There are worthwhile, fish-centric Japanese restaurants spread throughout the southwest Valley these days, so much so that if you end up at old favorites (like Sen of Japan) or new phenoms (like Other Mama), you’re going to miss something great. That’s why it took me so long to get to Fish N Bowl, which is planted along Durango Drive, like those other two, but farther south, past the Beltway, where former RM Seafood chef Howard Choi is serving up beautiful and delicious versions of every kind of sushi roll and rice bowl you’ve ever heard of.
But it’s the other stuff, the dishes not readily available in your favorite neighborhood sushi bar, that firmly places Fish N Bowl in the must-eat rotation. Everyone does yellowtail sashimi with serrano and ponzu ($10.95), but here, opt for the clean taste of fluke with sweet, spicy Korean kochujang and yuzu juice ($10.95). Fluke, along with Hawaiian ono, also appears in the assorted sashimi sampler plates ($19.50-$35), with the usual suspects: tuna, salmon, albacore and yellowtail. Mini tacos filled with tuna is another common dish at this type of restaurant; Fish N Bowl has six different kinds of these addictive snacks built in crispy wonton shells, including shrimp poke ($10.50) and the FNB Poke ($11.50), which layers assorted raw fish with briny masago, red and green onion, jalapeño, mango and eel sauce. It’s the kind of fresh, delightful flavor combination you expect when you try something different.
I love rice. A lot. I have to stop myself from ordering one of the almost 20 rice bowls here—that FNB Poke shows up on one ($11.95), cooked meats like pork cutlet ($10.50) and garlic-butter white fish ($11.50) appear on others—to go along with rice-filled rolls layered with fish. Like many of us, I’m trying to cut down on my refined grain intake, and Fish N Bowl’s rice-less rolls are a spectacular remedy. The Rock N Roll ($12.50) is wrapped in cucumber, tangy ponzu sauce complementing the tuna, salmon, fluke, crab and avocado within. The Cherry Blossom ($11.50) is pretty in pink, a creamy crab-shrimp combo piled atop fatty salmon. The best part is that even without rice, these rolls offer the full spectrum of texture, exhibited best in the Warm Springs ($13.50) with its softshell crab, spicy tuna and crab, shrimp tempura, spicy yam, avocado and rice paper wrap.
The scary part: This is only a tiny bit of the menu, which also includes daily specials, lunch specials starting at around $7, salads, wraps, vegetable and baked rolls, noodles, four flavors of edamame and tempting appetizers like spicy bacon tempura ($5) and “popcorn” oysters ($6.50). One bite of the spicy clam soba in savory broth covered in green onion, the sea urchin dumplings or the incredible salmon skin hand roll ($6.50), and you’ll wonder how one little restaurant can do so many things so well. And, if you’re like me, why you didn’t discover this year-and-a-half-old restaurant much, much sooner.
Fish N Bowl 7225 S. Durango Drive, 702-739-3474. Daily, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.