Katsura (Zaragoza Rd.)–El Paso, TX

Katsura Sushi Bar
1920 N. Zaragoza Rd.
El Paso, TX
(915) 857-2222
Katsura

Katsura


I have never been a big fan of the El Paso sushi restaurants, and spending time in Seattle convinced me that most of it is not really sushi at all (there are some exceptions, though, at a limited number or restaurants). For the most part the “California roll” type of sushi served here, as well as at most other sushi restaurants in the city, simply does not interest me. I do not order it, I do not review it, and I may be missing out on something great (but I really do not think so).

Instead, most of these restaurants have other things on the menu that I think is closer to “real” Japanese food. I give this disclaimer to readers that my rating, at least for this restaurant, is based on this part of the menu. Katsura has a large number of choices by El Paso standards, and it has more breadth to the menu than merely cooking the food on the grill in front of customers (another plus for this restaurant).

Although Katsura is not quite to the level of what I would call authentic Japanese food, it can satisfy my craving for Asian food better than many of the city’s other sushi restaurants.

The Restaurant
Katsura has three locations in El Paso, and one in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It is one of several local sushi restaurants that appear to have originated in Mexico and then opened locations in El Paso. I know that the major part of their business is the sushi, but all of them offer at least a few of what I would call “standard” Japanese items (Katsura offers more than most of the other restaurants).

I have not had a problem with MSG in any of the restaurants of this genre. This seems to be another plus for the Ciudad Juarez style sushi restaurants.

Unlike many of the Seattle restaurants, the hot tea here (and at most other El Paso restaurants) is not brewed and is not complimentary, but comes from bags and is a significant reason as to why I consider many meals here to be overpriced. I do like the fact, though, that Katsura (and other restaurants) offer jasmine tea in addition to the traditional green tea.

Chicken Yakisoba

Chicken yakisoba

Chicken yakisoba

On my initial visit I ordered the Chicken Yakisoba, a noodle dish with chicken and vegetables that was filling and had a good flavor. In my opinion it was better than similar dishes served at some of the competitors, but its main pitfall was the sweetness of the sauce. The flavor had many Asian components (I cannot name them but they probably included soy, ginger, garlic, etc.). Everything was fine except it was too sweet.

Chicken Yakiniku

Chicken yakiniku

Chicken yakiniku

The Chicken Yakiniku seems to be an item they have added to the menu recently, and it shows that the non-sushi part of the menu may be popular enough that they are expanding it. Not being a noodle dish, this one comes with rice (so it is equally as fillling as the yakisoba). It also had more chicken than the yakisoba as well as more vegetables, so in the amount of food you get I think it is comparable.

In the all important flavor component it was good. Probably the sauce was not as good as the yakisoba (it was described on the menu as sweet soy sauce), but it had a large amount of sesame seeds and it was not as sweet as the yakisoba. Probably the deciding factor for me was that I preferred the noodles and vegetables of the yakisoba to the large amount of broccoli and chicken in this dish.

Miso

Miso

This dish came with a complimentary Miso which I also liked. For any order that includes miso, I think this is a plus.

Other Observations
In El Paso the restaurants calling themselves “Sushi” seem to be less authentic than those calling themselves “Japanese.” This is a wildly generalized statement, but seems to be pretty reliable in my experience.

One disadvantage of the “sushi” restaurants is what they generally do not include on the menu, which is some of more traditional Japanese food. One example is tempura udon which Katsura does not serve, but which is one of my favorites at Riyoma.

Again speaking in generalities, the sauce at Katsura is too sweet (something it shares with most of the “sushi” restaurants). Other aspects of the food are good, though (and I think are better than at some of the other “sushi” restaurants).

Overall I do like the food here, but for the same money I think there are better choices at the city’s Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants.

If I ever get California rolls on my diet I might have a whole other reason to come here, but for now I think the non-sushi menu is not too bad.


RATING: 19

Cuisine: Japanese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 11, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Chicken Yakiniku, Chicken Yakisoba

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Chicken Yakiniku
star 4 Chicken Yakisoba

Coffee Emporium–El Paso, TX

Coffee Emporium
5827 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-2255
Coffee Emporium

Coffee Emporium


Although Coffee Emporium is quite popular and gets good reviews, it was not really on my radar until the time I visited. I do not drink coffee, and even having the chance to drink the best coffee (as in New Orleans) is not enough for me to acquire a taste for it. Nevertheless, the coffee here is reputed to be some of the best people have had.

What I know about this shop is that it had a long time owner who retired about 2017, and since that time it has done some minor things to reinvent itself. I think it downsized a little bit, but still maintains the theme of coffee plus treats (candy, etc.). I saw quite a large selection of sweets, which interest me even if I am not going to order any coffee.

The sweets are not made on site (I think some of them were before). What they have, though, is gourmet and comes from sources that seem to have been sought out so that customers would have the best items available.

Chocolate Candy

Coffee flavored chocolates

Coffee flavored chocolateses

I thought that since I was not drinking coffee that I would at least see if they had some good coffee flavored candy. The answer was yes to the coffee flavored part and yes to the good part. I certainly do not include every store I visit on the blog (mainly because of time constraints), but when I get very good leads that I want to share these will be included.

Sweet Shop box

Sweet Shop box

The coffee flavored chocolate came from a company in east Texas called Sweet Shop USA. I had never heard of them, but they make some very good chocolates.

The chocolates are sold individually, and I chose three that were made with different coffee flavors so that I could pick a favorite (at least in terms of coffee flavored candy).

It turned out that my favorite was the Latte (shown in the photo with a swirl on top). I thought I would like it less because it had more of a milk chocolate, but it had a strong coffee flavor (which is a good thing for candy) and had a good flavor overall.

The Cappuccino flavored chocolate had white stripes on top, and although I did not think the coffee flavor was as good as the latte, it had a very good chocolate flavor and overall was a very good candy.

The plain looking dark chocolate with a bean on top was Espresso. This completes the continuum on the scale that the chocolate was probably the best of all of them, but the coffee flavor was the least evident that I could tell.

All of the candies were very good and made an impression on me to the point that I wanted to include them in the blog.

Sweet Shop address

Sweet Shop address

There are many choices in El Paso for good candy, but the chocolates here were some of the best and most decadent I have had. I really enjoyed the coffee flavors, although they have many varieties of chocolate with other flavors.

I did not try their drinks but many people like them, and I can tell that much attention is paid to the details in the way they are made.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Coffee
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Sweet Shop Chocolates

Special Ratings

star 5 Sweet Shop Chocolates

Bella Cora–El Paso, TX

Bella Cora Bakery
7500 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 219-8365
Bella Cora

Bella Cora


I first learned about Bella Cora when they were selling bread at Whole Foods, and as long as this happened I think theirs was what I always bought. In Spring 2018, though, Whole Foods began baking their own versions of these breads and no longer sold the Bella Cora brand. Although many times Whole Foods produced an acceptable version of the same breads, I still wanted to get the original breads from time to time.

I had a hard time, though, figuring out when the bread was available, and several times went on the wrong day or went too late when they had already sold out (although in my mind it was still relatively early in the day).

I have since learned that I can look on their web site for the schedule of when the bread is sold. The ones I enjoyed the most from Whole Foods were the Cranberry Walnut and the Raisin Challah, and these are the ones I have tried to buy at the store.

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries seem to be Bella Cora’s best sellers, and there is good reason for this. The ones I tried ranked with Le Rendez-vous in Las Cruces as being the best I have tried in the area. They do not sell the exact same items, but I think the quality is very similar.

The display case on one hand presents a difficult challenge in deciding what to order. On the other hand, though, it seems that everything is good and I think I would be happy with anything they bake.

Bella Cora’s web site also points out that they have holiday pies for Thanksgiving.

Bread

Cranberry walnut bread

Cranberry walnut bread

The Cranberry Walnut Bread is my number one reason for coming to Bella Cora. It is only available one day per week (and only at the west side store), although their web site says they will try to have it for sale more often beginning in Fall 2019. The thing that makes it available so seldom is also what makes it so good–it is freshly made without preservatives. What Bella Cora’s web site does not specifically say is that the ingredients are top quality that put this in a special category of bakeries.

The Raisin Challah was the other bread sold in Whole Foods that I especially enjoyed (and like the Cranberry Walnut is now available only at the Bella Cora Bakery). While I think Whole Foods many times produces a reasonable approximation of Bella Cora’s Cranberry Raisin, I have not found this to be as true for the Challah bread.

Pastries

Chocolate hazelnut cake

Chocolate hazelnut cake

The Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is a pastry I chose at random to try, mainly because I could not remember having one anywhere else. I think most people can probably guess my verdict–it was exceptionally good like everything else I have tried from this bakery. I like to point out that Chinese pastries are good because they have the flavor without being overly sweet, and in a way this was the same. The cake was not as sweet as many, but it did have a strong butter flavor which made it over-the-top in a good way. There was a good balance between the chocolate and hazelnut flavors.

There is another location in east El Paso at 1830 Joe Battle Blvd. Bella Cora is a relatively new bakery, and is in the process of expanding their production as well as their locations. I would not have known about it if they had not had a presence in Whole Foods, but I think at this point the word is getting out and they have plenty of business. Just the pastries alone seem to give them a constant stream of customers (from what I have observed).


RATING: *

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Cranberry Walnut Bread, Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Special Ratings

star 5 Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
star 5 Cranberry Nut Bread
star 5 Raisin Challah Bread