Craving genuine food and a place to study Japanese cuisine, my mentor Yama-San spilled the beans on his secret lunch spot - Cherry Blossom Noodle Café in downtown Phoenix. It’s one for your foodie list! This hidden gem is located in a market-strip on the north side of Camelback Road just east of 7th Street. The outside is quaint. There’s a hand painted sign above a bench, reminding me of my grandmother’s porch. Step inside, and you’ll notice more novelty signs such as “Grape therapy is cheaper than group therapy.”
Our visit started off wonderfully. Once we were seated, the staff humbly greeted us and provides a basket of warm bread. No exaggeration - I think it was the softest bread ever. We passed the mini wooden knife, spreading butter in-between the fluffy layers. They know it’s good, and consequently only the first basket was complimentary.
I found that offer a wide range of beverages to fit the occasion. You can compliment your meal with plum wine, cold sake, or Thai tea. I personally recommend Hakutsuru (Junmai) cold sake, Japan’s #1 selling brand. In the smallest dining room to the left they hold a “wine cellar” inside of a historic red telephone booth.
When it was time to scope out the menu, I noticed both an English and Japanese translation. There was something for everyone, and there were a few stand out dishes you can’t pass up! We ordered four appetizers to begin - Grilled Pork Belly, Crispy Calamari, Miso Eggplant, and Tempura Mackerel (あじフライ). All very good! It took Yama-San back to his mother’s home cooked meals. The tempura mackerel, dipped in a “yin yang” sweet hoisin and spicy mustard sauce, was his favorite appetizer.
Cherry Blossom Noodle Café also has a list of Italian entrees, each executed with a pan-Asian influence. Yama-San suggested we choose an adventurous entrée, so we went with the Ika Mentai (イカ明太 ) - fresh squid and spicy masago coated in a creamy butter sauce. I was thrilled with our decision! In my experience, a delicate pan sauce can easily separate. The sauce was precisely made and coated the al dente noodles perfectly.
A variety of ramen, udon, and soba were listed on a page of their own. The choices were endless. With respect to the quality, they do not offer their noodles for take-out. You should enjoy them in the dining room as soon as they’re prepared.
The restaurant remains loyal to a simple sushi list. They pride themselves on their technique in other areas of the kitchen, so their rolls are consistent and straightforward. They also have a great happy hour with competitive prices are offered Monday through Friday from 3-6pm.
I would advise you ahead of time to save room for dessert. They’re hand crafted behind the scenes by a kind female chef. I found a beautiful display of cakes and breads to the right of the kitchen. Our mouths watered at the sight of a seven-layered chocolate slice and a green tea mouse cake with whipped red bean cream.
All in all, we left with new minds and thankful hearts. We just scratched the surface with all there is to offer, and we will be back for more! I encourage you to visit them and support local talent in our Valley.