SCOT January/February 2014 : Page 102

Phoenix is no desert of culinary talent. From star-powered signature eateries and elegant neighborhood bistros to happening hot spots and cozy cafes, here are 50 of our favorite reasons to celebrate the Valley’s epicurean highs. Consider yourself served. By nikki Buchanan and GeorGann yara the 50 Finest on toP Otro’s chilaquiles—three layered tostadas with melted Oaxaca cheese, chicken and ranchero sauce, then topped with two fried eggs and cilantro

Restaurants The 50 Finest

Nikki Buchanan And Geqrgann Yara

Phoenix is no desert of culinary talent. From star-powered signature eateries and elegant neighborhood bistros to happening hot spots and cozy cafes, here are 50 of our favorite reasons to celebrate the Valley’s epicurean highs. Consider yourself served.

Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend Attached to The Yard (a hot hangout by serial restaurateur Sam Fox), Little Cleo’s looks like an old-fashioned East Coast oyster bar, replete with gleaming white tiles and bivalves on ice. But oysters should be the prelude to standouts such as housemade sturgeon “bacon,” crispy frog legs in Thai chili sauce and grilled loup de mer. 5632 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602.680.4044, foxrc.com/ restaurants/little-cleos-seafood-legend

Market Street Kitchen

Thanks to the Southern swagger Executive Chef Matt Taylor has given his New American menu (think shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes), MSK has become a convivial North Scottsdale gathering place, beloved for its modern-rustic decor, curving center-stage bar and creative cocktails, courtesy of resident mixologist Rich Heider. 20825 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480.278.7044, marketstreetkitchen.com

Otro

Born and raised near Mexico City, chef-owner Doug Robson channels his childhood at this clean-lined North Phoenix cafe, offering the upscale tacos, tortas and guacamole that made him famous at Gallo Blanco. This time, however, he’s mixing things up, adding an irresistible dried cranberry-studded quinoa salad, earthy mole and a Spanish-style tapas plate you’ll be tempted to lick clean. 6035 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602. 266.0831, otrocafe.com

Phoenix Public Market Café

Aaron Chamberlin has invited locals to make his airy, brickwalled cafe a downtown hub for superior coffee, stellar baked goods and elevated three squares (which often incorporate rotisserie meats). The fireplace-furnished patio and the indoor-outdoor bar are huge draws. 14 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602.253.2700, phxpublicmarket.Com

T. COOK'S California's loss is our gain, because chef Paul McCabe has had tongues wagging ever since he returned to Arizona last year. Formerly at Lauberge Del Mar Resort and Spa in San Diego, the Sedona native has taken T. Cook's in new directions, putting updated Southwest spins on the menu's Spanish themes and showcasing pristine local ingredients and bold composition. The resulting dishes are modern yet classic, edgy yet accessible.Royal Palms Resort and Spa, 5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.840.3610, tcooksdining.com

PIG & PICKLE

Housemade charcuterie, braised pork belly and porkshoulder tostadas are the raison d'etre at this funky neighborhood joint, where chef-partners Keenan Bosworth and Josh Riesner (both former chefs at Atlas Bistro) bake their own breads and make their own pickles. After 9PM, the place is packed with restaurant-industry folks, who flock for scrapple and wood oven-roasted bone marrow.2922 N. Hayden Road, Scottsdale, 480. 990.1407, pigandpickle.com

RENEGADE BY MOD

Here chef-owner Michael O'Dowd's (of Kai fame), unconventional modern style takes the shape of a quirky, bicycle-themed resto in North Scottsdale. Expect brass and whimsy from this renegade, who serves amuse-bouche on a skateboard deck, and Indiainspired chips and dip from an ashtray. 9343 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, 480.614.9400, renegadescottsdale.Com

THE GLADLY

The talented trio who brought us the Valley's best iteration of a gastropub (Citizen Public House in 2011) recently opened this bustling New American in the Camelback Corridor. Here, chef Bernie Kantak's menu wanders the map. Don't miss cumin-fig-glazed lamb riblettes, coffee-charred short ribs or heady chocolate pot de creme, flavored with smoky lapsang souchong tea. 2201 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602. 759.8132, thegladly.com

OTHE HOUSE BRASSERIE

Apparently, chef-partner Matt Carter can do anything: classic French (Zinc Bistro), Latin American (The Mission) and now, wildly creative New American fare that encompasses pork belly with kimchee, udon noodle and fried egg; red wine-braised beef tongue with scallion crepe and Sriracha aioli; and pastrami brisket with polenta. 6936E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480.634.1600, thehousebrasserie.Com

VIRTU HONEST CRAFT

Anyone who's followed Gio Osso's career (Sugo, Luc's, Estate House) knows he has talent. But now, at the intimate Virtu, his soulful but elegantly plated food is quite simply off the charts. Order anything—plump diver scallops, Moroccan-inspired lamb, seared branzino with Marcona almond butter. Osso never misses. 3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480. 946.3477, virtuscottsdale.Com

WORTH-IT SPLURGES

Black River Osetra Caviar, Christopher’s Restaurant and Crush Lounge Enjoy the connoisseur’s choice of caviar. Chef Christopher Gross serves 30 grams of this coveted Russian variety with creme fraiche, lemon and toasted brioche points. $140, 2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602. 522.2344, christophersaz.com

Bill ionaire’s Brunch, Central Bistro

Requiring 48 hours’ advance notice, this indulgence includes four orders of Gold Leaf French toast accompanied by a slab of foie gras, fresh truffles and a hand-pressed truffle maple reduction; plus a magnum of 1964 Delamotte Brut Champagne to wash it all down. $3,500 for four, 3160 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 480.646.8560, centralbistroaz.com

Wagyu Tomahawk Steak, J&G Steakhouse

Just grains of salt and pepper grace this 32-ounce, 21-day wet-aged Australian wagyu beef steak, which is prepared tableside to a perfect medium rare. $130, 6000 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 480.214.8000, jgsteakhousescottsdale.com

Om akase, Roka Akor

Requiring 72 hours’ advance notice, Executive Chef German Sega’s omakase experience enables him to be chef, profiler and artist all in one when crafting these multicourse feasts to suit individual guests. $200, 7299 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480. 306.8800, rokaakor.com

Winemaker’s Brunch on Rabbit Island, FnB Sip Champagne on the 20-minute flight departing from the Scottsdale Airpark and enjoy brunch with FnB owners Pavle Milic and Charleen Badman, who are in charge of cuisine. Each meal will be paired with wines from a specific Arizona winery, and the winemaker will be there to eat, drink and be merry with you. Count on the charms of the very likable Milic and Badman to round out this memorable event. $350, 7125 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 480.284.4777, fnbrestaurant.com

Brent Karlicek, WINDSOR

Upward Projects' beverage director likes to unwind with the balanced yet complex layers of the Sazeraccognac- sweet vermouthbased Vieux Carre. "I love pure ingredients, artfully combined to create cocktails that are complex but highly drinkable," he says. "We want to make cocktails that... enhance the dining experience." 5223 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602.279.1111, windsoraz.com

Micah Olson, BAR CRUDO

Blenders need not apply when Olson's mixing up That Dram Daiquiri, his twist on the classic fresh lime-rooted original that is simple, but requires precision. It's made with El Dorado 12-year Demerara Rum, smith & Cross Jamaican Rum and a touch of St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. "i've added a little twist by adding allspice dram to the mix, which pairs well with rum and grows like crazy in Jamaica and other island countries," he says. 3603 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602.358.8666, barcrudo.com

Rich Heider,

MARKET STREET KITCHEN

Heider's inventiveness puts him at the top of the charts. A splash of prickly pear syrup delivers the desert twist in his ginbased refresher, the Southwest Cooler. "This is a bright, vibrant cocktail that is easy to drink," he says. "Great citrus notes, not too sweet, and the prickly pear and mint add some great flavors." 20825 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480.278.7044, marketstreetkitchen.Com

Richie Moe,

CITIZEN R+D

In Moe's Manhattan, a dose of real maple syrup plays nicely with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. "This cocktail's ingredients transform a classic Manhattan into the perfect rendition for this festive time of year," he says. 7111 E. Fifth Ave., Scottsdale, 602. 904.3904, citizenpublichouse.Com/rd

Travis Nass,

LAST DROP BAR

Nass' Old-Fashioned with Old Potero Whiskey, sugar, bitters and lemon is his fave creation. "I use quality boutique spirits, fresh produce and housemade ingredients to craft cocktails based on classic pre-Prohibition recipes," he says. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley,602. 955.7878, hermosainn.Com/lons/last-drop-bar

Elevated Desserts

French Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Tarte, Essence Bakery Cafe Trained at Paris’ Ecole Lenôtre, Eugenia Theodosopoulos is one of the city’s best pastry chefs, as her chocolate tarte proves. With a crumbly crust, amber caramel, sea salt and dark chocolate ganache, it’s sublime sophistication in a tiny package. 3830 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602.296.4958; 825 W. University Drive, Tempe, 480.966.2745, essencebakery.com

CARROT CAKE ,

Pizzeria Bianco

At his charming Town & Country location, pizza wizard Chris Bianco turns desserts over to his mother, Francesca, whose sometimes rustic, always irresistible repertoire includes a heavenly, whipped cream-smoothed carrot cake. Fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a lighter, fluffier rendition that redefines the genre. 4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602.368.3273, pizzeriabianco.com

Lemon Crepe, Crepe Bar

Jeff Kraus uses molecular gastronomy to achieve a classic French lemon crepe that technically isn’t. Don’t ask about the citric acid, the pasteurized egg or the circulator. Just take a bite and you’ll see. It’s ultratender, a little tart, a little sweet, and jazzed up with hibiscus gel and lemon zest. 7520 S. Rural Road, Tempe, 480.247.8012, crepe-bar.com
Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta, Rancho Pinot

In the fall, chef-owner Chrysa Robertson’s lemon verbena panna cotta—a silky vanilla bean-flecked custard—is accompanied by passion fruit syrup studded with persimmon and pomegranate seeds; in winter, candied kumquats; and in late spring, musky mulberries. Each version is so good it’s hard to pick a favorite. 6208 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480. 367.8030, ranchopinot.com

Merenghata,

Franco’s Italian Caffe

Tuscan-born chef-owner Franco Fazzuoli learned to make merenghata from his grandmother. The recipe combines amaretto semifreddo (a luscious mashup of whipped cream and custard) with baked Italian meringue for an exquisitely creamy, crunchy confection like no other.4327 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480. 481.7614, francosscottsdale.com

Incredible Views

Elements

Skylights and slide-away glass walls in the Praying Monk patio room showcase dramatic mountainscapes and Sanctuary’s fine aesthetics— perfect punctuation to chef Beau MacMillan’s creations. Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, 5700 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, 480.607.2300, sanctuaryoncamelback.com/food/elements.html

Geor die ’s Restaurant and Lounge at Wrigley Mansion

Fortunately, recent renovations haven’t changed the breathtaking views from this historic building. The mountains, sunset and twinkling city lights transform the most casual midweek meal into an upscale affair. 2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, 602.955.4079, wrigleymansionclub.com/geordies.php

Gertrude’s

Pairing fresh farm-to-table and pasture-to-table offerings with the tranquil beauty of the desert’s natural stage, Gertrude’s at the Desert Botanical Garden serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch dishes that perfectly enhance the already divine surroundings. 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, 480. 719.8600, gertrudesrestaurant.net

Different Pointe of View

From nearly 2,000 feet above the city, take in panoramic views, stunning sunsets and an ocean of sparkling nighttime lights. A must: Enjoy a nightcap and housemade dessert liqueur marshmallows at the fire pit on the Terrace Room’s patio. Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, 11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602.866.6350, tapatiocliffshilton.Com/different-pointe-of-view-restaurant

CHEFS of the moment

Kevin Binkley, Binkley’s, Café Bink, Bink’s Midtown, Bink’s Scottsdale

Owner-chef Binkley debuted small plate-focused Bink’s Midtown last spring, and its counterpart, Bink’s Scottsdale, in December. Who would have guessed casual dining would interest this techniqueobsessed molecular gastronomist— or that he could do it so well? Binkleysrestaurant.com; cafebink.com; binksmidtown; binksscottsdale.com

Aaron Chamberlin, St. Francis, Phoenix Public Market Café

Last year, business-savvy Chamberlin gambled on a faltering but lovely space adjacent to the Phoenix Public Market, which he dreamed of transforming into a downtown hub predicated upon healthy eats. Now, he’s making it happen, with rotisserie meats, lots of veggies and delectable baked goods. Stfrancisaz.Com; phxpublicmarket.com

Lori Hashimoto, Hana Japanese Eatery

Her brother may call her “little knife” in jest, but there’s nothing diminutive about sushi chef Hashimoto’s talent. She knows exactly when to break with Japanese tradition and when to honor it, which may be why Hana is a favorite hangout for local chefs.Hanajapaneseeatery.com

Bernie Kantak, Citizen Public House, The Gladly

Tell modest Kantak he’s a “chef of the moment,” and he’d probably hoot in embarrassment, but his cuisine (New American, with influences from his Eastern European roots) at both his restaurants has never been better. Citizenpublichouse.com; thegladly.com

Chris Curtiss, Bourbon Steak

Steak restaurants are seldom viewed as culinary playgrounds, but Curtiss (of Noca fame) seems to be having nothing but fun at this meatcentric Michael Mina outpost, where his beautifully composed plates of meat and seafood (the latter his forte) reveal artistry and Asian inspiration. Fairmontscottsdaleprincess.com/dining/bourbon-steak

EXPERIMENTAL Experiences

Kai

For the quintessential Arizona dining experience, nothing tops Kai, the Valley’s only AAA five-diamond, Forbes Travel Guide five-star restaurant. Chef de Cuisine Josh Johnson carefully researches Native American ingredients and dishes, artfully blending them with classical technique to create an elevated cuisine totally unique to our state.Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, 5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler,602. 225.0100, wildhorsepass.Com/kai-restaurant.html

POSH IMPROVISATIONAL CUISIN

Chef-owner Josh Hebert riffs like a jazz musician without the benefit of a set menu. Given the evening's selection of ingredients (wild boar, sweetbreads and frog legs are possibilities), diners select likes and dislikes, leaving the rest up to Hebert's fertile imagination. 7167 E. Rancho Vista Drive, Scottsdale, 480.663.7674, poshscottsdale.com

Binkley’s

A typically extravagant night here might start with 15 flamboyant amusebouche courses before the meal is even officially underway. Binkley forages luxurious ingredients to take diners on a French-inspired magic carpet ride, leaving them sated and in wonder, a state of mind abetted by the excellent wine list. 6920 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480.437.1072, binkleys.com

SHINBAY

Shinji kurita, the chef-owner behind this elegantly designed Japanese enclave, sources the world's best seafood (giant prawns from Madagascar, kumamoto oysters, sweet spot prawns from santa barbara and keiji salmon from hokkaido) to create dazzling and unique multicourse omakase dinners that start at $100. Shinbay seats no more than 1 4 people per night, so a reservation is a must. 7001 N. scottsdale road, scottsdale, 480. 664.0180, shinbay.com

NOBUO AT TEETER HOUSE

In a 100-year-old craftsman bungalow in Heritage Square, James Beard award winner Nobuo Fukuda serves up traditional Japanese fare with a dose of modern American experimentation. The results? Dishes so artfully composed it almost seems a shame to eat them. 622 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 602.254.0600, nobuofukuda.com

happening hot spots

The Arrogant Butcher When legislative committee heads, union officials, lobbyists and other government who’s who want to mix business and pleasure over lunch or happy hour, this downtown Phoenix restaurant is one of the watering holes of choice. 2 E. Jefferson, Phoenix, 602. 324.8502, foxrc.com/restaurants/the-arrogant-butcher

St. Francis

When not privately booked, the mezzanine provides extra seating at peak times: Friday and Saturday nights, and weekend brunch hours. Insiders know to reserve a table on the mezzanine so they can avoid the crowd and overlook the bustle below while dining. 111 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.200.8111, stfrancisaz.com

Pizzeria Bianco

Here’s where Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart fell in love with Chris Bianco’s pies; the wrap party for a Jerry Seinfeld movie unfolded; and the city’s pro sports bigwigs woo top prospects. And Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t show up to just anyone’s wedding, but he did to Bianco’s in 2013. 623 E. Adams St., Phoenix, 602. 258.8300, pizzeriabianco.com

Sushi Roku

In the ultrahip W Scottsdale, this sleek restaurant and lounge sees plenty of glam patrons from L.A. and Vegas passing through town. Order elegant bites, sip on pretty cocktails, dress the part and people will wonder if you’re “someone.” 7277 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale,480. 970.2121, innovativedining.Com/restaurants/sushiroku.com

Del Frisco’s Grille,

the Summit Bar

Here you can take in a 270-degree view practically reserved for those at the top of the food chain. Mostly known to insiders, the bar is the after-business hours home to Camelback’s usually reserved power players who come here to let their hair down. 2425 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.466.2890, delfriscosgrille.com/phoenix

Patios Perfect for Brunch

Lon's at the Hermosa

Verdant landscaping, mountain views and a fireplace right out of a romantic movie make it impossible to resist a leisurely morning lingering over huevos rancheros, shortrib hash or a freshly baked hunk of brioche here. While wandering, take a peek at the organic half-acre garden outside the kitchen that provides more than 20 fragrant herbs, citrus and produce which are used in a variety of Lon's dishes as well as cocktails at the Last Drop Bar. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley, 602.955.7878, hermosainn.com/lons

PRADQ

Pretty floral and fauna touches, the soothing sounds of a fountain in the background and Old World architecture whisk brunch patrons away on a quick escape to a Mediterranean cafe or Italian osteria, sans the lengthy wait through customs. Savor a frittata or brioche French toast, or stroll the breakfast buffet line. Get there at noon or later and imbibe with bottomless mimosas. Montelucia Resort & Spa, 4949 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, 480.627.3004, montelucia.com/prado

THE HOUSE BRASSERIE

If you yearn for a comfy brunch on your patio but don't have the energy to whip up warm mascarpone crepes with fig and huckleberry or roast pink lady apples to accompany hot Dutch pancakes, this homey spot is an excellent stand-in. Creating an intimate outdoor dining space isn't easy, but it's incredibly easy to feel perfectly at home here. 6936E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480.634.1600, thehousebrasserie.Com

IL TERRAZZO

Kick back on this scenic patio surrounded by palms, succulents and colorful blooms, and opt for the three-course prixfixe menu, with selections like roasted figs with burrata and balsamic, or the hash stack with green chili pork, hash browns, egg and a tortilla. The Phoenician, 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480.423.2530, thephoenician.com/ilterrazzo

WRIGHT'S AT THE BILTMORE

The resort's signature restaurant hasn't lost a step over the decades. Enjoy a kir royal or the specialty tequila sunrise alongside everything from cinnamon pancakes to the Wright Way Benedict—a rich combo of smoked pork loin and wild mushroom on an English muffin and bathed in tomato hollandaise. Arizona Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602.381.7632, arizonabiltmore.com

Read the full article at http://digital.modernluxury.com/article/Restaurants+The+50+Finest/1593255/189767/article.html.

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