Hello Phoenix - Friday Night Dinner Rec?
I will be in Phoenix next Fri - Sun for the annual meeting of an organization for which I am a board member. We are begin home based at the Embassy Suites on Camelback, which I understand is close to the Biltmore resort?
Most of our meals have already been taken care of, but I am looking for a recommendation for dinner Friday night. I am not familiar with Phoenix at all, or the area in which our hotel is located, and no clue as to what may (or may not) be available in the area around it. There will probably be 4- 6 of us going to dinner. I think we're primarily interested in finding some place that has interesting food, fair prices and decent service. I know we're not looking for a high-end dining experience. (By interesting food I mean, not the same old short-rib/salmon/gourmet burger menu.) Most of us will be from San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, Santa Fe, NM. We're not looking to have our socks knocked off by dinner, just a place to have drinks and a delicious dinner where we can catch up and relax. We will have cars and I suspect we'd be willing to travel for good food.
Thanks for the assistance
(P.S., we are doing Distrito for dinner Saturday night, and while this group would never turn down Mexcian, we'd probably like something else for dinner on Friday)
Thank you all for the recommendations. I was all set to go to Crudo Friday night except all my dining companions had had sushi the night before and weren't too interested in doing it 2 nights in a row. They were also several cocktails ahead of me by the time I got in, so we ended up just walking across the parking lot to Hillstone, and surprisingly, it turned out to be the perfect solution.
We were told it would be a half-hour wait for a table but that we were welcome to do drinks and apps on their patio, which we elected to do. The only problem was, there was only 1 table on the patio and not enough chairs. Without being asked, the staff rounded up 3 extra chairs so we could all sit together. For apps we tried the Spinach Dip and the Grill Artichokes. The dip was good but the artichokes were fantastic. They were first steamed, then dipped in butter and grilled, and we pretty much inhaled them.
After finally being seated at our table we ended up ordering salads, burgers, fish, steak and all of it was pretty good, as was the service. We finished with a hot fudge sundae that was served in a way oversized coffee cup and 6 spoons. We pretty much inhaled that too because it was one of those guilty pleasures that everyone wants but noone really wants to order.
Saturday night we did Distrito for dinner and had a great time. There were 7 of us for dinner at Distrito and 6 of us are pretty seasoned Mexico travelers. We loved the decor, we loved the cocktails and for the most part, we loved the food. Because there were so many of us, we were able to order a pretty good crosssection of the menu.
Most successful cocktail of the evening? The Naranja Roja, a blend of blood orange juice, tequila, habanero, lime and agave nectar.
Best Starter? Toss up between the Tuna Ceviche and the Queso Fundido with duck confit. The tuna with the coconut and onion was sublime, the queo and duck confit unctuous and satisfying.
The Hurache de Hongos with huitalcoche was very good tho' several diners observed that there wasn't much huitlacoche on it and the flavor not really detectable. Still in spite of that, it disappeared rather quickly. Also good was the Tamal with pulled chicken and mole poblano. The tamal had not been stuffed so the masa had to star and it did. It was light, fluffy and a bit dry. The pulled chicken and mole had been combined and topped the tamal. It was a nice presentation and a good match for the tamal.
Not so successful was the posole with chorizo, serrano ham and clams. One of the clams failed to open (and should not have even been in the bowl) the other was fine. But the posole was so salty (and it got saltier the further down the bowl we ate) we got to the point where we could eat it no more.
A large portion of the menu is made of of Tacos and we really went to town with them. They were offering a special Cabrito Taco so we ordered enough for the entire table, along with their Mahi-Mahi Tacos and an order of Carnitas Tacos. Unfortunately, the carnitas tacos were overcooked and very dry but the fish tacos were delicious and the goat tacos even better. The depth and complexity of flavors in both was really nice. What wasn't so nice were the thick, dry corn tortillas that really didn't enhance what was sitting on them.
From the Barbacoa section of the menu we tried the Carne en Adobo which turned out to be brisket. It was moist, flavorful and tasty. We also tried the Costillas, Berkshire spareribs in a chipotle cider BBQ sauce. This was the biggest miss (actually it was a failure) of the evening. The ribs were tough, they didn't want to leave the bone and the BBQ sauce nondescript.
Both the sides that we ordered - Esquites and Arroz con Crema - were strong. The equites had too much mayo in it for our tastes, but still the corn was tender and the flavors enjoyable. But the arroz con crema was really one of the hits of the entire evening. Rice, corn, rajas (strips of roasted poblano chile) all mixed with smooth, creamy crema created quite the flavor sensation. I think all 7 of us could have eaten a whole order of this by ourselves, it was that good, and that addicting
The churros with Valhrona chocolate dipping sauce and cajeta were well done and fun.
Despite the big misses with the posole and costillas, we all enjoyed the meal and all of us said we'd be willing to go back. We also really appreciated the way the small plates encouraged us to be interactive with the food and each other and really facilitated a social connection. Service was spotty, our waiter had a tendency to disappear and we had to hunt him down to finish up our check.
So even though I didn't get a chance to use the recommedations you all so graciously provided, I did eat pretty well in Phoenix :-) Thanks again...
I would also +1 crudo and they have excellent cocktails and good food, which is a hard combination to get right - do not miss their Squid Ink risotto, Mushroom Egg dish, or spicy pig ears - if they have the butterfish on the menu in their crudo section for that day, i would add that to the do not miss list
They way crudo does their dishes is nice because you can share and have lots of small bites, and is one of the few places in town you can say make me something with X spirit and describe the profile you are looking for and leave the rest to the bartender
I also agree with the previous truffel oil comment (don't like it at all personally) if you are sensative to that flavor profile ask them to leave it off or go light if you order a dish with truffel oil in it
Two recs that are close to where you will be staying -
Noca - one of my favorite restaurants in Phoenix. About a mile up the street from where your hotel is. Really excellent food and service.
Crudo - finally tried this place about two months ago when I was in Phoenix. About 2 miles from your hotel. Really great preparations and you can make your own 3-4-5 course menu for very reasonable prices. Only suggestion is that you request no truffle oil. They have a pretty heavy hand with it and it appears in several of their dishes.
Here are my fave's and they are close to the Biltmore..
Montelucia resort has a great restaurant and MBar happy hour.
T. Cook's at the Royal Palms has a great bar with Dwight on piano and apps too..
Lon's at the Hermosa...fab fab fab
Durant's for old school downtown steaks, chilled relish tray and strong drinks..
Wrights at the Biltmore is quite good.
Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for happy hour..Michael Mina is excellent.
Kaz wine bar in old Scottsdale for wine/drinks in a lovely setting.
Barrio Queen in Scottsdale friends really liked.
Make sure on you hit up Carolina's behind the PHX airport..divey Mex good..closed Sunday.
Hopefully all the wonderful posters on the PHX board will chime in!