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Scottsdale - best foodie dinner?

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I will be staying at the Westin Kierland in January and have one night unaccounted for and want to have a meal I will remember for the rest of my life.
I would like a meal that is somehow unique to Arizona -- meaning no lobsters, ya know?
Has to have great service, expertly prepared food and a relaxing ambiance - this dinner will be the reward after a long hard week.

In other cities, I love Boulevard in San Francisco, Hamersley's and Clio in Boston, Ten Arts in Philadelphia and Craft in New York.

Thank you in advance for ideas or pointers.

~ A boston hound

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  1. Not all in Scottsdale (I also linked your hotel, the Westin Kierland, on the map so you can see distances), but some of my favorites are:

    Quiessence. Located in a beautiful setting on a pecan orchard in a renovated farmhouse. They source locally including from their on-site farm, and the menu changes daily.

    FnB. Also known for sourcing locally, including an all-Arizona wine list. Small, casual, cozy. Fabulous service, and their braised leeks with fresh mozzarella, fried egg, and mustard bread crumbs just made F&W's 10 Best Restaurant Dishes. It's wonderful (as is everything else). They remind me a little bit of Hammersley's in their flawless execution of seemingly simple dishes using high-quality ingredients. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/1...

    A bit of a drive: Binkley's. Just amazing. It reminds me of Clio with its impeccable ingredients and creative and inventive combinations. One of my favorite restaurants. And I hate to recommend a restaurant I have yet to get to, but I feel confident in suggesting Kai. High end, focusing on Native American ingredients, and sourcing from the Gila River Indian Community.

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    Binkley's
    6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

    Kai
    5594 W. Wildhorse Pass Blvd, Chandler, AZ 85226

    Quiessence
    6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

    Westin Kierland Resort Spa & Villas
    15620 N Clubgate Dr, Scottsdale, AZ

    FnB
    7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

    1. First off, the Three Questions:
      Scottsdale is five miles east-to-west and over thirty miles north-to-south; where are you staying?
      Cab fare can rack up mighty quick, will you have a car available?
      How far are you willing to travel?

      If you want to REALLY pull out all the stops, Kai on the south edge of Phoenix at the Wild Horse Pass resort would be perfect. They're the only Forbes five-star restaurant in the state, and very much deserve it. It can be pricey (tasting menus run $120 or $200 before wine), but such is to be expected with a five-star restaurant. The one down side is that it's at least a 30 minute drive from the south end of Scottsdale.

      Also of note is FnB, a favorite of us local foodies. They highlight our local bounty like nobody else, and the manager Pavle Milic loves to take good care of people. Braised leeks topped with homemade mozzarella, mustard bread crumbs, and a fried egg has become their signature dish, and was featured in Food & Wine magazine's 10 best restaurant dishes of 2010. All but one of the wines they pour is made in Arizona. It is much more casual than Kai, but after a rough day (or week) at work there's nothing like pulling up a chair at the counter around the open kitchen and letting everyone take good care of you.

      -----
      FnB
      7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      2 Replies
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        I love all the recommendations except I might be the only person on the board that wasn't thrilled by Kai, I just found the flavors too rich and heavy and after ordering the amount recommended by our server we felt disgustingly stuffed. Yes, I should have know when to stop eating and maybe it's my Catholic guilt talking but I feel bad leaving food on my plate when I'm paying $400 for 2 people. It also about 33 miles from your hotel - mostly freeway but it will still be a good 40 minutes is my guess.

        That being said fine dining Native American influenced food will be something completely different and unique...just maybe exercise more caution in ordering than I did :)

        Binkley's is great, went all out with 6 courses, too many amuse bouches to count, and about 8 cocktails (we were staying at a local hotel so no driving!) and it came in at $300 for 2 before which I thought was very reasonable considering we could choose each course so we ended up after sharing having a countless amount of dishes. Also a good way from your resort though... about 15 miles.

        All have outstanding service, FnB is a little smaller, more energy, Kai and Binkley's are both calmer, Kai in a resort with Binkley's being in a strip mall (many restaurants are here in the Phoenix area, don't let that stop you!). Really you can't go wrong with any, I probably just had an off night at Kai or didn't order well considering everyone else raves about it, I would just look at the menus and see what style of cuisine looks most appealing to you...

        -----
        Binkley's
        6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

        FnB
        7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

          in regards to FnB: Pavle is awesome, makes going there very fun

          Just a side note to those who have been to both, which is better Binkley's or Kai - i have only been to Binkley's

          -----
          Binkley's
          6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          FnB
          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

        2. I feel as if Binkley's is your best bet, comparing to your list of 'likes'. It's not far from your hotel, the drive could not feel more Arizona if it tried -- you'll be driving by cacti and boulders, and the stars are bright out there at night. The service is impeccable but the space is not formal or stuffy in the slightest. You just make yourself comfortable and inventive dishes and amuses start appearing before you.

          I will say, though, that you may very well see *gasp* seafood on the menu. You should know that Kevin Binkley is on some very exclusive supplier's lists -- they trust him to serve their products impeccably. And there are these wonderful things called airplanes *gasp, again* that bring us fresh seafood from suppliers in the blink of an eye. I guarantee you there will be fish served at Teeter House, Quiessence, FnB, Noca, Hana, and Binkley's tonight which is fresher than what sat on the docks all day and is now being served in San Francisco and in Boston. I work with a lot of food distributors, believe me -- it's not really where you eat ingredients, how far from the coast you are currently standing -- it's how those ingredients were cared for on their way to you, really.

          I also feel as if the drive time from the central valley to Kai gets exaggerated. It's freeway miles, and during rush hour, I could certainly see that taking a half hour. Around dinner time, it ought to be significantly less. I mean, Kai is a mile south of the 202 interchange, it's not, like, halfway to Tucson. I can leave Scottsdale and be skydiving in Eloy in half an hour.

          bgavin, I don't think you'd go very far wrong with any of these suggestions, though. I hope you enjoy!

          -----
          Binkley's
          6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          Quiessence
          6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

          Noca
          3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          FnB
          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

          1 Reply
          1. re: themis

            I agree with themis completely about seafood. I live in the SF Bay Area, and have seen crates of fish loaded from boats in Oregon with an SF Fisherman's Wharf restaurant's name on them - the fisherman said SF bay alone can't meet the demand. I've had many great fish dishes in Phoenix and Tucson.

            That said, I'm always looking for area-specific dishes (ingredients and/or techniques) when I travel, so I hear you about the lobster - unless it's cooked with chipotle or cactus buds... :-)

          2. You have gotten some good recs., and for a short ride to the edge of Phoenix, I would throw in Restaurant NOCA. As their URL seldom pops up with the CH Links, here it is: http://www.restaurantnoca.com/

            BTW - though it was the last night of their "season," we loved Kai, and it is unique to this area, albeit a bit of a trek. We always hire a car, as we all love our wines.

            Enjoy,

            Hunt

            Oops, Themis DID recommend NOCA, and got the CH Link to work too! Guess that I am a second.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              What great ideas. Thank you!
              Right now I am leaning towards Binkley's...but the enthusiasm for FnB has me intrigued, despite their less than welcoming web site.
              And I will take another look at NOCA and Kai. And Quiessence - I love their name.

              @Themis - I agree with the points you made about a fine chef having impeccable sources - I just meant to convey (however awkwardly) what things were very important versus not-so-much.

              You all have been great and I will (a) keep reading and (b) let you know next month how it all turns out.

              -----
              Quiessence
              6106 S 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042

              FnB
              7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

              1. re: bgavin

                Love Binkley's!
                I've had great meals at T. Cooks at the Royal Palms resort and really enjoy Lon's at the Hermosa..great for breakfast/brunch too.
                The burger and beer at J&G Steakhouse bar for $19 at the Phoenician resort is a must.

                www.lons.com

                1. re: Beach Chick

                  when is the J and G burger and beer thing going on? I never see it on their menu - i assume it is only in the bar area?

                  1. re: Dapuma

                    Dapuma - I think the burger and beer special is during happy hour at the bar on Thursdays.
                    AnonymousWaitress - You are not alone. On my only visit to Kai 3 years back, I was not impressed with the food. In fact, it was the only food disappointment of my trip back then (with Binkley's being the major highlight). Recently, I had occassion to visit Phoenix again and truly enjoyed my dinners at NOCA and again at Binkley's. Good luck with your dinner.
                    BTW, in response to the positive write ups on this Board, I wanted to try FnB, however due to the very limited menu, I decided against it. Maybe next time.

                    -----
                    Binkley's
                    6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

            2. Would these recommendations still hold true now in March? I'm in Carefree visiting from Dallas and I'm looking for foodie restaurants...any places with GREAT foie gras??? truffles? I also LOVE Clio in Boston and use to love Olives. I like very rich sauce heavy food.

              4 Replies
              1. re: yodbug

                If you're in Carefree and want foie you have to go to Binkley's, no question. It's not uniquely Arizona but always an amazing meal in my experience, the foie is a standout, plus it is only about 5 minutes away from you. Any other meal worth it would be a 20+ minute drive for you.

                -----
                Binkley's
                6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

                1. re: AnonymousWaitress

                  What aa said +1 - best foie I have ever had

                  1. re: AnonymousWaitress

                    While I do love Binkley's foie gras, the best that I have tasted, and around the globe, has been at Restaurant NOCA, when they have it. Even Gordon Ramsay's Petrus, or Claridge's only comes close. The best, otherwise, has been The Greenhouse in Mayfair, but Chef Curtiss beats them easily. I am talking true "3 Star" here.

                    if you want foie gras, call NOCA with a bit of time, in case they do not have a dish on the menu that evening, and request it. I recommend the Wild Huckleberry Infused Foie Gras," if possible.

                    As for truffles, well those will be highly seasonal. We had some great truffle dishes at Vincent's on Camelback, but that was a few weeks back - right after some fantastic truffles at Restaurant Daniel in NYC. They will be a "maybe - maybe not" situation.

                    Enjoy,

                    Hunt

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                    Binkley's
                    6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Wow Daniel...I haven't been there in years! What a nice memory!

                2. Thanks so much guys! We are going to dinner at Noca tomorrow night...i've called about the Huckleberry Infused Foie Gras...I hope they are able to do it for us!! We are having dinner the following night at Kai...I'm so excited!! Thanks for all the suggestions and help! Anything more would be great! I would LOVE to get a great place for cocktails that has an AMAZING view before Noca tomorrow night...my father has a sunset ritual every day...so it is a must for him...he watches it daily from Desert Mountain in Carefree...thank you!

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                  Noca
                  3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: yodbug

                    We were in town last month and we stopped at Elements at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain for drinks on our way to NOCA. Beautiful view and decents drinks.

                    1. re: tlubow

                      First place I thought of too. Excellent cocktails (especially the ones using seasonal ingredients).

                      J&G at The Phoenician Resort also has beautiful views and great cocktails.

                      -----
                      Elements
                      5700 East McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

                      J&G Steakhouse
                      6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                      1. re: tlubow

                        +1.

                        1. re: boingo2000

                          yes, while elements or J&G may have a better view, I must admit, I would take a slightly lesser view and head to Prado @ Montelucia and hit their tapas menu hard before dinner. the head cheese and beef heart is excellent.

                          1. re: boingo2000

                            Another +1 for J&G. I enjoyed a couple of well made Hemingways at the bar there on my most recent trip.

                        2. re: yodbug

                          Don't forget to have breakfast/lunch or dinner at Lon's..gorgeous place and food to match.
                          T. Cook's at the Royal Palms resort for at least drinks and app's and listen to Dwight on the piano.

                          www.lons.com

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            Yes, Lon's and T Cook's get my votes, as well. Lovely venues, with wonderful food and normally great service (Lon's has had some mis-steps in my past, but not recently).

                            Hunt

                          2. re: yodbug

                            That sounds like it should be two spectacular, albeit different dining experiences. I hope that each comes through with their full capabilities. I know what each can do, and hope that you get to experience their very best.

                            Enjoy, and please report back,

                            Hunt