This was my second time to Scottsdale and Phoenix in Arizona, and I remain markedly impressed by the food scene. So many great restaurants serving fantastic food, fun ambiance, and terrific service. Other than for the weather, most people seem go to Arizona to golf – I go there to eat. Read on to check out my reviews of Chelsea’s Kitchen, Citizen Public House, J&G Steakhouse, and Zinc Bistro.
For some reason I was expecting Chelsea’s Kitchen to be more of a casual, understated restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be happening and a little more upscale than I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still laid back and a great place for any occasion. But how busy they are is a tribute to the fact that they’re doing things right.
The patio was gorgeous, with the sun peaking through a lush, green canopy of leafy trees, inclusive of many cheerful birds.
Last time I ordered deviled eggs was also in Arizona, and I couldn’t pass up another opportunity. They were fantastic. I loved the minced pickles in the filling, The bacon is optional and for me they served it on the side. I appreciated that the eggs were brought out immediately upon ordering them, no wait necessary.
The Howie Burger may have been the best burger I’ve ever had (havarti, caramelized red onions, dijon sauce). Their burger meat is 100% Strauss grass-fed chuck from American family farms ground for service only.
They recommend either rare or medium rare – I went with the latter. And you get a choice of french fries, fresh vegetables, kale slaw, or heirloom cannellini beans. I opted for the kale slaw, which was very tasty, and I liked the addition of grapes (it did have some quinoa, which I typically avoid). The burger was phenomenal (I got it bunless) – so juicy, flavorful, and tender. I loved the caramelized onions, and the burger had the perfect amount of cheese. Plus, it was massive. I’ve never had a burger quite like it.
My friend had the award winning Short Rib Tacos (certified angus beef, braised). The portion size was generous. The short ribs were very tender. The sauce had some nice kick to it. The guacamole was creamy.
And you could have as many taco shells as you’d like, but they were brought out a few at a time in order to keep them warm. I can see why this dish is so popular.
Service was terrific – I like it when there are several servers sharing a section rather than only one. That way, whoever happens to be in the area can help out and you end up getting much more attentive service (at least this has been my experience).
Overall, I loved Chelsea’s Kitchen. If it were located in Vancouver, I’d no doubt be a regular.
Citizen Public House
I love the ambiance at Citizen Public House – funky, yet chill.
Service was terrific – knowledgeable and helpful, and great at making recommendations and helping you decide (I like it when servers aren’t afraid to express their opinions – telling me that everything is good is not helpful). And I love that the menu stated which items are gluten-free, and the server knew which of the non-gf ones could be made so. Plus, the majority of the items were already gluten-free.
For an appetizer, my friend and I shared the Burrata (Gioia burrata, eggplant puree, marinated grape tomatoes, kale, bread crumbs). It was good, a creative take with the eggplant puree (although I personally wasn’t a fan of it). But the burrata itself was nowhere as creamy as it should’ve been.
We decided to share two mains, both of which were delicious. We ordered the Roasted Buttermilk Chicken (Smart Chicken breast, sweet corn-butter bean succotash, roasted Brussels sprouts, truffle oil, pecorino Romano). The chicken was moist and tender. But my favourite part was the incredibly crispy and flavorful skin. The corn succotash was great, very smoky – but since I’m paleo (no corn or beans), I gave most of it to my friend, who loved the beans.
We also ordered the Fair Trade Short Ribs (coffee rub, dried cherry bbq sauce, roasted parsnip puree and seasonal veg). These short ribs stole the show. They were fall-apart-in-your-mouth-tender. The portion was generous, and the parsnip puree was very tasty. I also loved the kale (which I almost never rave about). And my favourite part of this dish was the bbq cherry sauce with whole cherries – I could eat that by the spoonful. All the components complemented each other. I absolutely loved this dish.
Overall, a fantastic night with awesome food, and service to match.
Chowing down on some steak at a full on steakhouse was on the Arizona bucket list. J&G fit the bill perfectly. It’s part of the J&G group of restaurants, owned by Michelin starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It’s located at Westin’s Phoenician Resort. First of all, the views are absolutely stunning – so vast, you can se all the way across the valley. The day we were there, it had just rained (yes, sadly it dose rain in Arizona – and it’s quite the experience, it comes out of nowhere and pours down hard, monsoon style). So we were treated to some dramatic skies and double rainbows – I was actually hoping for a lightshow in the form of lighting, which didn’t happen.
The ambiance is high-end, sophisticated steakhouse. There was live music (a fantastic singer/pianist) at the entrance, with the music being played on speakers throughout the restaurant. I love live music at restaurants, and she elevated the dining experience to another level.
Service was professional. But although our server wasn’t technically doing anything wrong, it would’ve been nice if he had made an effort to be a little more friendly. Also, typically when I inquire if a menu item is gluten-free, I get all sorts of suggestions and explanations, and more often than not, get walked through the menu as to what could be made gluten-free, all without my asking. And most restaurants now mark gluten-free items. This one did neither. This wasn’t really a problem for me personally, as I can navigate my way around a menu quite easily. But, it’s definitely an area that could use some improvement.
As for the food, it was top notch. My friend and I each ordered the Filet Mignon with Béarnaise sauce, and shared sides of Chanterelles (off-menu special) and Potato Gratin with Comté.
The filet mignon was phenomenal. It was cooked perfectly medium-rare. The entire steak was incredibly tender throughout. Simply put, it was a beautiful piece of meat. It’s a USDA prime cut that’s been wet aged 21 days, which I think speaks to the quality of the meat since 21 days isn’t all that long, and it’s wet and not dry aged.
The steak came with two tasty peppers. The béarnaise sauce was delicious. I loved the tarragon flavour, and the frothiness. The chanterelles were awesome. And the potato gratin was outstanding – creamy, cheesy, and crispy. I could’ve eaten another serving for dessert.
When’s the last time you saw Cherries Jubilee (pistachio ice cream, kirsch-flambé) on a dessert menu? This was a first for me, and I had to have it. They prepared it tableside! Although I wish the flambé flame was bigger. I asked for the vanilla sponge cake to be served on the side. The cherries were delicious – just the right amount of boozy. The candied pistachios added a nice crunch. The pistachio ice ream was lovely. My friend really liked the sponge cake. And all the components worked together very well. I loved that it wasn’t overly sweet. It was a terrific finish to the dinner.
Also, I tried the cocktail that they’re known for: Ginger Margarita (Sauza ‘Hornitos’ Reposado Tequila, Ginger, Lime, Ginger Salt). The last memorable margarita I had was in Phoenix (Bandera), so when I heard this was their signature drink, I had to order it. It was probably the best margarita I’ve ever had. The flavors were dancing around in my mouth – a contrast of spicy and sour. It was complex, and not too boozy. I absolutely loved this drink. I also enjoyed the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s #1, Cointreau, Lime, Cucumber, Mint, Ginger Ale), which again came highly recommended.
The meal at J&G was simply fantastic. All of the food was extremely well executed, and the setting was unforgettable. Highly recommended.
We stopped by Zinc Bistro for a quick lunch. Service was good. It seemed like a very popular spot as it was still quite busy mid-afternoon, long after the noon hour rush.
I had the Prime Flat Iron Steak and Iceberg Salad (Roquefort, Haricot Vert and Walnuts). Presentation was lovely. The steak was tender. And the salad was fresh, crunchy, and tasty. I also really liked the dressing. A terrific salad on all counts.
My friend had the Coq au Vin (bacon, pearl onion, mushroom, mire poix, polenta). It was also very tasty, and nicely presented, but the portion was definitely on the small side.
Overall, I was pleased with lunch and would return to try more of the menu.
Maestro’s Ocean Club
As an aside, my friend and I were looking for a venue with live music, and Maestro’s kept coming up in the searches. There is a restaurant section in the front, and what we learned to pretty much be a lounge/club in the back. The band was very good – the set list was killer, one cover hit after another. We just had some drinks and didn’t have any of the food, but service was great – attentive and friendly.
If you’re looking to experience Phoenix, I’d highly recommend stopping by, if only just once. This place was happening. And it made for some highly entertaining people watching. I should probably mention at this point that the demographic was quite a bit older than us. Average age would’ve probably been mid 50’s.
What do you think, did I miss any great spots I should check out next time?