Tucson Report (semi-long)
On this quarterly trip to Tucson, we decided to skip our regular spots to try some new ones.
Jonathan's Cork: I really wanted to like this place, but the food was mixed. I loved the grilled romaine salad with grilled tomato dressing, but my husband hated it; the ostrich 3 ways didn't have much flavor, despite the 3 sauces, and the prime rib was just average. The restaurant was too dark and old-fashioned for me. The servers were very nice, but the hostess was a bit flaky. Can anyone recommend a reason for giving it another try?
Arizona Inn: my local Tucson friends love this place, but it was easily the worst meal I've ever had in a tablecloth restaurant - a third of my salad was inedible (dry, crumbly nori roll), my lamb loin roulade was totally overcooked, tasteless, and brown (brown lamb, brown stuffing, brown sauce) and accompanied by lukewarm, starchy purple potatoes and diced, undercooked ratatouille. Was the chef out sick, so I was given leftovers? I pointed out the problems to the waiter, but he just shrugged. Hubby's bouillabaise was not too overcooked, the wine parings were fine, and the chocolate cake was very good, but overall we were very disappointed, especially at those prices. Midway into our meal, we overheard servers describing specials to other tables that were not offered to us, but by then we didn't care and just wanted to leave.
McClintock's: What a spectacular setting - rocky hills studded with huge saguaros, a gated entry, an escort car so we don't wander off the winding road; good service, upscale romantic Western atmosphere. The food was mixed: the calamari app was just okay (but came with a delicious sundried tomato relish); my prime new york strip didn't seem prime in neither texture nor flavor, but was accompanied by very good, crispy zucchini fries. My hubby's cioppino had much more body and flavor than the bouillabaise at AZ Inn. The donuts were just like the zeppole at Primo, but smaller, sweeter, more expensive, and not as good. The experience overall was nice enough, but at $200 incl. t/t for 2 drinks, 1 app, 1 bottle of fizzy water, 2 entrees and one dessert, not worth a return trip anytime soon. We'd love to see those beautiful hidden hills again, though.
Blanco: I loved my fish tacos (grilled, moist, delicious mahi mahi) even though they were as small as Wahoo's fish tacos and cost 3 times more. The sides (parboiled rice and soupy beans) weren't bad, but weren't worth the calories. My hubby and daughter thought their green pork enchiladas and beef tacos were okay, but not worth a return visit.
B-Line: nice pies, even if the crusts were almost an inch thick at the edges. (If you know anyone who works there, tell them I'll give them free pie crust technique lessons the next time I'm in town.) Their coffee's fine, but Raging Sage's still my fave.
Coffee's On: they're either really brave or clueless to open within bean-throwing distance of Raging Sage and the Coffee Xchange, but I hope they make it. Friendly service, Republic of Tea teas, rocking patio chairs inside, spanking new everything. I can't report on their coffee because I was already too wired from Raging Sage, but I'd love to hear from someone about it.
We couldn't resist retreating to a few favorite haunts.
Zinburger: our teenager and my hubby are addicted to their milkshakes, so we returned several times. The service is very friendly, the decor is fun, and the burgers (beef, turkey, and ahi) are excellent, and so are the french and sweet potato fries. (Skip the limp, greasy zucchini fries, though.) I still miss old Zin Bistro.
Primo: Still my overall favorite tablecloth restaurant in Tucson. Topnotch foccacia, foie gras, chopped summer salad (of about 9 or 10 veggies), fish, salumi platter, mint gelato, budino, and zeppole. Less successful was the lamb bolognese (not much lamb flavor, and the olives overwhelmed the other flavors).
Raging Sage and Crave Espresso: RS's blueberry cornmeal muffin and CE's scones (all flavors) are still the best in their class that we've ever had anywhere.
I went to the cork once, and although the food was good, my lamb was too rare. I asked to have it warmed up a notch, and it came back with some kind of soy-based sauce on it that pretty much wrecked it for me, not a fan of soy sauce in general. I guess they basted it to keep it from drying out, but the meat was way to bloody for medium rare.
It was old-fashioned-looking back then, too, I remember thinking.
Jonathans Cork is one of my favorite restaurants in town, so it pains me somewhat to say this. While I've never had a bad meal there myself, this is the third negative report I've heard so far this year. It's possible that some change has brought their quality down. I can't see Jonathan Landeen tolerating it for long once it becomes a noteworthy trend, though.