What attracted me first to this Mexican-Asian fusion location in Scottsdale was an episode of "Beat Bobby Flay". A would-be contender (he didn't make it past round one) was formerly a chef at the vibrant restaurant. After my dad moved from Northern AZ down to "the Valley" I found myself heading south more often for visits, so I always had my ear to the ground, listening for interesting places to eat.
Phoenix is not on the top of the list when it comes to iconic foodie-meccas, but there are several noteworthy establishments making names for themselves in the land of sun and saguaros. If you adore pizza and you've passed through Phoenix, you've made sure to stop at Chris Bianco's incredible Pizzeria Bianco - hands down some of the best pizza I've ever had, much less the best in Arizona. Other noteworthy mentions that are "so hot right now" are Bitter and Twisted (think ramen burgers and a massive cocktail program that will take you months to get through) and FnB (Food and Wine magazine once called it the "epicenter" of Arizona cuisine) - both places I longed to drop in on, but neither were open the Monday evening I rolled through. Drats.
I don't suppose either of those two joints are going anywhere anytime soon - plenty of time to indulge on my next visit. And I didn't stay bummed for long, as I had SumoMaya to look forward to for lunch the next day.
SumoMaya is everything I love in a good restaurant: strong, memorable flavors and amazing design. That's right - I'll never turn up my nose at good food, but good food is always more amazing (for me) in an incredible environment. When I walk into a restaurant and the aesthetics blow my mind or take my breath away, the food is that more memorable - the experience is that more amazing. It's exactly what I'm after when I want to eat out. For me, it means the establishment has put thought not only into their food, but into the meal as a whole. We eat with our eyes ...
Remember - I'm a singleton, and while I'm quite comfortable dining alone (I've made it an art form actually), I'm happiest eating alone when I've got something gorgeous to look at. In this regard, SumoMaya does not disappoint. Latin flair joins hands with the beauty of the Far East and bright splashes of orange and strong pops of fuchsia make it clear I should expect some bold flavors to come out of the kitchen.
Fusion is still fashionably trending but it can be quite risky. Fusion only works if the conjoining flavor profiles make sense. If the cuisine is confusing, a restaurant can quite quickly find itself in danger of alienating its diners. Fusion needs to make sense.
Way back in 2008, Roy Choi convinced us with his Kogi BBQ Taco Truck that Latin+Asian = Brilliance and it's clear to me that SumoMaya is simply more proof that the two cuisines are wonderfully paired at this location.
SumMaya presents its diners with tapas-style small plates that are meant to be shared (or squandered, up to you) as appetizers as well as large-plate entrees. House-made guacamole and ceviche share the table with sushi rolls and Asian salads. Depending on your mood you can select the Kimchee Fried Rice or the Arroz con Pato.
I started simply with the Shishito Roll - salmon, shishito peppers, avocado, kiwi + mango-habenero sauce. This roll was cool, crunchy and fiery all at the same time. I especially loved how the grassiness of the deep-green shishito peppers complimented the briney seaweed of the nori.
If you really feel like splurging, don't miss the Billionaire Roll - Japanese Waygu beef, snow crab, asparagus, soy aioli, truffle garlic butter + gold flake - all for a cool $50. Hey, it is Scottsdale after all ...
I knew before I got to SumoMaya I'd be ordering their Mexican Pho. I mean, this should come as no surprise to any of you faithful readers. Roasted chile pasilla broth, chicken, rice noodles, cilantro + lime proved a very tasty follow-up heat-wise to the smokey sushi roll I'd just enjoyed. Heartier than a traditional Vietnamese Pho, this soup was still gentle on the waistband so I batted away the puny twinges of guilt at ordering more than one dish.
I'd like to say I had room for the beckoning bowls of rice and noodles, or a smokey dish from the wood-fired grille, but the road was calling and no one likes to drive when they're uncomfortably full.
A delight to the senses, SumoMaya is an interesting adventure of eclectic but appetizing dishes that make sense and taste amazing. Be sure to visit the water closet on your way out. I rather feel it's the icing on the cake.