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Nobuo Fukuda


Nobuo Fukuda is known as a James Beard Award-winning chef who pioneered a concept of pairing Japanese tapas-style dishes with wine at his first restaurant, Sea Saw (now closed), and at his present spot, Nobuo at Teeter House. Here, he serves a relaxed, izakaya-style menu, in addition to creative omakase, or chef’s tasting offerings.

But few know that Fukuda is also an EMT-certified ski patroller. To Fukuda, that he became as passionate about snowfall as sashimi just seems, well, logical.

As a wide-eyed youngster in Tokyo, Fukuda became obsessed with all things American, and a trip to the United States landed him in Arizona, where the Benihana restaurant chain was hiring. He went to work for several other local Japanese restaurants, then had an epiphany. “I came here to learn about America and Americans. I was spending all my time around Japanese.”

A skier, he applied for a job on the ski patrol at Sunrise Park Resort in Arizona’s White Mountains. “I had to learn CPR and get certified as an EMT,” he explains. “I spent about 10 years on the mountain, and learned about Americans.”

After moving back to Greater Phoenix and the world of cuisine, Fukuda launched his much-lauded Sea Saw in 2002. “It was a new style,” he notes. “My wife and I like wine, and people liked small plates. We began pairing wine with a new kind of Japanese food, using unusual ingredients.”

By 2010, Fukuda was ready for change and found space in a restored 1899 bungalow in downtown Phoenix’s Heritage & Science Park. There, dark woods, cozy rooms and a four-person bar serve as a backdrop for Fukuda’s earthy lunch and dinner options, such as pork belly buns, Washyugyu short ribs and sake-steamed clams. At the bar, he’ll also do omakase on weekends.

Has his EMT training come into play at his restaurant? “Thankfully, not so far.”


What do you always have in your refrigerator?

Besides beer and wine? Tofu, miso and ponzu sauce.

What is your favorite ethnic food restaurant?

Pho 43 Express, for Vietnamese food.


Who has the best wine list?

Cowboy Ciao


What restaurant has the best ambiance?

Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain. You’re in the middle of a farm, and you forget the city.

Quiessence at the Farm 600x400


What local chef do you admire and why?

Shinji Kurita of ShinBay. He has stayed true to his craft.


When guests come to visit, where do you take them?



What is the best restaurant for a date?

Going to a restaurant is work for my wife and me. We go to a movie instead.


What restaurant typifies Southwest cuisine?

Richardson’s or Los Dos Molinos


Photo via Facebook


Who has the best late-night dining?

Cafe Ga Hyang, a Korean restaurant that’s open until 2 a.m.


What is your favorite lunch spot?

I like the dumplings at Lucky’s King Wah, a Chinese restaurant.


What is the best family-friendly restaurant?

We’ve been going to a Vietnamese restaurant called Da Vang with our kids for years. It has healthy, delicious and interesting food.


Where do you go for great Mexican food?

I like Silvana Salcido Esparza’s Barrio Café.

Barrio Cafe 600x400


What restaurant do you frequent most often and why?

Pho 43 Express. It’s like they serve comfort food for me, with the mix of herbs and spices.

You can find Nobuo at:

Nobuo at Teeter House — 622 E. Adams St., Phoenix, (602) 254-0600


See the other chefs in this series: Justin Beckett, Mark Tarbell and Silvana Salcido Esparza.

By Nora Burba Trulsson. Originally printed in the 2015 Phoenix Official Travel Guide, published by Madden Media.