30 November, 2022, 09:48

All-You-Can-Eat “Sushi Cortaro on River” Now Open at River & Stone

An increasing number of all-you-can-eat sushi places around Tucson have many fish lovers rejoicing.

Some people harbor skepticism of how an endless supply of raw fish – in the desert – can remain fresh.

Luckily, Sushi Cortaro on River is one of the good ones. According to manager Ken Lin, the Japanese restaurant receives weekly shipments of fish from around the world. And at $23.95 for all-you-can-eat sushi, it’s a great deal.

This is the restaurant’s second location, and it opened October 9 in a former Chinese restaurant called East Buffet. The first Sushi Cortaro location opened about seven years ago and is located on Courtney Page Way in Marana.

The restaurant offers nine spots at the sushi bar, where you can watch the sushi chefs up close. Additionally, a dozen barstools are available at a separate bar area, as well as regular tables and chairs throughout the airy restaurant. Two big-screens and a few flat-screen televisions air sports games.

People with small appetites can opt to order from the a la carte menu, but it would be a shame to miss out on trying a number of appetizers, nigiri, salads, and rolls available. The only thing not included on the all-you-can-eat menu is sashimi.

Crab puffs at Sushi Cortaro on River (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Crab puffs at Sushi Cortaro on River (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

The all-you-can-eat menu includes 11 appetizers, of which the crab puffs and beef gyoza are your standard, yet tasty, start to the tour de menu — though be aware the gyoza are deep-fried rather than pan-seared, meaning the entire shell is crunchy. The accompanying sweet and sour sauce was a delightful, much thicker, version of the incandescent red, watery and overly sweet sauces typically offered at American Asian restaurants.

A wickedly fresh order of tuna nigiri followed, and two flaky unagi sushi, or freshwater eel, were wrapped in a ribbon of seaweed.

But the rolls are where Sushi Cortaro on River shines. Roughly 30 rolls are divided into non-spicy or spicy categories. Because each roll comes with a generous five to eight pieces, it’s tough to sample all of the ones that sound delicious without wasting good food.

The Sunshine Roll is in the non-spicy category and serves as a great starter roll for sushi newbies. The roll is the ubiquitous California roll inside, which is crab, avocado and cucumber, with the tasty addition of sliced shrimp on top.

The Crunch Tuna Roll, in the spicy category, is served covered with a layer of panko crumbs, offering an interesting added texture. The requisite rolls were stuffed with avocado, imitation crab and tuna and rolled in seaweed and rice. Dipping the pieces into spicy ponzu ($1 upcharge) moved the roll from good to great.

Service is fast, efficient and friendly. The employees are helpful and eager to answer questions about the menu.

Unagi nigiri sushi at Sushi Cortaro on River (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Unagi nigiri sushi at Sushi Cortaro on River (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Happy hour takes place from 3 – 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. It includes an impressive assortment of discounted appetizers, nigiri and rolls. Drinks include $2.50 to $3.95 domestic and imported beers, $1 off glasses and $3 off bottles of wine, and sake ranging from $2.95 to $14.95.

Other specials include half-priced sushi rolls with a drink purchase from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The best part — even without including the appetizers, the bill for this visit would have cost $27.20 if the sushi was priced a la carte. The all-you-can-eat makes for a pretty good deal.

Sushi Cortaro on River is located at 75 W. River Rd. Ste 181. Operating hours are 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon – 9:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (520) 888-1886 or visit sushicortaro.com.

Valerie Vinyard has written for newspapers and magazines for over 20 years, including a stint as a food writer and critic for the Arizona Daily Star. The Cleveland native has lived in Tucson more than 15 years, and still dines out daily.