Critic’s Notebook provides an overview of The Arizona Republic’s food critic Andi Berlin’s food journal to discover the best bites in the valley.
Between vegan brunch and Korean fried chicken fast food platter, my meals were a la carte this week. I visited the Coronado in its largest neighborhood space and couldn’t not order the chilaquiles. It was a similar situation to Daruma in Mesa. It has become one of my go-to places to take out and I always end up coming back for the same platter of sashimi. And now I have a new tradition to add to the list: massive bone-in Korean fried chicken thighs from a restaurant in Chandler that offers kimchi cheeseburgers and free karaoke. I might not take advantage of these perks, but I know I’ll be back for KFC.
All of these dishes were too good not to be shared. These are my favorite bites of the week.
Chilaquiles at Coronado
When The Coronado moved from its 7th Street bungalow to its current home further down the neighborhood, the old cafe became a full-service vegan brunch destination with champagne cocktails framed in vintage pink flower wallpaper. Judging by the constant stream of boho-chic millennials waiting for a spot on the outdoor patio every weekend, the move was a good call. I’ve been going there a lot since it opened this summer and what keeps me coming back are the chilaquiles ($ 14.50). The fried corn chips are drizzled with an earthy guajillo sauce and stacked on top of a rich amount of refried black beans. You’ll hardly notice the scrambled patty on top is made of tofu, as it’s smothered in vegan cream with sprite-pickled onions on top. It’s like a fancy take on the Mexican tofu scrambles my vegan friends make at home. So in that sense, it’s a bit nostalgic.
Details: 2245 N. 12th St., Phoenix. 602-767-8133, thecoronadophx.com.
Daruma Takeaway Sashimi Platter
In the Mesa Mall across from Asiana Market, Daruma sushi has been quietly making waves in the neighborhood since it opened in 2020. While the cozy, wood-paneled dining room also serves ramen, I found the restaurant to be a reliable source for take out sushi. It’s my favorite now, actually. The quality of the fish is a cut above most quarter joints and there is a tip in the preparation that shines even in take out. For example, this sashimi combo ($ 34.95) comes with real wasabi root, rather than the more common artificial green paste that gets its fold from horseradish. This stuff is so good that it will make you want to eat more fish just to dip it in the sauce. Fortunately, the salmon, amberjack, tuna, and albacore are all sliced into fatty, generous chunks. It’s a standard combination, but a perfect balance of buttery and bright flavors.
Details: 1116 S. Dobson Road, Suite 113. 480-590-7979, darumabyrie.com.
Korean Fried Chicken at Bap and Chicken
We can’t get enough of Korea these days, between the boy groups, the Oscar winning movies and the Korean fast food chains popping up across the valley. Located inside a former Habit Burger near the Chandler Fashion Center, Bap and Chicken lets you build your own bowl of Korean bibimbap rice and serves giant platters of the ubiquitous bar snack, Korean Fried Chicken. I was torn between ordering six or 12 of the drumsticks, available in customizable sauces like gochujang and kimchi crema. But, once I see my order, I’m so happy to stick with half a dozen ($ 12). A marvel of modern science, the bone-in, monster-sized chicken thighs were fried in a tempura batter and topped with sweet chili sauce. Our tray came with only one plastic glove, but there was no avoiding the delicious mess. Pro tip? For an additional $ 25, you can order the “Gangnam style” legs wrapped in gold leaf. Fancy.
Details: 960 N. 54th St., Chandler. 480-306-3324, bapandchicken.com.