Marana’s Flavors of the World - Part 2

We understand. It sounds crazy to recommend Sushi here in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. But we're in. We're hooked.

We understand. It sounds crazy to recommend Sushi here in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. But we're in. We're hooked. And we maintain that the only thing crazy in this scenario is not enjoying an amazing meal at Marana's Sushi Cortaro Japanese Cuisine! Plan a long lunch or dinner at this locally owned treasure or just pop in between adventures for a quick bite. Sushi Cortaro is perfectly located to conveniently cool off and fill up after a morning on the links at neighboring Quarry Pines Golf Club, a run or ride on the nearby Loop path, or shopping at the Tucson Premium Outlets or Arizona Pavilions. The casual yet comfortable dining room is open and bathed in Marana's ample sunshine with plenty space to belly up to the bar where you can watch each sushi menu delicacy artfully prepared.

Most meals start off with a bowl of traditional Miso soup and a refreshingly tangy cucumber salad. The assortment of options available is nearly mindboggling but easy to navigate. Servers and Sushi chefs are incredibly helpful with advice and descriptions of items for those new to the oldest raw food movement on the planet. The nigiri and sashimi are cool, glistening, tender and beautifully displayed. Each traditional and specialty roll is packed to perfection within a layer of just the right amount of sticky rice and bursting with the ample servings of protein with just the right amount of creamy or crunchy accents.

Diners that prefer cooked dishes will be delighted with a number of delicious Japanese cuisine staples that include favorites like the ginger-battered Chicken Tatsuta skewers; chicken, steak and seafood Tappan dishes; and meat, seafood, or vegetarian Tempura plates.

If your yearning for Far Eastern delicacies have you searching for something from a little further inland, Miss Saigon Bar & Grill should fit the bill. Inside the one of two Marana locations just a few doors down from Sushi Cortaro Miss Saigon offers a bamboo accented, cozy and casual getaway to enjoy lunch, drinks and/or dinner. The region's most recognized name in Viatnamese food promises some killer Pho (pronounced "fa") and Thai dishes that will linger in your dreams and demand a return visit. Their Pho, with its beefy, slow-cooked broth, is somehow simultaneously rich and light. Diners may choose to add meatballs, medium rare beef slices, boiled beef, or any combination of the three to the golden brown savory soup. A heaping plate of onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro are delivered with each bowl to add additional flavor and texture to this already amazing entrée.

While I linger on the Pho, Miss Saigon's other savory dishes certainly aren't to be ignored. Each freshly prepared and delicately balanced creation is sure to inspire any diner to make the trek to the other side of the globe for more of the same. With an extensive list of possibilities to consider, this regular returns for the Pad Thai. The tender proteins and slightly crunchy veggies are lightly coated in spicy peanutty sauce and served in portions guaranteeing a repeated opportunity for enjoyment at home or in the hotel. The gentle cacophony of flavors and textures will have mouths watering at just the thought of the dish later. Similarly, the plentiful and artfully prepared vegetarian options will have a carnivore rethinking life choices at the end of the meal!

Whether to wash down any of Miss Saigon's amazing appetizers or dishes, or just to experience a truly amazing bit of liquid refreshment, try a Boba drink. Under no circumstances should any diner leave Miss Saigon without indulging with or after a meal. With so many options, it's almost a project to select exactly which to have. With choices including four liquid bases and 24 flavors of Boba (small gelatinous balls filled with fruit juice), you'll need a moment to consider the splendid result of every possible version of this texturally confounding, palate-pleasing drink. It will be time well spent. Those little balls of deliciousness and their accompanying pool of flavors will warrant grabbing another to go.

While it may seem unusual, take an authentic culinary detour to the Far East while spending time on the western edge of the Santa Cruz River Valley in Marana, The Gateway to Southern Arizona. Your taste buds and sense of adventure will thank you.

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