If you know us, then you know. We are always exploring restaurants. Near and far. Every trip we take, every date night we have, every celebration in our lives; food and trying new hot spots is top priority in planning our adventures.
A few years ago J mentioned a new hot spot in the valley. At the time we’d yet to travel to Japan, but exploring the tastes of Japan and Asian inspired foods was a frequent effort on our parts. When one is craving a travel adventure and has yet to book it, one often indulges in food that inspires adventure. One being us and our weird way of adventuring and exploring.
At any rate, it was a date night and he’d found us a new local restaurant that had earned top new restaurant honors in the Valley. We got ready for our night out together and drove to Central Phoenix to enjoy a new foodie adventure. Introducing The Clever Koi.
At first glance the building is unassuming yet completely charming at the same time. The exterior is sleek and modern, but not over the top or overwhelming. Guests are drawn in due to the walls of windows and the dimly lit warm and inviting interior. The building flanked in metal, with windows upon widows and simple foliage of desert fire sticks and lady slippers seems to evoke a modern Asian vibe. The interior is small but mighty. Dark details, concrete floors, rattan lantern chandeliers, mid century modern furnishings and the coolest of cool vibes makes this joint so earthy and inviting. If a restaurants worthiness to visit was solely based on the vibe, The Clever Koi would never have an empty seat.
That night, though we didn’t know it at the time, we were taken care of by co-founder Nick Campisano. Drinks were delivered, food recommendations were made and we delighted in our experience. We left deliriously pleased by our food and drink experience.
As cravings and hankerings do, we wanted more, we wanted to go back and every time J looked into making a reservation seats simply weren’t available. Fast forward a year or so and a new location popped up, the craving was so real, we drove all the way to Gilbert to dig into The Clever Koi’s dishes. The environment so different, yet remaining so delicious. Fast forward again, and last night we were both having the same hankering and low and behold a reservation was available. We hit the jackpot.
Enough about the vibe and the clear difficulty in getting a reservation. It’s clearly the place to be. But, why? Well, I’ll tell ya. From a novice foodie who knows a good drink and a great bite when I experience one, the food and drink need to be savored at The Clever Koi. Make your reservations now, and make sure you add two to your reso so that J and I can tag along!
The drinks – a smattering of bevies for every palate. We love a good cocktail and there are more than enough to select from. J always loyal to his manhattan or old fashioned finds the bevie with a twist and a nod to either on every menu. I on the other hand often focus on the spicy margarita when ordering a drink. And then there’s just exploring any option that sounds good. The Clever Koi’s cocktail menu is top notch in fulfilling uniquely delicious drinks that nod to more drink lovers favorites. We explored a couple drinks each and have zero regrets in drinking those calories.
The food – nothing I can say will honor the food as it should. In our few visits we have made an effort to try something new every time and thus far, nothing, not a single dish disappoints. Last nights tour de menu was no different. J and I love ordering little plates to sample as much on a menu as possible. We chose to share the 3 Steamed Buns dish, each enjoying a pork belly bun and sharing the kimchi cauliflower bun between the two of us. The pork belly steamed buns are flavor perfection and melt in your mouth. The kimchi cauliflower bun came packed with a burst of flavor that brightened my palate and the crispy texture added simple interest that elevated the bun. We also chose to share the Shumai Dumplings. I love me a good dumpling. Absolutely love a good dumpling. And these were incredible.
At this point we stopped sharing because I have a simple palate and J is brave. He ate the Crispy Pineapple Duck and practically licked the plate clean. I didn’t venture to try a bite because, duck, but he was completely pleased with his rice dish. I, on the other hand chose to eat the House Pad Thai, but shook it up a bit by requesting the addition of Shaking Beef. I love me a good shaking beef and wanted it with my pad thai. Simply the best of all worlds. I was literally dancing in my seat with food happiness. The flavors might not typically be meant to jive together, but this dish was incredibly satisfying and the most yummy pad thai I’ve had in my life.
Last night’s dinner reminded us why we love a great find and a good foodie adventure. The Clever Koi is now a forever addition to our list of must eats (it has been since our first meal, but boy they are popular and hard to get into, so plan ahead or prepare to wait, it’s worth the way if you must). Indulgent in all the right ways, somehow also serving light and fresh flavors, with a hip vibe in a beautiful setting, The Clever Koi should be at the top of your list for your next date night dinner.