Chef Joe Cajipe takes a traditional approach to sushi at Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of new land concepts around Phoenix and the Valley in general. Seafood and sushi lovers now have plenty of options when it comes to their favorite rolls, whether raw or cooked. In early April, one such new establishment opened on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Sake Haus, adjacent to Pedal Haus, is located on Roosevelt, west of 3rd Street. Focused on flavorful nigiri and sashimi, this fun new, new sake and sushi place has an extensive menu and variety of sake and Japanese whiskey.

Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.
Sake Haus on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

There are several types of sushi. There are regular maqui rolls, which consist of fish surrounded by rice and wrapped in seaweed; nigiri, hand-pressed rice with a layer of fish or topping; or sashimi, which are usually thin slices of fish served without rice or seaweed. In addition to sushi, Sake Haus serves a variety of sake, Japanese whiskey and cocktails with Japanese ingredients. Shelves along the bar are stocked with four different varieties of sake, several variations for each.

Sake Haus serves futsushu, Japan’s most popular type of sake and is considered an everyday table wine. There’s also Junmai daiginjo, a higher quality sake usually reserved for special occasions. Junmai gingo, which is often lighter and fruitier. And nigori sake, which usually appears cloudy and still contains some unfermented rice. The knowledgeable staff, knowledgeable about sake, can help and guide guests about the many varieties and flavors to suit any occasion.

Sake, Japanese whiskey and more at Sake Haus in Phoenix.
Sake, Japanese whiskey and more at Sake Haus in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Sake Haus is ready to teach visitors not only sake. Sushi Joe’s chef Kajipe has developed a menu that emphasizes nigiri and sashimi, which are not as popular among sushi lovers as maki rolls. Kajipe says his goal is to draw attention to the traditional side of sushi, such as nigiri and sashimi, that is sometimes overlooked in Western countries.

“When people think of sushi, it’s often sake bombs and sushi rolls. Well, I want to kind of bring something different to the table. I want to shed light on the traditional side while applying modern technology and tastes,” Cajipe explained. And while Cajipe’s approach at Sake Haus is different, he says there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple with offerings like California rolls, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise. But at Sake Haus, Cajipe says the focus will always be on the quality of the fish.

“We want to highlight the fish. We try to get really high-quality products every day. All you need is just a little bit to add flavor and make the fish stand out. We always feel that less is more, and in terms of sushi, that really is the case,” Kajipe said.

Sashimi at Sake House in Phoenix.
Sashimi at Sake House in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Speaking of sake bombs, Kajipe hopes to educate guests about the true nature of sake and how it should be consumed with traditional food.

“Usually, the general population thinks of sake as a shot or something that can be added to Japanese beer to make sake bombs, but it’s actually wine. It’s rice wine, so traditionally you drink it cold in a glass and then just sip it and pair it with sushi, and most of the two kind of go hand in hand depending on which flavor profiles you prefer. I’m looking for,” Cajipe explained.

Cajipe, a Filipina, has worked in Asian cuisine for the past 10 years at various restaurants in the Valley. Cajipe has studied under various chefs and most recently worked at SumoMaya in Scottsdale. But it all comes from humble beginnings in 2012 as a waiter at a restaurant in Chandler. Cazipe says the chef noticed his passion for learning about sushi and took him under his wing. Cajipe’s journey from waiter to chef began thanks to his love of food and cooking, as well as the fact that sushi is his favorite food.

“It really comes down to passion and dedication to perfecting the craft. Many people call it art and I understand why they do it. There’s a lot of complexity and attention to detail that goes with it, plus it’s the funniest cuisine I enjoy,” Kajipe said.

Sushi and sake at the Sake House in Phoenix.
Sushi and sake at the Sake House in Phoenix.(Jeff Popovich)

Whether you go to Sake Haus for sake or sushi (or both), you are sure to have tons of fun. The natural taste of the fresh fish and the way it is cooked by Cajipe and his staff make for a great meal for sushi lovers, and the extensive list of sake and Japanese whiskey is more than enough to keep adult drinkers busy. The interior design and artwork of Sake Haus creates a truly classy atmosphere, while the red lighting sets the tone for Toiko Street. Cajipe takes pride in his work and says that seeing guests enjoy his sushi makes him feel fulfilled and satisfied as a chef. So the next time you’re craving sushi, consider trying something more traditional and check out Sake Haus!

This is the twelfth excerpt in a series of articles on Phoenix Subway Chefs. The Arizona family gourmet meets with the chefs of the valley to tell their stories of victory, perseverance and dedication. There is a significant amount of work, research and experimentation that culminates in what is placed in front of you on your plate or in your drink. These are stories about the creative minds behind delicious meals or cocktails and how their passion for food and drink brings us joy and connection.

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