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Help! What are the best restaurants in Scottsdale/Tempe area for a sophisticated birthday dinner?

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So the days are dwindling down until my birthday and I still haven’t picked a place to eat yet! I’m a college student looking for a great restaurant, that’s sophisticated but not to extravagant. I seriously need to broaden my restaurant horizon past pizzeria wine bars and latin themed restaurants. Any advice on the best restaurants to host a birthday dinner will be much appreciated.

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  1. House of Tricks and the original Cafe Boa on Mill are both sophisticated but not too extravagant, popular long-time establishments of Tempe that would probably fit what you are looking for.

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    House of Tricks
    114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jen76

      We ate at House of Tricks for my special birthday last month, I had never been but between the rave reviews and the sample menu online I thought it would be perfect. Unfortunately the dinner was a complete disappointment. They sat us, forgot about us for 20+ minutes before coming back to take drink orders, saying something about the hostess having to move her car so the waiter didn't know we were there. The food, which read well on the menu, was rather disappointing (my husband's tuna tasted like it had been drowned in packet taco seasoning mix). By the time we were done with our dinner it was after 10pm, every dish had been a disappointment, so we decided to skip dessert. Hopefully my experience was the exception to the rule, since this restaurant seems to get lots of love.

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      House of Tricks
      114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

      1. re: azravengal

        I just started watching this new show on PBS called "Check Please". It is hosted by Robert McGrath and profiles the favorite restaurants of a panel of three locals. They had House of Tricks on last night's episode. Each show is aired several times a week, and can also be viewed online. I think they make everything look good. McGrath comes off as a fountain of culinary knowledge, but, he doesn't say very much.

        http://www.azpbs.org/checkplease/

        I have really enjoyed lunch at House of Tricks. I have only had dinner once, and I was glad I wasn't paying. I think it's a bit over-priced. Lunch is a better deal. I can remember having spotty service, too.

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        House of Tricks
        114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

        1. re: azravengal

          I understand. I've had bad experiences at popular recommendations, too. Sorry yours didn't live up to expectation. That's so disappointing when it happens.

      2. I've always had great food at House of Tricks. I also agree with Cafe Boa. And they're very convenient!

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        House of Tricks
        114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

        1. Thanks so much for all the great responses. I've narrowed it down to my top four which are... House of Tricks, True Food Kitchen, Circa 1900 Bistro and Noca.

          They all seem very birthday appropriate and formal, which I wanted. Having mixed feelings about the House of Tricks reviews but I might give it a shot. As far as True food I'm just curious to try the place because it always seems packed, and I want to check it out for myself. Circa 1900's restaurant looked cute and cozy, which I liked. And I've eaten at Noca before and had an incredible meal, so that's on the back burner as well.

          Four days left to pick, hopefully it'll be a great choice! Gosh I love being indecisive..haha, so any last minute recommendations?

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          House of Tricks
          114 E 7th St, Tempe, AZ 85281

          Circa 1900
          628 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

          Noca
          3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          True Food Kitchen
          2502 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ

          7 Replies
          1. re: HJJaenicke

            Unfortunately Circa 1900 is closed, and has been for a few years. The chef from Circa 1900 is now the head chef at Noca though...if that helps you at all.

            True food is good when you're looking for a healthier meal but wouldn't exactly say it has a celebratory atmosphere.

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            Circa 1900
            628 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

            Noca
            3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

            1. re: HJJaenicke

              What was Circa 1900 is now Rose and Crown Pub. Next door, though, is something that may work very well: Nobuo at Teeter House. Chef Nobuo Fukuda runs one of the top Japanese restaurants in the state.

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              Circa 1900
              628 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

              Nobuo at Teeter House
              622 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                If u go to nobou remember the portion sizes are REALLY small, didn't think I got good value to food for dinner there...lunch is still a solid option there imo but nobou has a killer drink devils haircut

                I would go with noca as best option it is modernish and excellent...cafe boa if u want to stick closer to tempe only place

                Tru food is very casual and not what I think ur looking for...and I've had really bad experience there with service

                Haven't been to house of tricks but based on all the mixed reviews it is too low on the list to ever make it to - good luck!

                1. re: Dapuma

                  I felt like Nobuo provided a great value on our visit. As I recall, our final pre-tip tab for enough food to fill both of us up+plus 1 drink/person was just over $60, which is about half what we typically (and happily) spend on a dinner at Noca.

                  I can imagine ordering in a way at Nobuo that would leave one wanting, but we ordered a mix of relatively lighter and relatively heavier dishes so as to avoid that situation.

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                  Noca
                  3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                  Nobuo at Teeter House
                  622 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

                  1. re: hohokam

                    I also feel that Nobuo hit the mark, portion-wise and price-point considered. It is an izakaya restaurant; meaning the food served is more substantial than snacks or pinchos, but still meant to accompany drinks. So those are not intended to be entrees; it's like a tapas joint for happy hour or after work. Sharable small plates is the concept, not an error in execution. My visit was with three guests and the bill came to $100 for eight plates and one round of drinks.

                    Considering he's flying in his seafood daily, most of the chefs in town would kill for his very exclusive suppliers, and the produce is seasonal, organic, and sustainable -- I think the prices he's charging are kind of nuts in the opposite direction. Like, I live in fear he will one day realize he could pick up and go to Vegas and charge Vegas prices for his omakase. And my heart will break all over again, like it did when Sea Saw shuttered.

                    1. re: themis

                      i have had most of the lunch menu there (which i still think is a good value - the pork katasu sandwich is very good and meaty, soft shell crab the mrs says is very good, and the japanese pancake thing which the name escapes me is filling and unique) however for dinner had the niso eggplant, which was kind of watery and needed more bacon for flavor so in essence it was like eating hot watery nothingness, the seabass in parchment which was good (not great) but there was barely any seabass and the whitefish carpacccio with the hot oil and bread, which again was good but not outstanding - also if you are drinking devil's haircuts, how are you not drinking more than one (not that they are not strong but they are so good!)

                      I really wanted to like the dinner but IMO it didnt live up to the expectation - his omakase may be great, but i dont think i would spend the money for it based on my dinner there - although i heard that it is incredible

                      the entire table was disappointed (not just myself) and all of us had been there for lunch a few times

              2. re: HJJaenicke

                I am a big fan of Restaurant NOCA, and it has great, innovative food, and excellent service. It can be a bit noisy, but most patrons find that vibe enjoyable. I'm a bit older, and do not find any real intimacy there - but the food and service (plus an interesting wine list) gets me over the liveliness of the ambiance, unless I need to also talk business with my guests.

                For me, and for my wife, if someone asks us, "where do you want to go for dinner next Friday?" the answer will almost always be - NOCA.

                Enjoy,

                Hunt

              3. I think you would do really well at Caffe Boa or at Noca. If you are not hung up on celebrating on your actual birthday and are holding it to a smaller group, Noca's Simple Sunday Suppers are a terrific value.

                Another thought -- Citizen Public House, Bernie Kantak's new restaurant, is now open in Scottsdale. I mention this because I celebrated a birthday at his old place, Cowboy Ciao, back when I was a grad student. It turned out to be kind of the dawning of a new foodie era, for me -- the man is nothing but inventive. So while I can't recommend his new place out of experience, maybe you could break that Chow ground for us and report back.

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                Caffe Boa
                398 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, AZ 85281

                Noca
                3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016