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Oct 18, 2007 02:36 PM

C4 at the Clarendon Review

Just got back from an excursion downtown with my daughter. After a wonderful couple of hours at Enchanted Island we went to the new "C4" restaurant in the Clarendon Hotel. We have been wanting to find a good bowl of ramen for a long time and had some hope this might be the place. Their menu says they are "Simple. Humble. Pure." Unfortunately, I don't think they've got it quite yet...

The restaurant space is very hip. My daughter really liked the display of Japanese pop-art toys in the middle of the room. They have some limited outdoor seating but the view of a parking garage isn't the most appealing. We sat down and ordered edamame for $3, tofu wedges for $3, the "Sanre Tan Ramen Bowl" for $7 and the "Okonomiyaki," a Japanese savory pancake for $8.

The edamame were dried out to the point where they looked unappealing but still tasted ok. They had salted them very lightly and also squeezed lime juice on them. Maybe that is normal in a lot of places but it seemed weird to me.

The tofu wedges consisted of about 6 rectangular sticks of firm tofu dredged in something like corn starch and deep fried, on a plate with a sweet chili sauce on the side. They looked like french toast sticks from burger king. Completely plain on the plate. Again, very unappealing visually but they tasted ok but bland. The sauce was sweet and not very spicy, almost like a thin jelly.

The pancake is served with a variety of add-ins, kind of like ordering an omelette at a breakfast place. We chose mushrooms, corn, and crispy noodles. Other options were fried egg, chicken, pork, spicy shrimp. We both liked it a lot. It tasted just like the Korean pajong pancake we've had at other places, except that C4 tops it with an aoli which tasted very good but I can't believe is "pure" Japanese! Anyway, this was the best part of the meal - nothing too fancy but good.

The ramen was really not good. I was hoping for a simple, traditional bowl of ramen but they offer a hot and spicy broth over "soba" noodles with pork, ginger and spinach. The pork wasn't the slices of roast pork I expected but some kind of crispy shredded pile of pork that tasted pretty good. There was no spinach I could find but plenty of ginger. I'm not an expert on Japanese noodles, but aren't soba and ramen noodles different? Anyway, I'm not sure that was correct, but the worst thing was the broth - it was dark like espresso and thick, incredibly salty and peppery. I like spicy foods, but this was not edible. I told them I couldn't eat it and they took it back. The manager explained they were still working with new staff. Anyway, they graciously took it off the bill, thank goodness. That was definitely the low point of the meal.

Overall, I'm not sure I would try this place again. I liked the prices and atmosphere, but they didn't seem very committed to getting those dishes right. But of course they just opened a few weeks ago.

In case anyone was wondering about the sushi, the "sushi" section of the menu only lists 5 items, all rolls: California, Philly, C4 Roll (roasted peppers, cream cheese and cilantro with habenoro salsa - yuck), spicy tuna, and veggie.

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    1. Dropping in a place link for my own selfish purposes...

      Clarendon Kitchen
      401 W Clarendon Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

      1. On Friday night the SO and I stopped here for dinner. We arrived around 5:20 and were the first to be seated. We decided to sit out on the patio. The view isn't great but the temp was right and the sun would be setting soon. I remembered hearing something about C4 so I guess that’s what drove us to it, as we were craving Japanese. Park on the south side of the hotel and either enter before the lobby, into the bar, or make a right at the check in desk, past the hundreds of prints of the same naked woman, and enter through the double doors to your right. Inside, the décor and lighting is pretty nice.

        Ironically, we ordered almost everything that the OP ordered. We started out with the edamame as an app along with one Asian pear martini for him and an Asian mist martini for me. Both martinis were very good, and after a few sips of mine I decided I couldn't have a second if I wanted to make it home. ;) The edamame were different, and we weren't used to the salty/sour flavor. Overall, they were ok.

        We also decided to try two of their rolls, both the C4 roll and the spicy tuna. Taste wise, they were ok, but size wise they were a complete disappointment. We never order rolls that contain cream cheese but decided to go out of our norm and try these. Only a few tastes of very spicy from the habanero, but again they had to have been the smallest rolls I've ever seen anywhere.

        Next up was the okonomiyaki with green onion, crispy noodles and tofu. This was awesome; I've been looking to try this for a while. It was described as in between a pancake/crepe and a pizza to us. Very fluffy, very delicious and the combo of crunchy texture from the noodles and tofu was great.

        For our last entrée, we split the ramen. Unlike the OP, our pork wasn’t crispy, but very tender and flavorful. By the time we got this it was too dark to see everything in great detail but could make out spinach and what I believe were mushrooms. Since we split this, I didn’t get much broth, but the broth I did taste was very peppery. Enough remained on the noodles that we didn’t need to sample any. It was nonetheless very dark and not broth-like.

        To finish the meal we split the granita trio, a sample of their raspberry, pineapple-basil and mango granitas. Very light and refreshing, out of the three we enjoyed the pineapple-basil the most. Overall, our experience was ok. The food was ok, value was good (<$50.00 w/o tip) service was good. I understand that they haven't officially opened yet, but next time I’d order drinks, okonomiyaki and try other items off of their smaller menu like the tonkatsu and skip the rolls.

        1. Sadly, we didn't like it.

          I'm a big supporter of the hotel and what they've done and plan to do. And I loved the concept for C4. It just fell flat.

          It looked spartan (the open tables in the lounge had no seats, for example), the decor was Jr High and the service was slow and needed reminding.

          Food wise, it didn't get many woos from my table of burbanites. Give the sparse crowd (on Fri night at 7 pm), we decined sushi, which really needs a good turnover. The group had burgers and thai curry (no applause). I had the okonomiyaki, which didn't really work for me. To be fair, I had Japanese roomies for years so I was expecting a thin/light dish. Maybe its a regional thing, but C4's version is like a deep dish pizza. And they let you pick the main ingredients, so maybe I just chose badly. And it was nothng awful... just not something I'd yearn to revisit. Everyone at the table had a piece and tended to agree. Just a mosh pit of flavors/textures.

          My straw/back/camel moment was after flagging the busser to find our waitress, we got and paid for the bill. After further delay, they came back to say they undercharged us by $5 and needed to re-run the contributions. $5 happened to be the cost of the cocktail that needed 3 reminders and 30 minuted to get.

          I would have thought they;d eat this, but instead they looked really bad coming back to ask for more money. I threw down cash to avoid a longer wait. In the end I paid $25 for half an egg pancake and 2 drinks. Not exactly the value menu.

          1. As of Feb 08 they've switched concepts and are now serving "Southwest" food. No more Asian.

            See the Clarendon's website for details.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tastyjon

              Thanks for the heads-up.

              While the current concept looks to be less ambitious than the previous iteration, I have to say that we are probably more likely to eat at a place turning out well-executed, if somewhat boring, Southwestern fusion than a place making uncertainly-executed, more avant garde Asian fusion.

              I'll make an effort to check it out later this month.