Review: Fenix Eatery & Bar - Phoenix (w/ photos!)
- Seth Chadwick Aug 4, 2007 03:01 AM
One of the great benefits of food blogging is not only the great food I encounter, but also some of the other fellow bloggers out there that appreciate the finer points of a great cheese crisp or a delicious meal at a white linen tablecloth type of restaurant. For some time now, I have been exchanging emails and comments on food boards with Tim (Firenza00 on this board) and Tara (tara17 on this board) and we decided to meet up at some new-to-us restaurant to see if we could tolerate each other in person instead of just online, and for them to strong arm me for information on J., Madge, and other people in my life.
After some discussion we decided on Fenix Eatery & Bar located at 40th Street and Camelback in the small strip mall on the southwest corner. I made reservations for 7 PM and I arrived first, checking in and taking a seat. I recognized Tim and Tara from their descriptions and walked them back to the table which was at the very back of the dining room right in front of the kitchen. After taking our seats, our server arrived with menus and told us of the specials. I was the only one who ordered a beverage, a Diet Coke for $2.50.
We were already involved in intense discussions about restaurants when our server returned asking if we were ready to order. We weren’t, so we focused on the menu which featured a decent array of selections. After some thought, we placed our order. Tim and Tara started their meal with the Onions Soup Gratinee ($7.00 each) and I chose the Mixed Field Greens Salad ($5.00). Our entrees included the Long Island Ducking A L’Orange ($19.00) for Tim, the Coq Au Vin ($19.00) for Tara, and the Paillard of Pork ($17.00) for myself. To add to their meal, Tim and Tara ordered the Macaroni & Cheese ($8.00) while I asked for an order of the French Fries ($5.00).
Our server departed and we began discussing Madge’s hairdos. The look of horror on the faces of Tim and Tara was priceless when I told them about Madge showing up at Durant’s in a traditional beehive hairdo. We also discussed all things Minnesota since Tara is from Minnesota and I think I surprised her by knowing what “hot dish” was or that you could go to Taco John’s for Mexican food or that pasties were all the rage. I did forget to mention Jell-O molds with floaty bits in them. In return, Tara told me all about how crunched up potato chips will make any dish that much better. I immediately thought that potato chips on a cheese crisp is the Devil. D. E. V. I. L. Tim just smiled along knowingly.
Our server returned with a fresh Diet Coke and also a baskek of bread. In the basket was three medium-sized pieces of very dense bread. One was plain on top and the other two were seasoned with poppy and sesame seeds. The bread itself was very good. The density was appealing to me and I think it was as well to Tim and Tara as we gobbled our respective loaves up quickly. I liked the fact that they served it with unsalted butter, but the butter was rather hard and I had difficulty spreading it.
My Field Green Salad arrived on a very large plate and a mound of salad to accompany it. The various greens were a dark green, crisp and fresh. I liked the addition of the seeded tomato skins that were set out in a decorative pattern. The sherry vinaigrette dressing was outstanding. It only had a slight air of sweetness, but a very pungent and tart vinegary edge that made it a winner in my book. The salad was simple, pretty and delicious. I was very happy with this selection.
The Onion Soup Gratinee arrived for Tim and Tara and the little crocks of soup sported a classical presentation of the soup. The crocks were layered with a film of melted cheese on top. Both dove into their soups and the initial reaction was a positive one. Both said the soup was very good with a robust broth. Tim and Tara said there was plenty of cheese on top, but Tim noted - with Tara in agreement - that the soup simply wasn’t hot enough. “It needs to be about 10 or 11 degrees hotter,” Tim stated. Unfortunately, the temperature wasn’t hot enough to melt the cheese fully and the cheese began to coagulate into a large chunk which wasn’t very pleasing to Tara. Still, they did like the flavor of the soup and did a good job of erasing all signs of the soup.
Shortly after Tim and Tara had finished their soups, they were presented with smaller versions of my salad. The presentation was identical, only in miniature form. I was a bit disappointed that there had been no notation on the menu or by our server that a salad was served as a precursor with our meals. Had that happened, I would have selected one of the other starters. Tim and Tara enjoyed the salad and agreed the dressing was outstanding.
As we waited for our entrees, I got a chance to take in the interior. It certainly wasn’t upscale French nor French bistro, but it had a nice New York hip feel to it. The seating was comfortable and the decoration was minimalist. I thought the space was well thought out. Our only concern was the lighting which was exceptionally low. So low that I had problems reading the menu and Tim noted that he would have problems seeing his entree when it arrived.
We waited about 15 minutes before our entrees arrived. Tara’s Coq Au Vin was a deep, rustic French chicken stew including pearl onions, bacon and mushrooms. It was a deep brown color and was served with a small side of sliced potatoes. Tara seemed to like the dish, especially the bacon. She did mention that the chicken seemed a bit on the dry side, but the burgundy gravy helped to vanquish the dryness.
Tim’s Long Island Duck A L’Orange looked like it was a half of a duck as it filled half the plate. It was covered with a dark, rich orange glaze and served with a wild rice mix and some sauteed vegetables. Tim said he enjoyed the duck, but due to the lighting he was having to feel around the duck with his knife and fork to know where to cut because he couldn’t clearly see his meal. He said the duck was moist and flavorful. He found the wild rice side dish to be rather mundane, shrugging his shoulders a bit when I asked him how the rice was.
My Paillard of Pork was two slices of pork breaded in Panko and then pan fried. They were sitting in a sweet peppercorn sauce and served with sliced potatoes and sauteed vegetables. The pork was very good, but I thought it was a bit on the tough side, although by the end of the meal, I felt that it was more of a rubbery issue than a toughness. But it was a minor problem. The Panko was a good choice to coat the pork, I thought. The winner, though, was the sauce. It was amazing. The sweetness made it rich and full-bodied but I didn’t detect much in the way of peppercorn. The potatoes and vegetables were pleasant, but nothing amazing.
Tim and Tara’s Macaroni & Cheese was served in a large shallow bowl. The elbow macaroni was coated in a creamy cheese sauce and then topped with grated cheese. Tara said the cheese was Gruyere. I thought the serving size was rather meager for the $8.00 price tag. Both Tim and Tara said the Macaroni & Cheese was good, but I got the sense it could have been better. Tara said that it might be even better with crunched up potato chips on top.
Moving right along…
My French Fries were a large plate of crispy shoestring potatoes. They were golden brown and piping hot when they arrived at the table. The serving was substantial and they were perfectly cooked, but they were devoid of any seasoning whatsoever. A good shake of salt made things much better, but the fries were outstanding when dragged through the remaining sweet peppercorn sauce that was sitting on my plate.
After finishing our meals, our server asked us if we were interested in dessert. Tim asked for a menu, but our server brought over a tray featuring three desserts. I passed on anything sweet while Tim and Tara decided to split an order of the Chocolate Profiterols ($7.00). Only a few minutes passed and the dessert arrived. Three large, round profiterols sat on a white plate trimmed with whipped cream and a large fresh strawberry. Tim and Tara raved about the dessert. Dark chocolate was used in the making of the dessert and I think this was the highlight of the meal for both of them.
We finished our meals and our bill was presented. The total was $104.32 which included tax. I thought it was an okay value. The service was efficient and engaging, but not overbearing.
We continued on with our conversation and obviously were having a good time because before we knew it, it was 9:30 PM. We said our goodbyes and headed home. I enjoyed Fenix and there were some other things on the menu that would draw me back. I did not think the restaurant was fantastic nor the best French food in the Valley, but it was a nice place to have in Arcadia. I also enjoyed my time with Tim and Tara and hope that we can check out another restaurant together in the very near future.
However, I think I would keep any potato chips away from Tara.
Fenix Eatery & Bar
3943 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Hours: Monday through Friday - 11 AM to 3 PM and 5 PM to 2 AM; Saturday - 5 PM to 2 AM. Closed Sunday.
Notes: Limited late night menu available 10 PM to 2 AM.
Alcohol: Full bar service and wine list.
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com
Fenix Bar & Eatery
3943 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Interesting about the salad confusion. Every time I've been there, I've always ordered the Field Green Salad. I guess I didn't realize that you'd get a smaller version included, anyway. I'm assuming you'd still have to order some type of starter/ appetizer though?
Fenix is good. It won't blow you away, but, not every restaurant needs to. It's a nice other option to have when the Radio Milano's and Postino's of the 'hood have suffocating wait times.
Side note: I don't know if I'd consider Fenix, however, "New York hip," or "minimalist." Those descriptions give a different mental picture of what the restaurant's physical atmosphere is like. Though it may not be traditionally "French bistro," I definitely think it's more traditional-something, and eclectic, than spare or sleek. But yea, semantics.
Good review, Mr. Chadwick.
Nice review, I need to get there since it's in my 'hood. Their late night dining option especially intrigues me, however I do wish they'd post a menu online.
BTW, without crumbled potato chips, the corned beef hotdish (artery-clogging goodness made better by adding velveeta cheese) my family ate this week would have just been mush! It's a necessary mise en place item sometimes. ;) Tara knows.
I've been eying this place since it opened over a year ago, but never really had any one to go with or reason to go. Well last night, I was headed to dinner early to get back home before The Office. We thought since it was early enough we might get in to La Grande Orange, but that something I should have known better than to attempt. As I drove past the LGO and discussing with my gf when we should go we got to the corner of 40th st and Camelback. Sitting at the light in shorts and a ball cap I asked her of she'd want to try it. She was still in work clothes, so she had no problem with it. After getting the ok, I pulled in and we were able to get seating really easily at 6:30 on a weekday. I was supised to see other guys in there is shorts, so I wasn't too uncomfortable.
We both ordered Iced Tea (2.00), and were pleased because the tea was fresh and crisp. We are both Iced Tea hounds! I grew up in the South, so it would leave people to believe I drink Lipton brewed with Sugar. However, I am not a Sweet Tea fan, and often have to switch my drink order if the teas has artificial flavorings, or has been sitting for too long. Back to the point, the teas was delicious, and never got below 1/2 of a glass.
We got the same bread as Seth, but with the exception of only one sesame roll when there are two people. We were not too impressed by the bread at first as it was too hard to cut through on the outside, and again like Seth said, the butter was too hard to spread. After a little work and maneuvering though, we were able to prep the rolls, and we both really enjoyed them . The hard exterior gave way to a lighter, soft middle, and the combination of the two was fairly pleasant.
After we ordered our meals, they brought out field green salads. There was a lack of dressing on the salad, which was actually nice because they use extremely fresh greens, assuring that the roughage can stand on its own using very little dressing and some fresh ground pepper to complement it.
As we were waiting for our entrees to come out, I saw the night's special, Herbed Sea Scallops, come out and my mouth began to water. I kinda wished I had ordered that.
They were out of their Sole cut which is on the menu, so they had a different cut as a special, Petrale Sole (25.00). My girlfriend had that, and I ordered the Braised Beef Short Ribs (22.00). Her Sole had a lemon butter sauce with capers. She usually salts all of her food, but actually had to scrape off the capers because they were too salty for her. Other than that she enjoyed it. The Shorts Ribs were really good. The met was super tender and pulled apart with a fork. The gravy and pearl onions complemented the taste of the meat wonderfully.
Both were served with the potato slices mentioned earlier. They are complemented by rosemary, and were easily the most memorable part of the meal. I would order a whole side of them had I known they were going to be as good as they are.
I think it would be cool to go here with a group. It has a nice setup for something like that, and the atmosphere would certainly allow it. The service was great, and that is something I think of as second to food quality, but I still want both.
Overall all it was a quality meal, and a good experience. I'll go back again, and hopefully get to check out those Herbed Sea Scallops that they had on special last night. Definitely worth the trip.
Finally hit Fenix tonight. My family has gone there quite a bit for mussels, escargot & French onion soup.
Super, super bizarre thing: they are now serving sushi. I think tonight was the first night but they have 2 sushi cases & were filled with fish. I so, so totally don't get this. French bistro - sushi? I'm sorry but I'm not going to go to Fenix & order sushi unless I read tons of posts how wonderful it is. How can they have the turnover to ensure everything is always fresh???
Anyway to the food. Everything was kind of salty. I didn't mind because I'm a salt freak but I thought others might find it too much. I had escargot (salty but super yummy, good butter/herbs for dipping), French onion soup (salty but super yummy - one of the best I've had around), scallops au gratin appetizer (kind of salty but again yummy) and a side of potatoes au gratin (good). The others had the salmon which they liked & my pop had his usual plate of mussels which he was quite happy with.
I'll be happy to go back but I can't get my mind around sushi at Fenix. Just feels wrong.
I noticed an ad in the camelback corridor newspaper with fenix and a japanese wording or symbols underneath. Not sure i think it may have said coming soon.
Is it possible they are turning into a Japanese restaurant? I ate there many moons ago and had horrible service even complained. Haven't been back since.
On a related note, I stopped at that shopping center on my way home from work to pick up some salad greens at Wild Oats. It turns out the store has recently closed. I guess it was too small to work with the new post-merger Whole Foods identity. It's the perfect size for a Fresh & Easy store, and I submitted a suggestion via the F&E Web site suggesting that Tesco take a look at the site.
Nice review. Next time try the trout if they have it. It was a special when I dined several months ago and was excellent. Filets in a light lemon sauce. Just don't pollute it with the phytoketonics or whatever is in a diet Coke. It merits plain water, sparkling water, or, I'm going for broke here Seth....a glass of the house white!
I'm kidding, as the beverage of choice doesn't make the meal, the food does. You do a good job reviewing eateries and I look forward to new posts. Check out Over Easy and Radio Milano. RM had reworked the menu and is great. Sit at the small bar and order small plate appetizers or a meal while watching the kitchen action.