A Favorite Revived?

Sushi Ten seems to be making a comeback after several years of turbulent ownership changes

In 2007, Tucson Weekly readers decided in our annual Best of Tucson® poll that Sushi Ten had the city's Best Sushi. It was the seventh consecutive win for the Speedway Boulevard restaurant.

But in 2008, Sushi Ten didn't win—nor was it one of the runners-up. It hasn't come close to the winners' circle since.

As Sushi Ten was falling in the hearts and minds of Tucson Weekly readers, it was in the midst of a series of ownership changes that took a harmful toll; both the food and service suffered. How bad did it get? In the midst of the turmoil, Sushi Ten got a scathing review from the morning daily.

Recently, I've started hearing positive things about Sushi Ten again. Therefore, I decided to go and check it out for myself—and the news is good: I found excellent sushi, fine service and some amazing deals, although the restaurant needs to work a bit on its non-sushi offerings.

Sushi Ten offers all-you-can-eat sushi for $19.95; seeing as I can tear through $30 worth of food, easily, at a pay-by-the-piece sushi joint, I really appreciate all-you-can eat deals—and I certainly appreciated the food I received during my dinner visit. On the nigiri side, I ordered two pieces each of octopus ($4 separately), yellowtail ($4.25), tuna ($4.25) and fresh-water eel ($4.25), along with two rolls: the shrimp killer roll (avocado, shrimp tempura and cucumber inside, with shrimp outside, $8.50) and the Alaska roll (spicy crab and avocado inside, with salmon outside, $8).

Garrett decided to forgo the all-you-can-eat option, and instead ordered a California roll ($4) and the teriyaki beef ($8.95).

Sushi Ten's décor is clean and comfortable. Diners can either sit at the sushi bar, or dine at a normal table. Two TVs tuned to ESPN hang over the sushi bar; there isn't a whole lot of stuff on the walls, although there is a large, framed kimono, for some reason. A huge window on the east side of the restaurant allows views of the shopping-center parking lot (and Speedway Boulevard, if you're sitting in the right place and facing the right way). On your way out, you can even buy some Japanese candy from the display case near the door.

Sushi Ten's service was fast and friendly. Almost immediately after we were seated on both visits, a server brought miso soup, and followed that up with a choice of either edamame or salad. The edamame was served cold, but still had a nice flavor; the salad was a simple mix of lettuce, a crab strip or two, and a very strong sesame/soy/vinegar dressing that I enjoyed, and Garrett disliked. After the meal, you're offered a choice of ice cream; the varieties are mango, vanilla, green tea or red bean. These complimentary add-ons were certainly welcome—and tasty to boot.

The food comes out whenever it is ready, which meant that Garrett received his California roll a minute or two before I got a boat-shaped dish packed with all of my sushi; several minutes later, Garrett's teriyaki beef showed up.

All of the sushi/nigiri offerings—save the eel nigiri, which was tough and dry—were splendid. We could taste the fish, without it being fishy. I especially enjoyed the Alaska roll; the spicy crab and the mellow, fresh salmon melded nicely with the smooth avocado.

Unfortunately, Garrett was unhappy with the beef teriyaki. The beef itself was enjoyable—it was served in cubes and was quite tender—but the teriyaki sauce was bland and unlike any teriyaki sauce we'd ever had. The entrée was served with rice, seaweed salad, a cabbage salad, cucumbers, some intriguing pickled vegetables and a small slice of what the server said was fish cake; it had the flavor and consistency of a pickled hard-boiled egg.

After all of that tasty fish, I was looking forward to our subsequent lunch visit.

If money is tight (or you just like great deals), I heartily endorse Sushi Ten's "happy hour," which is 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; and 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday. During these hours, all of the items offered on the all-you-can-eat sushi menu can be had individually for half-price.

I ordered the albacore nigiri (normally $4) along with the fresh-water eel (normally $4.25)—I wanted to give the eel another try—as well as the spicy-tuna-with-crunch roll (normally $7) and the dragon roll (cucumber, avocado, carrot and crab, with eel on the outside; $8). That's a lot of food for the $11.63, total, that I paid. And it was all great; the eel this time was moist and delicious.

Because the servers bring out the food as it is ready, I was already finished by the time Garrett's don katsu (fried breaded pork, with all of the same sides that came with the teriyaki beef; $10.50) was brought to the table. It had a nice flavor, but the pork itself was tough and rubbery.

Other non-sushi offerings include appetizers (like soft-shell crab, $6.50, and egg rolls, $4.50), noodle dishes, tempuras, a couple of curry dishes, fried rice and rice bowls.

While the two non-sushi dishes we sampled were not great, the sushi was impressive. The service was also quite good, and those "happy hour" lunch deals are outstanding. In other words: These two visits have me thinking that Sushi Ten is on the comeback trail.

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