Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tucson, AZ: Sushi in the Desert?

The job that brought me to Madison entailed traveling to different customer sites in the U.S.  The two sites that I was assigned were Tucson, AZ and St. Louis, MO.  I count myself as lucky in that both cities have a wealth of culture, diversity, and amazing food. 
I had never been to Arizona before I started working with the client in Tucson, so I was extremely excited.  When I landed in Tucson for the first time, I embraced the flat roads in the city and the high, dry mountains rising all around.  Everywhere you looked, there were mountains, giant cacti, and blue sky.
My Mom in Awe of the Cacti

Seeing how nice and dry this place is, it makes total sense that my mom asked to eat at a sushi restaurant for dinner when she came to visit me over the weekend.  I told her that she was crazy, but she pointed to an ad in the hotel's "places to see" magazine that featured a picture of a sushi boat.  My mom countered my protests by reasoning, "See! There's a sushi place!  Why would any business owner willingly shoot himself in the foot and open a sushi restaurant that's bound to fail?  It must be good!"
I gave in.  I think it's because Madison doesn't have many options for sushi, and I hoped that my mom was right so that I would have a go-to sushi place when I'm in Tucson.
Ginza Sushi is the name of the restaurant that I thought would give me inauthentic offerings drenched in super sweet teriyaki sauce at best and unfresh fish at worst. 
Ginza Sushi (5425 N. Kolb Rd.)
Boy was I wrong! Just look at the gorgeous Ginza Chirashi.  Yes, I made the photo extra large for your viewing pleasure.

 Ginza Chirashi - Uni (sea urchin), Toro (fatty tuna), Amaebi (sweet shrimp), Tako (octopus), Sake (salmon), Ikura (salmon roe), Hamachi (yellow tail), Akagai (red clam), and Hotatagai (scallop) over rice
Something as simple as raw seafood on a bed of well made Japanese rice can taste this good because it's fresh!  The ingredients aren't hiding under globs of sauce or fancy accoutrements.  My favorite part is allocating the fish roe so that I could pop at least one in my mouth with each bite of rice and seafood.  Mommy's right...sigh.
Mom and I also shared teppan squid with ginger sauce and hamachi kama, which were both delicious.  The squid was tender and smokey.  Mom and I order grilled squid dishes at Japanese restaurants for nostalgic reasons.  Growing up in Honolulu, my parents would always take my brother and me to Shirokya on the weekends and have lunch at their cafeteria.  My mom and I always craved their squid.  After we left Hawaii, grilled Japanese squid just wasn't as easy to find...until I found myself in the desert...
Hamachi Kama is a family favorite as well.  If it's on the menu, we have to have it.  The collar is particularly flavorful and flakey.  It's usually just seasoned lightly with salt and served with a side a ponzu.  Again, simple but the natural flavor of fresh ingredients makes it amazing!
Teppan Squid and Hamachi Kama (broiled yellow tail collar)

Needless to say, I revisited Ginza on subsequent work trips to de-stress:

Agedashi Tofu

Nabeyaki Udon
Yuzu Miso Halibut

Spider Roll
Here are photos of my last meal in Tucson with my co-workers.  What a great way to say goodbye to a great city!:
I can't remember all the different Ginza Special Rolls...

Izakaya - Chicken Karaage, Agedashi Tofu, and Seafood Dynamite
Green Tea and Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream

Green Tea Cheesecake and Tempura Apples
Awesome Co-Workers

1 comment:

  1. If you're ever back in Tucson, let me know! We live here on the northwest side, and we'd love to host you.