Stop, drop and roll at Ra Sushi Happy Hour
By Roberta J. Peterson
Upgrade your roll next time you head to Happy Hour.
The Airpark’s newest after-work gathering location is RA Sushi on the northeastern corner of Scottsdale and Thunderbird roads.
“What I love about RA is the unique atmosphere. It makes me wish I could be a customer and just be a part of experiencing it,” says Paul Underwood.
Instead, he’s general manager at the new RA (pronounced “raw”) location, which he says is home to the largest bar and outdoor setting yet among their restaurants.
The new destination, in Scottsdale Towne Square, replaces the former Kierland Commons location.
“It was just off the beaten path a bit,” Underwood explains. “Here, we are in the middle of things and yet a destination. It’s more than a dining experience, it’s a community hub, actually.
“People are coming to watch games, or stopping by on the way home after work. They come in groups or on dates. Even out on the patio, you’re near Scottsdale Road, but you don’t notice the traffic because there is so much going on. Yet, there are so many different spaces here that it can also be intimate,” he adds.
Indicating the sushi-making area inside, Underwood explains that “it’s a different spin on the traditional sushi bar.”
Instead of a row of chairs or stools facing the staging area, there are attached tables seating four each.
“You can be there and interact with the sushi chef, yet you are sitting more traditionally with family or friends at a table. You don’t have to be in a row,” he explains.
Outside there is a fire table surrounded with casual seating; bar stools, and tables of various sizes. The bar bridges indoors with the sizable outdoor spaces, popular with groups.
Occasionally, a bump in the plan to come to RA for Happy Hour is when there’s a non-sushi fan in the crowd, Underwood acknowledges. He notes that the Happy Hour menu is much more than sushi.
“We even have great wings. No one needs to feel left behind.”
But he also has advice for those venturing into sushi for the first time.
Start with the Tempura Roll, he suggests.
“It’s full cooked for the beginner, with crab mix, tempura shrimp cake, asparagus and avocado.”
Next, he says, move on to the Viva Las Vegas Roll, which happens to be the most popular item on RA’s Happy Hour menu. It introduces a topping of raw tuna, but all else is cooked, Underwood explains, adding that it’s a good bridge to the more adventurous offerings.
RA’s specialty rolls put a new spin on typical sushi items, according to Underwood.
“Our Crazy Monkey takes the traditional Philadelphia Roll to a new level of creativity and flavor, adding mango for a note of sweet flavor. The green is avocado, and the bits on top are cashew and tempura,” he explains.
Lovers of California Rolls should try their Tutsimaki Roll, he suggests.
Want to step away from rolls and experience all the flavors together? Underwood’s No 1 recommendation is the Barachiashi Bowl.
“It’s not on the Happy Hour menu, but it’s great for lunch,” he says.
The bowl features tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, avocado and cucumber on rice tossed in poke sauce, and it comes with miso soup. You can order it on greens instead of rice for a carb-free alternative.
RA’s sushi chefs get even more creative when customers forget where they are and order something from another sushi restaurant’s menu, adds Underwood.
“If we have the ingredients, we’ll make it for them, and at the best price possible. If they’re looking for something they had in another city, we just ask them to tell us what’s in it, and we’ll do our best to create it. But I’ll steer them next to one of our specialty rolls, and they decide they’re even better.”
For an insider tip, Underwood suggests trying Chili Ponzu sauce on a favorite dish or roll.
“It is good with anything, and I eat it in place of soy sauce,” he says.
Regular Ponzu sauce is another option, but he likes the chili version for the added spice.
RA Sushi hosts Happy Hour from 3 to 7 p.m. every day, plus late night Happy Hour from 10 p.m. to close and Sunday from 3 p.m. to close.
Need a great team-building experience? Paul Underwood, general manager at the new RA Sushi in the Airpark, recommends RA’s special private class, Sushi 101.
“Participants work together and learn to roll sushi and how to make our signature rolls. It also includes the history of sushi,” he adds.
Offered by request for groups, it is also occasionally available to individual sign up for public classes.
“We’ll take it on the road, too. It’s great for businesses in the area. We’ve also done it for clubs and groups – golf club houses seem to be popular venues,” Underwood says. “We send our sushi chef over for two-hour classes, or we can cater, as well.”
And if you need accelerated team building?
Underwood recommends their other class offering: Sake 101.