I must admit, when asked, i always insist that Compass Room is the best brunch in town, for the following reasons: 1. its reasonably priced, and by that I mean, its reasonable that you could actually eat enough to justify the price, which is around 30$. 2. its not scottsdale, which is a bonus, in my book, and 3. you're not faced with SO many options you can't get to taste anything. 4. EVERYTHING on the short list of items is made to absolute perfection.
which is why i should really dislike marquesa, but since it was someone else's dime today and the company was right, off i went.
first, i was surprised that it was so quiet, mid november, but it was. despite that, the food went on for miles and miles and it all looked great.
tattinger all around to start, with some OJ and some coffee, and then we were brought various rolls. imo, a complete and total waste, because when faced with miles and miles of food, one must be judicious about calories and just how much room you've got, and i am sure as hell not wasting it on pastry :) Infact, my plan is generally very wasteful: take a tiny bit of everything, eat a bite or two, abandon anything not absolutely amazing. Luckily, they help by making most servings very, very tiny.
first, i gravitated to the cold items. five types of smoked salmon and gravlox, massive shrimp and king crab legs, and various caviars, as well as duck breast, elk loin, pork loin, beef tenderloin, and a zillion different toppings for above. I went with a scallop, a shrimp crab cake, some champagne cured salmon and fennel cured salmon, a shrimp with remoulade, and some elk and duck, with a tomato cream sauce. The shrimp really stood out. I don't know what they do there, but they're fantastic, as was the remoulade. The duck breast was also done perfectly, although the elk had very little taste. The shrimp crab cake was good, but not amazing. The champagne gravlox was amazing, as were the caviars and creme fraiche. Crab legs was just eh.
Round 2: I headed to the grill station where there were various fish and meat available and asked for a lamb lollipop, medium rare to rare. There were a few warm veggie options, i took a piece of califlower in beurre blanc. That and some seared foie gras and I was headed back to the table. the lamb was atrocious, after a bite i abandoned it. overly done and very gamey, everyone at the table agreed. on the other hand, i struggled not to eat the entire generous piece of foie gras, with a mole sauce, done to perfection. Also, we agreed the cauliflower was excellent,although we each only had a bite. The other diners said the spinach, another option at the table, wasn't worthwhile. The last option had been a goat cheese polenta that no one tried, but looked very good.
On my last trip to the hot stations, i stopped by the eggs benedict station for some prime rib benedict (your choices were florentine, traditional, crab or prime rib), with horseradish hollandaise, a crab crepe, and a few items from the tapas table, which was simply stocked to the gills with amazing looking tapas. The crepe was dry and worthless, but the benedict was a standout. As well the tapas I tried were fantastic, a pork stuffed grape leaf, some veggies and mozzarella.
We were all wowed by the cheese station, at which there were 15 different cheeses, with an attendant stationed to help you make choices. We agreed to take a sample of each back to the table, and to accompany them with the various fruits at the overly stocked fruit bar. Now, I know... who bothers with fruit with all the options there, but we're not talking cantalope here. passion fruit, dragon fruit, every concievable foreign fruit, and the berries looked phenomenal. The cheeses, of which we each took a bite or two, were amazing, a really great range. The soft cheeses really stood out to me.
While we'd been very sparingly eating from our plates over the course of the 2 hours we'd been there, no one wanted to pass up dessert, although we agreed we'd far exceeded the acceptable caloric intake for a year. But as you might expect, it looked great. We all took a creme brulee, smartly done in a wonton soup spoon. Personally, i also grabbed a fruit tart about 1" in diameter, and a few chocolate covered strawberries, a personal fave. Others grabbed cheesecakes, chocolate bombes and assorted other fanciful looking items.
The creme brulee was perfect. JUST enough, about a mouthful. The strawberries were a mysterious letdown, the berries themselves were bleh, but perhaps by then i'd just overloaded my palate :) The fruit tart was good, but I find those hard to screw up. Everyone adored the desserts they tried.
Overall, my impression still holds.... WAY too much stuff, and frankly, a lot of it was a letdown. I didn't even try (nor would i have wasted space on) the pasta station, or the prepared meal station featuring short ribs, paella and something else forgettable, and yet another station of pastries. I didn't get to try as much tapas as I'd have liked. I really feel like if they had even half the items, it would maintain its popularity and perhaps the items could all be superb.
That said, I was invited back with everyone and of course, i'd go, and this time would know exactly what to head for.
Shrimp, eggs benedict, foie gras, shrimp, gravlox and cheeses. Wait, that sounds awfully pedestrian, doesn't it? Well, i guess thats my point. What stood out where mostly standards. And if it was MY dime? I'd never bother. by the time the bill arrived, I snuck a peek, and should have been more shocked, but it ended up at about 100$ a person. I don't mind spending money on food, but as far as I'm concerned, there are many places in the valley to get better food out of 100$.
Thanks for the report. I haven't been to Marquesa in quite a while for brunch, but I remember it being quite impressive and mostly very good. I agree that it is just too much food and too many choices. Another option for a smaller brunch is T. Cooks at the Royal Palms. I believe the buffet part itself is now $29, but you can get an entree for about $10 and the buffet is then $19. The choices are less, but the quality is fantastic, and it is a great setting.
with the holidays around the corner and a few brunches lined up where i need to take people out, etc, I may well do that. Compass Room is the same way, an entree is included. And no matter how good it is, i always think how unneccesary it is because WHO can eat by the time it arrives?
T. Cook's brunch, mentioned above, continues to be my favorite due to its consistent quality and focus. I don't feel as overwhelmed there as I do at the Phoenician, and the damage to my wallet is less. I've not been to the Marquesa in ages and should make a point to get back there sometime for a splurge.
As for the Compass Room -- For the first few years that I lived in Phoenix, I tried it at least once a year for both dinner and brunch, hoping that someday the food would match the view. It never happened, and I eventually gave up on the Compass Room for good. Please understand, my comments are not offered with the intention of questioning anyone's taste. I am just surprised to hear a good review and would appreciate learning more about what the Compass Room is doing right these days.
oh, none taken. i've been three times in the last few years and only for brunch, so I speak only for that.
its by no means as expansive as marquesa, and its like comparing apples and oranges to some degree. while the entress are as good as the marquesa's offerings, the buffet is quite simple, but i found all the items to be good and uncomplicated. pot stickers, sushi, and those truly fantastic doughnuts they make, shrimp, etc. Its certainly more casual.
I*'m definitely going to try T Cooks.