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Phoenix restaurant Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey is open. What to expect

Chef Engin Onural officially brought his popular Palm Springs restaurant Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey to Phoenix in November when he soft opened at the corner of North Seventh Avenue and West Heatherbrae Drive in the Melrose District. It’s his fourth restaurant and his first in Arizona.

Originally from Turkey, Onural remembers falling in love with Japanese culture at age 10. “My father was a professor, and we traveled a lot, so I was fortunate enough to get exposed to many cultures and foods.”

He found Japanese and South Korean cultures similar to his own in terms of their focus on traditions and strict expectations. The more he learned, the more he began to believe that his connection to Japanese food had to be due to being Japanese in another lifetime. “There is no other explanation,” he said with a chuckle.

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Engin Onural recently opened his Phoenix restaurant, Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey.

Onural uses sushi to communicate who he is to his guests. Rather than the word fusion, he prefers to say that he has created his own style of sushi with flavors inspired by his travels.

“I don’t sit down and say let me go through my flavor file.” Rather, when he travels, he tries to eat at a range of restaurants, from a hole in the wall to three-Michelin stars. “When you do that, you expose yourself to a lot of flavors. Once my brain experiences a particular dish, it’s taking in and filing away the aromas, sights, textures and tastes. And all of a sudden, when I least expect it, I have a download of information.”

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