Japanese restaurants in the United States rarely reach the heights of ShinBay, the serene, brilliant and refined oasis opened last year in Scottsdale, Ariz., by Shinji and Kumiko Kurita. Fewer still offer the kinds of intelligently selected wines and sakes that lift the experience into another realm.
It's best to reserve in advance at ShinBay, situated in an upscale outdoor mall, and order the full multicourse treatment. Priced at $125, a recent menu was a symphony of eight courses of spectacularly flavorful and texture-perfect fish: raw, marinated, steamed, broiled and made into impeccable nigiri sushi. The coda was a sigh-inducing cold chawanmushi (custard), topped with fresh berries and black sugar syrup.
Menu highlights included a carpaccio of creamy halibut slices, singed with hot grapeseed oil and dressed with ponzu. A Kusshi oyster, sharing its shell with uni and ponzu jelly, starred in a stunning array of six appetizers, which also had a terrific bluefin tartare with pine nuts, avocado and wasabi. A steamed course combined black cod and shrimp, and a broiled course piled the diced meat of a huge Madagascar prawn into a shell the size of a small lobster's. Finally, each piece of sushi sported its own garnish and glaze that exhibited deft balance.
Kumiko, Shinji's wife, has made smart choices for the list of 24 wines and 10 sakes, including Argyle Brut Extended Tirage 2000 ($98), Dr. Loosen Riesling Spätlese Ürziger Würzgarten 2009 ($38/375ml) and Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay Carneros 2008 ($100).
A devoted local following used to make the trek to an earlier version of ShinBay in the far outskirts of Phoenix. After that closed six years ago, Shinji worked in other restaurants. With its modern decor and the luxury of space, the Scottsdale ShinBay was worth the wait.
7001 N. Scottsdale Road (in the Seville), Scottsdale, Ariz.
Telephone: (480) 664-0180
Open: Dinner, Wednesday to Sunday
Cost: Entrées $16-$28; menus $50-$150 (reservations required for chef's menus)
Credit Cards: All major