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Yet another birthday decision (PHX)

crsin Nov 17, 2008 08:56 PM

For the umpteenth time, looking for some input on where to make a reservation for a friend's birthday.

Here's my shortlist:


No firm criteria other than, of course, a great meal...interesting/different dishes, high quality, worth the bill, nice atmosphere (can range from quiet/"romantic" to fun and casual).

Also open to other suggestions, of course, but these are just a few I've been waiting for an opportunity to try recently. Thanks...

Note: as I know the first question will be regarding location..all range from ~20-35 min. If we're driving 20, my as well do 35, right? Location not a significant factor.

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  1. yamalam RE: crsin Nov 18, 2008 12:26 PM

    I say Noca or Quiessence.

    Follow-up questions: is friend a 'hound? will there be romantic overtones? are you drinking wine?

    Actually, no matter what the answers are, I still say Noca or Quiessence.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yamalam
      crsin RE: yamalam Nov 18, 2008 01:40 PM

      Hm, interesting picks. I sort of assumed the other two would be overwhelming favororites.

      No romanic overtones and, yes, they are into food.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

    2. Firenza00 RE: crsin Nov 18, 2008 03:26 PM

      We've only eaten at Noca, but we had a great time. The food was amazing and presentation was top-notch.

      Kai and Binkley's are on our to-do list as soon as we have a chance.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Firenza00
        crsin RE: Firenza00 Nov 18, 2008 07:37 PM

        While I am eager to try Noca, I'm slightly hesitant for this go-round simply because the menu doesn't seem like it would have the "wow factor" (as much as I despise that term) in terms of doing something new and different. It looks like it really focuses on doing simple dishes (classic preparations with some unique twists) really well and with very high quality. This is, of course, a great thing. However, I'm kind of hoping for something unique and a little more uninhibited. Am I way off on my assessment of the menu?

        1. re: crsin
          winedubar RE: crsin Nov 18, 2008 07:42 PM

          i think there is such a sense of fun and whimsy with everything on the menu, from the fun neutral pop-rock amuse bouche to the eggplant caviar to the bowl of cotton candy and cookies for the car..its a wow factor for me, all the way around...i can't get enough of noca..

          i went there 4 times in one week. do i need a support group? hello my name is winedubar and i am addicted to noca.


          1. re: winedubar
            crsin RE: winedubar Nov 18, 2008 08:25 PM

            Haha, that does sound like your edging dangerously close to an unhealthy relationship.

            However, stacked up against the other options, would you think it's the best for a birthday celebration?

            Granted, these are all very different restaurant, but I guess try to normalize them somehow for comparisson.

            1. re: crsin
              winedubar RE: crsin Nov 19, 2008 07:48 AM

              this one is hard because i keep trying to put my tastes in your recommendation :D but after i thought about it over coffee, i think it comes down to experience.

              if you want a tasting menu, i think binkley's is your best shot.

              if you want lively and fun, i think noca is your best shot.

              if you want 'holy moly, is this phoenix? it feels like a farm', i'd say pick quiessence.

              because really, with all 3, and even kai, the food is amazing. you've picked the best of the best for restaurants in town.

              i'd vote for setting ;)

              are you more confused or less confused than when you asked the question? lol

              1. re: winedubar
                crsin RE: winedubar Nov 19, 2008 09:08 AM

                Um...all of the above, please?

                No, that is helpful to strip it down, thanks. Ideally, they could all morph into a restaurant superpower, but I guess that's not likely to happen in the next two weeks. I'm not reading any votes for Kai...maybe that should be moved to the bottom of the list.

                1. re: crsin
                  Seth Chadwick RE: crsin Nov 19, 2008 12:43 PM

                  Kai is, in my opinion and without any personal knowledge of noca, the best restaurant in the Valley.

                  However, I am not sure I would see myself celebrating a birthday there. It is just a little to laid back for that, IMO. Binkley's, I think, would be great. Fun, experimental, novel.

                  1. re: Seth Chadwick
                    Firenza00 RE: Seth Chadwick Nov 19, 2008 12:48 PM

                    We really need to fill that Noca knowledge gap for you. :)

            2. re: winedubar
              bonita RE: winedubar Nov 19, 2008 10:42 AM

              I'm with you on NOCA. Wonderful service. Food is amazing. No missteps. No one sources better ingredients. No one. I would eat there every day if I could.

            3. re: crsin
              Molto E RE: crsin Nov 18, 2008 10:00 PM

              based on this criteria, the answer in my view would be Binkley's.

          2. ipsedixit RE: crsin Nov 18, 2008 08:36 PM

            Based just on your list ... Quiessence.

            And it's not even close.

            1. d
              danieli10 RE: crsin Nov 19, 2008 12:20 PM

              My 2 cents: Binkley's all the way. I'd call ahead and let them know its a bday, they usually have some nice extras for special occasion.

              1. e
                eatmedrinkme RE: crsin Nov 19, 2008 01:49 PM

                Binkley's would be my first choice. Kevin Binkley is an artist and the place is a lot of fun. Only other place i've been is Kai though. Happy hunting

                1. c
                  crsin RE: crsin Nov 22, 2008 03:14 PM

                  Thanks for all of the input. I'm thinking Binkley's. I stare at the egullet photos like food porn, and it looks like too much fun for me to pass up for another restaurant yet again.

                  Quick question: do you still get the amuses if ordering a la carte? Also, what is the difference in food quantity?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: crsin
                    Molto E RE: crsin Nov 22, 2008 10:36 PM

                    When ordering a la carte the portion size is larger than when ordering a tasting menu. The quantity of the amuses does correlate to the length of the tasting menu...I would strongly suggest doing even the four course tasting rather than ordering a la carte for the experience.

                    1. re: Molto E
                      crsin RE: Molto E Nov 23, 2008 11:27 AM

                      Thanks. I knew that tasting portions were smaller, and I will definitely be doing a tasting menu. I was just posing both questions to guage if I should encourage anyone who I'm going with to do that over a la carte, which they may prefer to do, not knowing what to expect.

                      1. re: crsin
                        eatmedrinkme RE: crsin Nov 24, 2008 07:46 AM

                        The tasting menu portions were actually quit large compared to other places I've experienced. Our party of 4 were all in agreement that the 5 course menu was more than enough food and that next time the 4 course menu would be just fine.

                        1. re: eatmedrinkme
                          AnonymousWaitress RE: eatmedrinkme Nov 24, 2008 09:16 AM

                          We did the 6 course tasting and it was very good but I was very full by the time I left. My uncle enjoyed it so much he ended up booking a reservation for Christmas when he'll be back in town for the whole family. Six courses were plenty, by the time we hit the meat plate as the 4th course I was starting to feel plenty satisfied. Although to give credit to Binkley's, the courses were perfectly paced and portioned so by the time I started to get the tiniest little bit hungry again an amuse or another course was put in front of me.

                          1. re: AnonymousWaitress
                            eatmedrinkme RE: AnonymousWaitress Nov 24, 2008 10:28 AM

                            Very true the meal was masterfully planned and courses perfectly timed.

                        2. re: crsin
                          themis RE: crsin Nov 24, 2008 01:09 PM

                          I believe with a 4-course tasting menu we received 4 amuses; we did split a fifth cheese course before dessert, but that was because I couldn't pass up the white truffle fondue. I would encourage the whole table to go with all a la carte or all prix fixe, one or the other, just because it makes the pacing and the service go so much smoother. That way one person does not wind up with a gap in courses and sit with a small amuse while everyone is raving over their entree, or some such.

                    2. c
                      crsin RE: crsin Nov 30, 2008 11:27 PM

                      Wanted to report back:

                      We stuck with Binkley's, and it was fantastic. Going in with a lot of personal anticipation and "hype," it truly matched or exceeded it in every way. The five of us all did a 5-course tasting, without a single disappointing dish. The amuses were all really delicious, humorous, and a lot of fun. Service was impeccable, and everything very well timed. We were all in agreement that it was much more than a really nice meal, but a dining/cullinary "experience." Great fun...thanks for the input.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: crsin
                        eatmedrinkme RE: crsin Jan 14, 2009 09:19 AM

                        DEATH BY AMUSE BOUCHE! Gotta love it.

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