Asian With Style

If you want a fine culinary show or some of Tucsons best sushi, check out Sky Blue Wasabi Asian With Style

Sushi and teppan yaki tend to be two of the more predictable food genres. At its heart, sushi/sashimi is fish with rice, and teppan yaki is meats and vegetables grilled simply and quickly, partially for entertainment purposes.

Then there's Sky Blue Wasabi, a newish place on Craycroft Road. This place, which shares a building with two other restaurants and business offices, does teppan yaki well--but it elevates the sushi to another level. I'll say this: The sushi at Sky Blue Wasabi was the best I've had in Tucson, by a pretty wide margin--and it's among the best I've ever had.

Garrett and I went to Sky Blue Wasabi for sushi on a recent weeknight. The Rose Bowl played itself out on the smallish restaurant's TV screens--flatscreens above the sushi bar, and a large TV near the entrance that's projected onto a large, textured metallic surface featuring the restaurant's name and logo. Metal is a big part of the restaurant's décor: The tables, the sushi bar, the decorative wall behind the sushi bar and the teppan yaki tables/cooking areas all feature a shiny metal look. They're complemented with sky blue lighting, especially above the sushi bar. It has a clean, modern, vibrant look that is more New York or L.A. than stereotypical Tucson.

Since Sky Blue Wasabi does not have an all-you-can-eat option (every sushi place should have such an option, I irrationally believe), Garrett and I gave the menu some heavy analysis. Sky Blue has a fine selection of sushi, sashimi and rolls, at prices that are middle-of-the-road, as far as Tucson goes. Garrett picked crab ($4), sweet shrimp ($7) and white toro ($5) sushi, along with some yellowtail ($8) sashimi and a caterpillar roll ($7). I chose the shrimp ($4) and eel (unagi, $5) sushi, plus a shrimp tempura roll ($7). Finally, we decided we had to try two of Sky Blue's fascinating special rolls: the Sky Blue Wasabi roll, with eel, avocado, special sauce and strawberries ($9), and the Sky Blue Wasabi ultimate roll, with lobster, shrimp, avocado, cucumbers, flying fish eggs and 24-karat gold ($15).

Intuitively, I would never think of eating something pairing eel with a sweet fruit, nor would I ever think of topping off a sushi roll with a precious metal. But, hey, what the hell.

A palatable miso soup and an order of tasty, albeit slightly undercooked gyoza ($4.50) started off the meal in a fine fashion. Next came Garrett's yellowtail, which was fresh and delicious. After a bit of a wait, everything save the house specials arrived; it was all very good, except for the sweet shrimp, which was even better: Garrett said it was some of the best he'd ever had.

Just as we were polishing off all of these delectables, the pleasant young server delivered the two special rolls.

My first impression was, wow, the Sky Blue sushi chefs don't skimp on presentation: These rolls looked amazing. The Sky Blue Wasabi roll came on a metallic-looking plate, with each of the pieces--sitting in a shallow pool of the brown, watery special sauce--separated into a circle, with a piece of bright-red strawberry on top. And the ultimate roll came with a lobster shell presented as a garnish, complementing the glistening gold flakes on top of each piece--all of which was surrounded by a generous amount of blue wasabi mayonnaise that had the look and consistency of toothpaste.

I took the first bite of the ultimate roll, while Garrett had first-piece honors on the Sky Blue Wasabi roll. We were both instantly delighted. The lobster flavor and the cucumber crunch dominated the ultimate roll, with the shrimp, avocado and wasabi mayo playing supporting roles (obviously, the gold was just for looks). It was splendid. Meanwhile, Garrett's eyes lit up as he bit into the strawberry-topped morsel. I hesitantly followed suit--and was blown away. The strawberry flavor was strong at first, giving away to a hint of avocado, just before the salty, meaty taste of the eel hit. It was an amazing blend that I would have never imagined. It was an amazing end to a fantastic meal.

While this meal was superior to our first visit the week prior, which starred teppan yaki, that visit was pretty good, too. Five eight-seat teppan yaki tables occupy half of the restaurant, and on that first visit, four of the tables were occupied (though we were the only ones at our table). We decided to go all out, with Garrett ordering the chef's special, with filet mignon and lobster tail ($29). I got the Sky Blue Wasabi special, with shrimp, scallops and lobster ($29.50). All of the dinner entrées come with soup (a chicken broth-based light concoction), salad, steamed or fried rice, vegetables and a "shrimp appetizer" (which, in my case, ended up being a little bit extra of the same shrimp I had with the main course). A decent bunch of appetizers, most of which could function as meals (including sushi samplers and tempuras), fill out the menu, along with a kid's menu and some lunch plates during the restaurant's weekday lunch hours.

After we got our soup and salad, there was a bit of the delay: There were only two teppan yaki chefs for the four tables. The server apologized for this and offered us something during our wait, and we got some eel sushi, adding another $5 to our bill. Finally, our chef--the more talkative of the two--arrived and started the show. It was typical as far as teppan yaki goes--lots of fire, a joke about singed eyebrows, things flipped into the chef's hat, etc.--and the food was typical, too. Our lobster was a bit overdone, as was my shrimp, but Garrett's steak and my scallops were perfect. All in all, it was a fine teppan yaki meal--nothing spectacular, nothing culinarily revolutionary.

If you want a good show with someone playing with your food--in a nice, clean, metropolitan setting, perhaps as you watch the game--I recommend Sky Blue Wasabi. If you want some of the freshest, tastiest and most innovative sushi Tucson has to offer, I can't recommend Sky Blue Wasabi strongly enough.

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