Yasu Sushi Bistro

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4316 E. Cactus Road, Phoenix

Given its strip mall location and semi-famous co-owner Yoshi Natori (known Valley-wide for his eponymous Japanese bowl restaurants), you might assume that Yasu Sushi is like so many other sushi bars around town — mediocre and far more American than Japanese. But there's where you'd be wrong. Yoshi has wisely given the reins to his young chef and co-owner Yasu Hashino, a talented fellow who strives for excellence in every aspect of the operation. And that becomes clear from the instant you walk through the door. For starters, the place looks great: hip but warm at once, thanks to a suspended bamboo ceiling, bright walls, color photos of sea life and a chic lounge for kicking back over premium sake. The servers are terrific too, helpful in navigating customers through the regular menu (which includes tempura and subimiyaki (charcoal-grilled specialties) and the daily one, where more obscure Japanese delicacies are found. If you're adventurous, try the ankimo (monkfish liver pate), the hirame sashi, the tuna carpaccio and the hamachi kama (the cheek meat of a yellowtail). If you're not, relax, there's plenty of good eating here for you too, including potato chip-like gobo sticks and shrimp fondue. I don't believe I've ever said the words "save room for dessert" in a Japanese restaurant review, but I'm saying them now. Both the green tea-infused cheesecake and the tiramisu (dusted with green tea powder) are out of this world. Lunch M-F, Dinner M-Sa. $-$$$