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Yet another birthday decision (PHX)

  • c

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. 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

      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. 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

        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

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

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

            2. re: winedubar

              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

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

          2. Based just on your list ... Quiessence.

            And it's not even close.

            1. 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. 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. 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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

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

                        2. re: crsin

                          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. 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

                        DEATH BY AMUSE BOUCHE! Gotta love it.