Grill-it-yourself meats spice up Azian

Strict 'house rules' dampen enjoyment of barbecue buffet
2012-03-29T00:00:00Z Grill-it-yourself meats spice up AzianKathleen Allen Kallen@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
March 29, 2012 12:00 am  • 

As children, we were bombarded with dinner rules: No elbows on the table, don't talk with your mouth full, don't throw milk in your sister's face.

The joy of being a grown-up is that you figure the dining rules you have to learn are behind you.

Not at Azian.

The first thing you eye on the menu of the all-you-can-eat sushi and Korean barbecue restaurant are "House Rules" in bold, black letters.

While strict rules are de rigueur with all-you-can-eat sushi deals, most everything at Azian is "all you can eat." Among the rules: $5 for leftover rice or wasted food (Hey, what if you got it, hated it and didn't eat it?); no sharing with non-all-you-can-eat customers ("tasty-pieces" we called them growing up, where sharing was one of the thrills of going out to eat); and no taking home those leftovers, which, it seems, you've had to pay for with that extra $5.

And this one: You have a time limit of 1 hour, 30 minutes ("If we let people, they would stay all day," we were told). Don't think leisurely dining here.

I understand the reasons behind the rules, but they still seem oppressive.

Azian is in the former home of the Sushi Garden. It opened in December and is owned by Sonny and Jennifer Chu. The family also runs Fusion Wasabi Japanese Sushi & Steak at 250 S. Craycroft Road.

At Azian you cook your own barbecue - though the gracious waitress did walk us through each step, mixed the sauces for us, and explained what we were eating and how it is traditionally eaten. That made us almost forget our offense at the house rules.

Everything except the sushi is buffet style - no off-the-menu ordering here when it comes to the Korean barbecue. That was a bit daunting - so much to choose from. And may creditors help you if you overload.

The buffet is heavily stocked, and it's fun to wander through and figure out what to eat. The meats are marinated. You just have to choose it and cook it at the grill in the center of your table.

You'll find Korean barbecued beef short ribs (more bone and fat than meat) salty with soy and sweet with sugar; thin slices of beef and chicken bulgogi, which had the same kind of salty sweetness as the ribs; succulent pork belly; fresh shrimp; and pork spiced with ginger and chile sauce.

You'll also find a slew of items to dress up your barbeque - kimchi, scallions, fish cakes, fresh garlic, chile paste, sesame oil, bean paste, lettuce, fish cakes, steamed rice - it's a massive buffet.

And mighty tasty, too. The meats, though they often tasted as though they had the same marinade, were tender (easy when meat is sliced thinly) and packed with flavor. If you are adventurous, you can whip up a meal that may make a Korean gourmet gag, but satisfy your longing for richly spiced food.

That buffet is $24.95 a person, and that includes sushi. The all-you-can- eat sushi is $19.95 - though the sushi menu is limited (not all the sushi on the menu is included in the price, and there was a handwritten note under the "rolls" - "one per person").

Some of the more enticing-sounding sushi is an extra cost. For instance, the pesto lobster roll was an extra $10.95, and while it looked lovely, the pesto was indiscernible and the lobster a touch chewy.

The sushi on the all-you-can-eat menu didn't fare much better. It wasn't bad - the ahi and the red snapper were sampled - but it was pretty ho-hum. It was as though the fish had sat around in the freezer too long to keep its flavor.

Azian is pleasant- the sushi bar sparkles, the televisions are big, and the barbecue buffet colorful and enticing. If you want to be able to eye your food to make sure it's done, we recommend sitting in a table in the center of the room - those tables have lights over them.

If we head back to Azian, it'll be for the barbecue, not the sushi.

And when we return, we'll know the rules. But we still won't like them.

Review

• What: Azian, 15 N. Alvernon Way, 777-8311.

• Hours: 11a.m.-2:30 daily, 5-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 to midnight, Fridays through Sundays.

• Noise level: It can get crowded and loud.

• Vegetarian options: Several.

• Gluten-free options: Yes, ask.

• Family call: The kid's menu is all-they can eat - same rules apply, however - for $10.95 to $15.95, depending on whether they take the sushi or barbecue option.

• Reservations: Accepted.

• Price range: Dinner buffet is from $19.95 (sushi only) to $24.95 (sushi and the Korean barbecue buffet).

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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