Story and photos by Mark Sterling-Ogle, Nov. 6, 2014.

Fusion dining has been around for some time, and the Mexican and Asian blend at SumoMaya, German Osio’s newest venture, is a perfect platform to work with many exotic flavors.

Bacon-wrapped Medjool dates.

Located at the marketplace on the corner of Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive, SumoMaya’s subtle slate exterior does not prepare diners for the what’s inside. Upon entering, the most notable decoration is a 24-foot tree right in the middle of the spacious dining room, emphasizing the extremely high ceiling. The tree is part of the feng shui design, which requires the restaurant to have “life” in it.

The open-air feel continues throughout the bar and onto the expansive patio where folding glass windows allow a seamless flow from the open kitchen onward. Guests also have the opportunity to sit at the sushi bar and take in all the action.

My partner and I invited a friend along for lunch and found him already seated under the umbrella of branches in the main dining room. We were promptly and warmly greeted by our server, who gave us a quick tour of the rather extensive two-sided menu. She explained that the menu, much like the bustling room, was intended to be an experience, not just a meal. Dishes from different parts of the kitchen would arrive when each was ready, much like a tapas-style restaurant. And guests are encouraged to order three to five of the small plates, for yourself and to be shared with your dining companions.

The starter section of the menu offers different types of guacamole ($10-$14) and ceviche ($11-$18). Here, the platform for combining the distinctive flavors and traditions of the two cultures really takes off. It continues into the sushi ($11-$15) and taco options (various combinations available), which include some rather innovative ingredient combinations, sourced from local farms when available. We decided to skip these and head on to the other side of the menu.

Chicharron de pollo.

The first of the dishes to land on the table were the bacon-wrapped medjool dates ($10). They had been stuffed with queso Chihuahua and chorizo before being wrapped in bacon and flash fried, perched in a pool of silky foie gras sauce. We had not yet been offered forks, but did not need them — the jewels of “pork candy” were chopstick- and finger-friendly and we each rolled them around in the fantastic sauce, trying to get as much off the plate as possible.

In true tapas style, the small plates for sharing just kept on coming. The rock shrimp tempura ($14) were plump and crunchy, with fresh cherry tomatoes and spring peas dotting the bowl and a black truffle vinaigrette that did not overrun the dish, but provided just enough essence to accentuate.

Miso Chilean sea bass skewers.

The chicharron de pollo ($12) was not quite what I expected. Instead of large pieces of crunchy chicken skin with bits of meat, it was the other way around. The accompanying mustard miso was needed to dip into, as we found the chunks of fried chicken a tad on the dry side.

We struggled to keep up as our orders soon began to fight for table space. Head-on giant shrimp ($14) were indeed huge and we were thankful that the thoughtful and informative server had brought out silverware ahead of time (this monster was not chopstick friendly). It was however, cooked perfectly and highlighted with roasted garlic, oven-dried tomatoes and serrano chilies that delivered a kick to my partner with the very first bite.

Miso Chilean sea bass skewers ($14) were artfully arranged (as were all the dishes) and were expertly cooked, drizzled with a light sauce I assumed was more of the marinade along with a small garnish of house pickled vegetables.

Head-on giant shrimp.

I noticed a dish that I will rarely pass up and was thankful that I didn’t this time: Braised Pork Belly ($12). It was perfectly rendered, glazed with a butterscotch miso and fanned out on a cauliflower and green apple puree that balanced the rich meat. The garnish of roasted red grapes delivered a refreshing pop of sweetness that surprisingly made a great dish even better.

Two of the dishes we ordered seemed to miss the fusion mark. The Caesar salad ($11) was served with a poached egg on toast that looked to be an interesting twist, but lacked enough of the tequila-lime dressing. When we asked for a side of dressing, our attentive server returned apologetically, reporting that there was no more to be had. Perhaps they tried to fly one last salad out under the radar, and got caught.

The strawberry gazpacho ($10) sounded promising with lump crab and marcona almonds, and was served as a rather large portion. At first spoonful, the high acid content made us all pucker up as we fished for the tiny bits of crabmeat. I couldn’t overcome the tartness and gave up after several spoonfuls.

Caesar Salad.

After visiting our table to see how everything was, the manager couldn’t help but notice the two virtually untouched plates amongst others that had been completely devoured. As we raved about all of the wonderful dishes and voiced our concerns, both uneaten items were removed from our check. This also prompted a visit from Executive Chef Matt Zdeb, who has often been quoted as saying “I don’t want anyone to walk out of here unhappy,” and he welcomes any and all feedback from his guests.

Throughout our dining experience, we chatted up our server about the different life the restaurant took on in the later evening hours. Apparently, after the dinner hours, the place takes on a loud and young crowd, some after the smokin’ deals on appetizers and discounted libations.

My partner and I will most certainly be back to take advantage of another stellar deal that is available with their weekend brunch menu, $15 for bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s or micheladas and a live DJ on Sundays.

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