An Early Look at "FnB" - Scottsdale, AZ
Shame on me for eating at FnB on its opening night. Condemn me to hell for eating there on opening night with the secret intent to write about it here. Clearly, I’m showing my amateur status. I’ve never been to a restaurant on opening night and expected a litany of service hiccups and culinary screw-ups. It doesn’t matter that FnB is owned/managed by Pavle Milic, the charismatic consummate professional with a Rain Man-like knack for remembering names. It doesn’t matter that the small kitchen is the domain of Charleen Badman, who has enough laurels that she could rest on them indefinitely if she wanted. And it doesn’t matter that schmooze-mistress Marianne Belardi is working the room. The fact is: it’s opening night. Stuff happens.
Yet, remarkably, stuff DIDN’T happen at FnB on opening night.
Pavle Milic was in his element, tending to his new creation and keeping an eye on every move…quick to greet patrons as they entered. His wife was there also, introducing herself and expediting food from the kitchen. (Should we tell CPS that mom and dad were both working and the kids were locked in the walk-in freezer?!) Chef Badman was calm and cool, working in concert with Sous Chef Sasha Levine.
The room isn’t dramatically different from its Sea Saw and Digestif incarnations, but it has warmth that was previously absent, as well as a tad bit more space. The tile on the floor is spectacular, clearly a product of Milic’s perfectionism. The lighting is soft, and the space feels more “New York City neighborhood place” than “Scottsdale hipster hangout.” That’s a good thing.
And then there’s the food. We are talking about a restaurant, right? We started with Benton Farm’s Country Ham, Cheddar and Pickled Vegetables. Simple, clean flavors. Great to nosh on pre-meal. We also had the Crispy Rock Shrimp & Jalapeno Tartar. I love rock shrimp, and these flash-fried crustaceans were light, flavorful and completely lacking any trace of oil from the fryer. The Jalapeno Tartar had a nice burn to it, which I loved. I wasn’t as crazy about the Sweet Squash Ravioli with Horseradish and Almonds, but I’ve already heard many raves about it. Kudos to the Chef for the interesting pairing of horseradish with the ravioli; the combination worked well but I didn’t feel dazzled.
The star of the starters was the Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing and Feta. Okay, so I’m a sucker for anything with “Green Goddess” on it but, the fact is, this was absolutely delicious. The tomatoes were firm and bursting with tomato juiciness, and the dressing had a slightly tart flavor that played nicely with the saltiness of the feta cheese and the acidity of the green tomatoes. Order this appetizer.
The four of us ended-up ordering each entrée on the menu. I had the Braised Lamb Shank with Chickpeas, Couscous and Pickled Turnips. The pickled turnips were an absolutely brilliant addition to this dish. Their tartness cut some of the richness of the lamb shank and resulted in an absolutely perfect entrée. The slightly Mediterranean flavor and preparation seemed a bit out of place on the menu and I almost hesitated ordering it, but the end result was truly spectacular and definitely one of the better lamb preparations I’ve had in recent memory.
I can’t speak to the other entrees because I did not try them, but the Roast Jidori Chicken with Spaetzle, Wild Broccoli and New Garlic (as opposed to old?) was deemed very crispy yet still juicy and flavorful.
My wife, who makes trout often at home, loved her Boneless Trout with Sunchokes, Caramelized Onions and Dill…and the portion was gargantuan. The Flatiron Steak with Radish Salsa Verde and Fingerling Potatoes was deemed very good and I noticed many of them leaving the kitchen. My only critique: offer more bread with the entrees, because the sauces would be great for sopping up with some good, crusty bread.
We skipped dessert and headed over to The Sugar Bowl. Granted, I’m not much of a dessert guy but nothing excited us enough to stay for dessert and, besides, it was nice to get outside and enjoy the cool evening.
FnB has amazing promise. Like Noca, it can be a destination meal, or a great place to nosh at the counter and have a drink. There were several little touches that I liked: the selection of magazines and newspapers at the entrance, making it inviting to solo diners and giving it a “neighborhood” feel. Orders were taken by hand, on paper. While seemingly insignificant, it says to me that they care about getting you order right and, besides, there is a certain quaintness about it.
FnB is an enchanting concept: homey, comfortable, warm…with a little something for everyone. I would expect that the small menu will expand a bit as the kitchen and servers get into a groove but I sure like the idea of a lean-and-mean operation with a focus on quality food and sincere hospitality.
7133 E. Stetson Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Thanks for being willing to take one for the team, though it sounds like you didn't have to suffer too much. With the promise of new menu items at Cowboy Ciao and the apparently successful launch of FnB, perhaps the Kasperski empire is poised for a rebound.
Side note: "new garlic" = green garlic = spring garlic = garlic that has yet to start forming a bulb. I think Maya's Farm was selling it at the farmer's markets this past spring.
7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
The new garlic is spring garlic, a young a early garlic with the greens still attached. We sold it last spring and we ahve it again right now. Chefs love the bright taste and you can find it at our farmer's markets as well. I added some to turkey stock this year on T-Day and it was exceptional.
Great review, and enjoyed your pictures too! We weren't able to make it for opening night, so really looking forward to a visit within the next couple of weeks.
Thanks for the early look. We're heading to FnB Friday night, and I'm looking forward to sitting at the bar and watching the chefs at work.
I was able to try FnB over the weekend, and also had a great experience. I completely agree with ejs on the restaurant space itself. The place has great atmosphere--the splash of color from the tile, the cream colored walls, the dimly lit spherical ceiling lights, tealight candles, etc. Really works beautifully, and has great character while still seeming very relaxed/laid-back. Pavle doubled as our server for the night, and did a great job, clearly wanting to ensure everything was perfect. It was also fun to hear his descriptions of the dishes, as he's obviously quite proud of what they're doing. And rightfully so...
I think all the dishes that I tried were already detailed above, so no need to go over them all again. I will say, however, that everything was uniformly excellent. From the delicious olive bread and oil (devoured several plates), to the exceptionally tender jidori chicken, and flatiron (really enjoyed the 'liveliness' and freshness of the salsa verde combined with the beef--cooked perfectly btw). I also had a few bites of the cauliflour au gratin and the brussels sprouts sides, and could have actually eaten a couple bowls of these. Both sides tasted great, and it was really nice to have vegetable side dishes that were interesting, and well cooked and prepared. Although too full for desert, they all sounded really enticing and were tough to resist. I'm especially looking forward to giving the cherry-chocolate bread pudding a try.
I'll definitely be back, and am very excited to have FnB around. The place has an impressive level of charm and service, and fantastic food to match.