffee maker was against the kitchen wall. To someone who'd only been there a few times, it wouldn't look any different.

The place was nearly full and we snagged the last free table by the door. A few minutes later, Donna, who we believe is the owner, brought us our napkins and flatware, but no menus. This would seem odd, until you realize that shortly thereafter, Rachel, one of the waitresses, brought us our drink order of a chocolate milk for me and a Coke for Tara. Without us actually ordering. We go there enough that our order is almost a forgone conclusion. She also tried to guess our order, which us normally French Toast for me and chocolate chip pancakes for Tara. Tara couldn't decide which she wanted, so she split the difference. She got a single slice of French Toast and a side stack of chocolate chip pancakes. Both of our French Toast orders had cinnamon added. Our order was capped off by bacon for Tara and sausage links for me.

JP isn't a rush the food out place. The waitstaff's' shirts usually have their slogan on the back: "Perfection takes time". For some reason they weren't wearing the matching shirts today. Amidst the bustle, we asked Rachel about the remodel. Apparently, it wasn't so much a remodel as a repair. A pipe in the wall burst and they had to rip the east and south walls to repair it. From what we gathered, it wasn't a fun process and took longer than they had expected. All the basic stuff has been fixed, but they still need to finish off some of the trim work and put the decorations back up.

Thankfully, the food still rocked. My plate of cinnamon French Toast came on an oval plate, with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Two small ramekins of butter were on the plate as well. A container of syrup was put on the table, but I was in the mood for some real maple syrup. I'm from Maine, so what do you expect? My sausage came on a small plate on the side. The French Toast is made with challah bread. I buttered it up and took a bite. Even without the maple, it was great. The maple just made it better. In short order, I polished it all off and was in my Happy Place.

Tara's meal came on several plates. Thankfully, they had the pancakes and French Toast each on separate plates. Rachel missed the bacon order, but remedied that with no problem. Tara's dual hankerings were filled easily. She loved both of them and had the bacon for dessert.

A word about the service. As mentioned above, we all but have a standing order and they remember us. Rachel is an extreme smartass and gives the customers playful grief. A booth along the wall had a couple in it. At one point, they spilled a glass of orange juice. After cleaning the table, Rachel brought them new drinks, and put the guy's OJ in a sippy cup. Most of the customers seem to know her and roll with it. Most of the waitresses have been for several years and know the regulars. It's a very relaxed atmosphere and they all help each other out.

JP is one of our usual breakfast spots as you may have guessed. We love the food and it has never let us down. The waitstaff is always friendly and always helpful. They are almost always packed early in the morning, but by noon the crowds die down a bit. They have some unusual selections, like their oven-baked pancakes. They are located in a strip mall at Hayden and Mountain View Roads in Scottsdale. Mountain View is just south of Shea.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kid Chilleen's Bad Ass BBQ - Black Canyon City, Az

A few weeks ago, Tara was feeling restless. She wanted to do something, but wasn't sure what. Eventually, she suggested heading north on I17 and trying Kid Chilleen's Bad Ass BBQ Steakhouse in Black Canyon City. We'd seen it just off of the highway on our excursions to Flagstaff and Prescott, but never stopped in. A Chowhound posting a few months ago had asked if anyone had been there but no one had. Since BCC is about the same distance from us a Joe's Real BBQ in Chandler, we decided to give it a go.

We headed north and in a little over half an hour arrived at exit 244. Kid's lies just off the highway. The restaurant sits among a small cluster of building. One houses a little boutique that was closed, another still appears to be vacant, and there's a small barn/shed with a horse and mule hanging around. Kid's is closest to the highway and is a very rustic looking place. We maneuvered around the low stone wall and entered the dimly structure. We passed a small gift area and saw a sign asking us to seat ourselves. As I used the WC, Tara chose a booth by the window. I came out and due to the sloping tabletop, we moved to a table in the middle of the dining room. There was also a bar area around the corner from us.

A couple paper newsletter-like menus were on each table. We looked them over. As we did, a waiter came by and asked for our drink orders. We both got cokes. He also listed some specials. One was a pulled pork sandwich that Tara decided to get. I got the bbq sampler that had pork ribs, beef ribs, and some brisket. It came with fries and a salad. We also ordered some fried mushrooms as an appetizer.

The mushrooms arrived in a plastic basket with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. The mushrooms were very crunchy, with a thick batter crust. The mushrooms were very good, but I wished it had come with a marinara dipping sauce, but Tara enjoyed them with the ranch. More of a personal preference on my part. My salad arrived at about the same time and it was a standard iceburg affair. Good, not great, but perfectly serviceable.

Tara's sandwich came out on a white plate with a side of fries. The pork was topped with a huge amount of Kid Chilleen's thick, almost paste-like bbq sauce. Largely ketchup based, it was somewhat overwhelming. Tara thought the pork was good, but there was just too much sauce. She thought it was good, but nothing special.

My sampler plate consisted of a pile of brisket, a few pork ribs, and a couple beef ribs, again all covered liberally with the bbq sauce. The brisket was good. Again, nothing special, but I've had worse. The beef ribs weren't my cup of tea. They seemed fatty to me and not much clear meat. I should point out that I have a big thing with fat. I can't really tolerate the texture and it is just vile to me. Some people think it adds flavor, so that might be another personal preference. The winner of the sampler was the pork ribs. Once I scraped the layer of fat off, the meat had a great bbq flavor. I gave Tara a sample and she agreed. The fries seemed fairly generic, but were crunchy and went well with the ketchup.

Service was good. The waiter kept our drinks filled and was easily found if we needed him. Overall, the food was ok. Nothing worth making a special trip for, but if you are heading up that way, I'm sure there are worse places. It's no Joe's Real BBQ, but we weren't expecting it to be of that quality. I'd recommend getting the bbq sauce on the side and adding it yourself, as they seem to go nuts with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On-call Week from Hell

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've been the on-call person at my job, and it's been a busy week. Since I can get paged at any time, it makes eating out a bit difficult. We've been to a few new places, but have mostly been to the usual favorites: Harlow's, Osha, Joe's Real BBQ, Houston's. I hope to put up my thoughts on Saba's Mediterranean, Kid Chilleen's Bad Ass BBQ, and a couple others that are escaping me at the moment.
For those of you in Cold Stone Creamery territory, we were told by our waitress Silka at Houston's on Camelback about their French Toast flavor. We'd never heard about this one. We tried it at the CSC location next to Houston's, and Tara fell in love. I forget which mix-ins she had, but I was told that we were going to get some more the next day, which we did. It's certainly better than their wasabi flavored ice cream, which was noxious to everyone except one person. And you know who you are, Scott. :)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Chelsea's Kitchen

Ever since I moved to Phoenix, I'd hear Chelsea's Kitchen mentioned every now and then. I'd seen some very positive reviews and wanted to try it, but for some reason I'd always forget. Tara wanted to do something Friday night and after not finding anything that struck our fancy, we started thinking about dinner. None of the usual places struck any chords. Then I happened to remember Chelsea's. I called to see how busy they were and the hostess said the back patio was about a 30 min wait, but there was immediate seating inside. They don't take reservations. It's first come, first served. We got into my car to head down, but ran into some difficulties, which upset me since I'd just taken into the dealer for it's 15k mile maintenance. The a/c was being obstinate, and well, it's Phoenix. A/C isn't something to trifle with. Plus the tire rotation I asked for resulted in a horrible high-speed shimmy. We came back home and switched to Tara's car. After that, we got there fine. (Tara has added some comments and they appear in parentheses and italics.)

Chelsea's Kitchen is a sister restaurant to La Grande Orange. It's located just north of Camelback on 40th Street. LGO is a few blocks south. CK is right on the canal and the patio faces it. We drove in behind an Escalade who managed to snag the last non-valet parking spot, so we drove to the valet stand and let them do their thing. We inside past some heavy misters and a small front patio with full tables. After a short wait at the hostess stand while two guys apparently fruitlessly tried to sweet talk the hostess into immediate patio seating, another hostess was happy to hear we wanted to sit inside and took us to a table.

The first impression was of noise. It was really loud inside. Loud, bassy music played over speakers and the nearly full restaurant added tons of voice noise. I was sitting next to Tara and we still had trouble being heard short of yelling. (Loud music is a turnoff to me now that I'm getting older. I like to be able to hear my dinner date when he talks to me during dinner. A friend had told us a few months ago he went on a date there, but I don't picture it being a great date place due to the noise alone. The patio is very nice, though, and thinking about it now, I can see why people wanted to sit out there. It was a gorgeous night.) When Tessa our waitress said the specials, I barely caught any of them. She took our drink order of a Coke for Tara and lemonade for me and we perused the menu. The shrimp ceviche appetizer sounded good for me and Tara got a Caesar salad. Several of the entrees looked good. We were both tempted by the Howie burger (caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, lettuce, and a dijon mustard sauce) and the Dixie Pan Fried Chicken (crispy all white meat chicken served warm with mashed potatoes and the daily vegetable. The roasted pork tacos sounded good too. We ended up with Tara getting the fried chicken and I got the Howie.

Our drinks arrived in the form of a glass of ice and can of Coke for Tara and a glass of lemonade for me. CK doesn't have free refills on any level. When my lemonade was empty, the waitress asked if I "wanted her to put in another order of lemonade." I guess that was her somewhat cryptic way of telling me it was free. She did bring glasses of ice water with the new lemonade, though. Still, being bled for refills in a desert climate didn't leave a good impression.

Shortly after that our appetizers arrived. Tara's description of her salad was "shrug". She said it was dry and not nearly enough dressing. (There were long strips of shaved Parmaggiano Reggiano on top of the salad, which were good, although they were somewhat difficult to taste. The croutons were homemade, but rather bland. Overall, it was a disappointing salad. I love Caesar salads, but I like them best when the flavor of the dressing bursts on my tongue. This wasn't even close.) She was underwhelmed. My ceviche was good. It came in a parfait cup in the middle of a plate of tortilla chips. The chips seemed like they might have come from a bag and more than a few seemed a bit stale. There was a bit of a burn to the ceviche, but not too bad. Over all I enjoyed it but would have preferred fresher chips.

Our entrees were a mixed bag. My burger came with a side of fries. The burger was good sized and tasted very good. The problem was it was messy. The combination of lettuce on bottom and slippery, slightly rubbery cheese on top made it nearly impossible to keep the patty from sliding out the back. Add the dijon sauce and caramelized onions that made a juicy, drippy mess, and it was a chore to eat. A man at the next table ate his with a knife and fork. I ate it my with my hands, but before I'd eaten a third of it, the bun was reduced to a soggy, flat mess. I probably woudn't get it again. For the about the same price, Delux is just down Camelback with their very similar Delux Burger on a demi-baguette. It's a much better burger on all counts. The fries were of a thinner cut and average. (I tried a bite of the burger and it was okay. I never put any kind of sauce on meat, except barbecue. I like to let the flavor of the meat speak for itself. I couldn't detect that much flavor in the meat itself. Gruyere is kind of an oily cheese and it was gloppy. Sloppy burgers are a turnoff for me, too. You shouldn't have to eat it with a knife and fork, in my opinion. By the time he was done eating it, his plate looked disgusting with globs of cheese, onions, and sauce everywhere. The sauce was oozing between his fingers too. I found myself being thankful that it wasn't our first date. (haha).)

The chicken was horrible. When she set it in front of Tara, I couldn't believe how tiny the portion of chicken was. Imagine two pieces of chicken about the size of large rubber superballs fried. The batter wasn't crispy, but the chicken was bone dry. Due to the thickness of the pieces, they had to be fried for a long time and dried out. For $16, the entree was laughable. The potatoes were bland as well. Tara did like the vegetables, a mix of carrots and asparagus. I just felt like I was robbed having to pay that much for the dish. (The fried chicken also came with a "cinnamon roll" that was very weird. It was like a crunchy croissant shaped into a swirl, and I struggled to find any cinnamon flavoring in it. It was just very strange. The chicken was the biggest disappointment, though. I likened it to being the size of three McDonald's Chicken McNuggets mushed together into a big ball. I can't even think of what part of the chicken is that size or shape. Maybe between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball? The batter wasn't crispy at all and didn't seem to have much flavor, and the chicken was almost hard to swallow because it was so dry.)

Our bill came to $54 before tip. We felt like this was a ripoff. The dishes were average at best, barely edible at worst. Combined with the no-refill policy and overly noisy atmosphere, we won't be going back. Service was adequate. No complaints there. Tara asked me to let her add comments of her own, which she'll do shortly. Considering other options in the area, CK will be voluntarily forgotten this time.

Side note: Before we left CK, I saw a hot fudge sundae being delivered to another table. After this debacle of dinner, I decided to head down the road to Baby Kay's for their Bourbon Sundae. We go there enough that our waitress knew us by sight and I recognized her as well. I explained that we needed something good after having a bad dinner and she was surprised what happened to us at CK. After she brought the sundae, which tasted fine to me, Tara said swore it was just plain vanilla ice cream instead of the usual butter pecan. It tasted fine to me. I asked our waitress and she confirmed it was butter pecan, but a generic instead of the usual brand (Dreyer's she thought). She seemed to think we were disappointed, but we assured her that it was still a great sundae. Still, she insisted that she wouldn't charge us for it due to the bad luck earlier. She said we were good customers who came a lot, so it would be fine. I repeatedly asked for a check but she refused. I explained that since the empty bowl had scrapes in the glass from our spoons to get the last of it, we obviously enjoyed it. She was adamant, though. I did leave a tip for her almost the price of the sundae. (I told him several times that I was in no way disappointed in the sundae. It was delicious, but it didn't taste like it usually does.)

(Overall, it was a disappointing night for us. We both had high hopes for Chelsea's Kitchen. I should note that we didn't have any problems at all with the service. Our server was very nice and attentive without being overbearing.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Osha Thai - Scottsdale

I love Thai food. When I think of "comfort food", I don't see chicken and biscuits, mac and cheese, or a chicken-fried steak. I see panang and tom kha gai. I don't know why, as I'm a bald white boy from Maine, but for some reason the complex, fresh flavors of good Thai cooking get the endorphins running. Seth recently reviewed Osha Thai at Shea and Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale and mentioned that their tom kha might be the best in the Valley. That sentence alone put it at the top of my To-Do list.

Sunday afternoon we set off to give them a try, but unfortunately they were closed. Tara being Tara, she decided that Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert would be a good alternative, and since they are a favorite, we went there. It was great, as usual.

Having been thwarted for Thai on Sunday, Monday night we went to our usual Thai favorite, Chanpen in Glendale. The satay and peanut sauce was great as usual, as was Tara's garlic chicken (vampires beware!) and my yellow curry. Tuesday night we had to go get 99 one ounce bottles of suntan lotion for a marketing thing Tara was working on (don't ask) and she suggested we try Osha, since were were going to be nearby. That sounded great to me, so we headed over.

Osha is in a strip mall in the NE corner of Shea and FLW. We got there a bit after 7pm and there were two or three tables with people. It's a smallish space. A young girl got up from a two top near the kitchen and showed us to a booth. She said her sister would be back shortly to serve us. As we looked over the menu, her sister (whom we later learned is Maybelline) came over and took our drink order. Tara went against type and just got a water while I got a Coke. Lots if items looked good. It took us a few minutes to take it all in. Mabelline came back and since we were still looking at entrees, we ordered chicken satay and the Osha Golden Pockets for appetizers. Unlike a lot of Thai places, you can order the soups by the bowl. I took advantage of this and got a bowl of tom kha gai. Since that would take care of my spicy cravings, I decided to get the Osha Barbequed Chicken. Tara went back and forth over a few entrees. When Maybelline came back to take our order, she answered all our questions and made suggestions as to which noodles went better with which meats. Tara finally settled on the pan-fried noodles, sans the bed of lettuce it's normally served on. She didn't want the lettuce to cool it down.

Shortly after that, our appetizers arrived. The plate of satay held four skewers of chicken, a bowl of peanut dipping sauce, four toast points, and a cucumber salad. The Golden Pockets were four pouches about the diameter of a silver dollar with a bowl of spicy sweet and sour sauce for dipping. The satay was excellent. The peanut sauce was exceptional. It had a strong peanut flavor, was blended smooth, and warm. We both rated it as better than Chanpen's peanut sauce, which we both love. My only complaint is the pieces of chicken were smaller than the ones at Chanpen. Tara didn't mind that, since they were so good. The Golden Pockets were very crunchy. I broke into on and immediately got a sensation of being at an Indian restaurant. The finely chopped chicken, onion, potato, and curry was very good and smelled heavenly. Tara really enjoyed them as well.

As we were digging into the appetizers, my highly anticipated soup arrived. It was very hot, so I set it aside to cool. As I mixed it with the spoon, I found and removed a huge slice of galanga, a bit of lemongrass stalk, and a kaffir lime leaf. All very good signs. After we finished the appetizers, I was about to dig into it when our entress were delivered. It was still on the hot side, so I set it aside again. Patience is a virtue.

Tara really enjoyed her noodles. I tried a few bites and it was pretty good. My barbequed chicken was a half-chicken marinated in herbs and then roasted. It came with the same spicy sweet and sour sauce as the pockets. I really liked it. The bone-in chicken had been hacked into pieces. It had really good flavor. Slits had been made and the spice paste was spread into the cuts. It left a yellow curry residue on my plate. I was very happy overall with it. I had the leftover barbequed chicken for lunch cold, and the flavor was even better the next day. After a few bites, I switched over to the tom kha.

It was worth the wait. I'd ordered the soup with mild spiciness and I didn't detect any heat at all. However, the rest of the flavors were all there. I loved it. The full spectrum of tastes spread through my mouth and I savored each spoonful. This is definitely the best tom kha I've had in the valley. Since the spicy heat factor was not there, I offered a taste to Tara. Big mistake, as she loved it as much as I did and had quite a bit of it. We both agreed this was the big winner of the night. All the food was really good or better. I can't wait to go back and try the panang.

Another fun part was the service. Maybelline was very friendly and answered our questions on the food and other things. We had a long conversation about the state of dim sum in the Valley. Towards the end of our meal we were the only customers, so there wasn't a rush. Apparently they drive to Los Angeles a couple times a year for supplies and ingredients they can't find easily in the Valley. The food definitely benefits from this.

Our final bill came to $41.40, which I thought seemed low for all the food and leftovers we had. We had no problems at all and the soup alone will lure me back.

Feasting in Phoenix - Great site

For those of you who aren't from Phoenix and read this (assuming people besides my sister in Maine find this page), I wanted to do a short explanation of a name I mention in my reviews. I usually post them on the Southwest board at, and I forget the people who don't read that site might not know who I refer to when I mention "Seth". Last year, one of Tara's foodie friends in Minnesota sent her a link to, a food blog site run by Seth Chadwick. He has been doing his own food blog for quite a while and has a ton of Phoenix area reviews. We love his site, as our tastes and his usually match perfectly. We've found he's great to use as a bird dog before we go someplace new. As much as we love his positive reviews, some of his bad experiences are much more fun to read about. Check out his trip to Blue Burger or his recent trip to Vincents. Seth hasn't been to any of the Chowhound gatherings I've been to, but Tara and I are both hoping to meet him at one sometime soon. His cast of supporting characters (J, Boris, Dave, and the legendary Madge, among others) adds fun to the reviews as well.
Another site we read is It was there that we first heard of Welcome Diner.
Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled blog... :)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Non-food: Matt Damon and the Red Sox

I'm a Red Sox fan. I left Maine/New England essentially in 1995 and they don't get much coverage here in Phoenix or in Dallas when I lived there. I don't know many of the current players, but I keep an eye on the AL East and hear any big developments from my family. I know the pain of rooting for them and am still somewhat in shock about 2004. I've been to a game at Fenway that Yaz played in and an unknown named Wade Boggs pinch-hit in. I get the movie "Fever Pitch."
I'm not a huge Matt Damon fan. I've liked some movies he's been in, but overall I can take or leave him. Tonight he showed up in Letterman wearing a Red Sox jersey and proceeded to mercilessly mock the Yankees. I was laughing so hard Tara came out of the bedroom to check to see if I was OK. For those who don't know, Matt was born in Cambridge, MA. Letterman suggested a few times that he might want to hire some protection for when he left the studio.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hana - Central Phoenix

After some sheet shopping last night in PV, I felt like sushi. Since Tara didn't object, I decided to head down to Hana, a newly opened spot that has gotten good marks on Chowhound. I didn't remember the exact address, so after a not finding it on 7th Street, we found it was on 7th Ave at Missouri. We got there a bit after 9pm, and luckily they were open til 10.

They occupy the north end of a small strip mall. It's a smallish sized place. There are tables along the left wall and sushi bar along the right. We took a couple seats at the bar. It's loud. Cement block walls, cement floor, and nothing to deaden the sound reflecting. There were only a few people there and it was still hard to hear the sushi chef even though he was right in front of us.

After we sat, a waitress came by and took our drink orders. We both got Cokes and water. She gave us a sushi menu and I also asked for a regular dinner menu as well. The sushi menu is short on fancy rolls, but has the standards for nigiri. The specials board listed blue fin toro for $10, which sounded good as I hadn't had it in a while. I also ordered yellowtail, unagi, and albacore sushi. Tara isn't big on the raw stuff, so we got a shrimp tempura roll and the Hana roll, which is a California-ish roll, but with shrimp tempura and a sweet vegetable inside as well, topped with crunchy flakes and eel sauce. Tara also got some edamame and I got a bowl of miso soup.

I handed the chef our sushi list and he said that since the shrimp tempura and Hana rolls are nearly identical, he'd make the Hana first and if we still wanted the tempura roll after it, he'd make it then. He then handed us the plates with ginger and wasabi. He then gave us a couple small dishes of real pickled wasabi, which was a surprise. It was listed on the specials board for $2.25, but we got it gratis. I'd never had it and liked it. The taste was similar to powdered, but the burn seemed to be much shorter lasting. As he got to work on our sushi, our edamame and miso arrived. Tara enjoyed the edamame, but I wished it had a bit more salt. The miso was good. It had big chunks of tofu and lots of seaweed. I prefer the miso at Yasu's, but still enjoyed it.

The sushi started arriving. The first was the blue fin. I was surprised at finding four pieces on the plate. The chef apologized, saying that the pieces of blue fin he had were small. It was actually great for me, since I preferred the smaller pieces. It was really good. The fish just melted on the tongue. It was fresh and tasty.

The yellowtail came next, again with four pieces for the same reason. They were equally good. It's been a while since I had really fresh nigiri and I was enjoying it. The albacore came with two huge pieces, which I assume is the normal portion size. I loved it. The vinegary sauce was just right. Perfect.

The Hana roll arrived on a long, skinny plate. The end pieces each sported a shrimp tail and three other pieces were sandwiched between them, with the eel sauce drizzled over it. We both really liked it. I was expecting something a big bigger for $11, but it was still good.

About halfway through, the chef handed me a square plate with four tortilla chips topped with lumps of something. It turned out it was a ceviche with albacore. We loved them. You could taste a bit of chili sauce in them for a bit of heat. I would order in a heartbeat. For a freebie, it was amazing.

Last came the unagi. The slices of eel were nearly as huge as the albacore. They came burning hot, so I let them cool for a few minutes. They were excellent as well. Maybe a bit too much char for my tastes, but still thoroughly enjoyable. We were both full, so I told the chef he could cancel the shrimp tempura roll.

When we were done, we got another surprise. The chef handed us a bowl with two tempura balls filled with a cold cream, like a tempura cream puff, covered with chocolate sauce. Tara loved them. If she hadn't been full, I'm pretty sure she would have ordered some more.

We requested the bill and chatted with the chef, a couple next to us, and various waiters. After a few minutes, I began wonder where the check was. The chef snagged another waitress and told her we were ready for our bill. After some discussion at the front desk, she looked over and tried to figure out what we drank. It turns out she couldn't find our original bill and they were trying to remember what we had. Eventually they figured it out. We also heard the chef tell her we only had the shrimp tempura roll, not the Hana roll. The Hana roll was twice as much. The bill wasn't itemized, but we're pretty sure we got a good deal. Our sushi came to $33, and that was well under my estimation. The total came to $48, which I felt was a bargain, especially considering the ceviche chips and tempura balls. I definitely plan to go back.