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Chef Joe Cajipe takes traditional approach to sushi at Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row

The new sake and sushi-focused establishment emphasizes flavor-forward nigiri and sashimi and has an expansive menu and depth of sake and Japanese whiskies.
Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 12:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Over the last couple of years, a lot of new sushi concepts have opened up around Phoenix and the Valley altogether. Seafood and sushi enthusiasts now have plenty of options when it comes to scarfing down their favorite rolls, whether they be raw or cooked. In early April, one such new establishment opened on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Sake Haus, which is attached to Pedal Haus, is located on Roosevelt just west of 3rd Street. This fun, new sake and sushi-focused establishment emphasizes flavor-forward nigiri and sashimi and has an expansive menu and depth of sake and Japanese whiskies.

Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.
Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

There are several different types of sushi. There are the common maki rolls, which consist of fish encircled by rice and wrapped in seaweed; nigiri, hand-pressed rice with a layer of fish or topping on it; or sashimi, which is typically thin slices of fish served without rice or seaweed. In addition to the sushi, Sake Haus serves up a variety of sake, Japanese whiskies, and cocktails with Japanese ingredients. The shelves along the bar are stocked and stacked with sakes from four different variations, with several options for each.

Sake Haus serves futsushu, which is the most popular type of sake in Japan and is considered an everyday table wine. There’s also Junmai daiginjo, a higher-grade sake that is typically reserved for special occasions. Junmai gingo, which is often lighter and more fruity. And nigori sake, which usually appears cloudy and still contains some rice solids that haven’t been fermented. The knowledgeable sake-savvy staff can help guide and educate guests on the many variations and flavors to fit any occasion.

Sake, Japanese whiskies, and more at Sake Haus in Phoenix.
Sake, Japanese whiskies, and more at Sake Haus in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Sake Haus is ready to educate patrons on more than just sake. Head Chef ‘Sushi Joe’ Cajipe has designed a menu that highlights and puts an emphasis on nigiri and sashimi, which aren’t selected as often as maki rolls among sushi-goers. Cajipe says his goal is to bring awareness to the traditional side of sushi, like nigiri and sashimi, that sometimes get overlooked in western countries.

“When people think sushi, it’s most commonly sake bombs and sushi rolls. Well, I want to kind of bring something different to the table. I want to shine a light on the traditional side while implementing modern techniques and flavors as well,” Cajipe explained. And although Cajipe’s approach is different at Sake Haus, he says there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple with offerings like California rolls, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. But at Sake Haus, Cajipe says the focus will always be on the quality of the fish.

“We want to highlight the fish. We try to get really high-quality products in every day. All you need is just a little bit to add to the flavor and highlight the fish. We always feel like less is more, and in terms of sushi, that really is true,” Cajipe said.

Sashimi at Sake Haus in Phoenix.
Sashimi at Sake Haus in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Speaking of sake bombs, Cajipe hopes to inform guests about the true nature of sake and how it’s meant to be enjoyed with a traditional meal.

“Commonly, the general population sees sake as like a shot or something to accompany a Japanese beer to take sake bombs with, but what it really is a wine. It is a rice wine, so traditionally, you would drink it cold in a wine glass and just sip on it and pair it with your sushi, and most of them kind of go hand-in-hand depending on what flavor profiles you’re looking for,” Cajipe explained.

Cajipe, who is Filipino, has worked in Asian cuisine for the past 10 years at different restaurants across the Valley. Cajipe learned from various chefs and most recently worked at SumoMaya in Scottsdale. But it all comes from humble beginnings in 2012 as a server at a restaurant in Chandler. Cajipe says the head chef noticed his passion to learn about sushi and took him under his wing. Cajipe’s journey from server to head chef began, motivated by his love for food and cooking – and the fact sushi also happens to be his favorite food.

“What it really comes down to is just passion and devotion to perfecting the craft. A lot of people call it art, and I can see why they would do that. There’s a lot of intricacy and attention to detail that comes along with it, plus it’s the most fun cuisine I feel like,” Cajipe said.

Sushi and sake at Sake Haus in Phoenix.
Sushi and sake at Sake Haus in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Whether your trip to Sake Haus is for the sake or the sushi (or both), you’re bound to have a fun experience. The natural flavors of the fresh fish and the way it’s curated by Cajipe and his staff will ensure a wonderful meal for sushi-goers, and the expansive list of sake and Japanese whiskies is more than enough to keep adult beverage seekers busy. The interior design and artwork of Sake Haus sets a seriously cool ambiance throughout, with red lighting to set the Toyko street tone. Cajipe takes pride in his work and says seeing guests enjoy his sushi makes him feel accomplished and fulfilled as a chef. So next time you’re craving sushi, consider trying something more traditional and stop into Sake Haus!

This is the twelfth segment in a breakout series on chefs in the Phoenix metro. Arizona’s Family Foodie is sitting down with chefs around the Valley to tell their stories of triumphs, perseverance, and dedication to their crafts. There is a sizeable amount of work, research, and experimentation that culminates into what gets placed in front of you on a plate or in a drink. These are the stories of the creative minds behind those delicious meals or cocktails, and how their passions for food and beverage bring us joy and closer together.