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And indulge is exactly what you'll do with the over-the-top "collage de chocolate" sampler for two. It's staggering, both to look at and to eat: chocolate tart topped with chocolate sorbet; a breathtaking "pate" with strips of white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate hazelnut; chocolate fudge frosted with white chocolate ganache; and chocolate sponge cake. If you're not up for that kind of excitement, the berry-strewn caramelized lemon tarte and rich peach streusel cobbler topped with ice cream make first-rate alternatives.
Whoever trained T. Cook's assured staff should also take a bow. The place is smoothly run. And everyone here--hostesses, busboys, waiters and manager--is keen on treating customers well. Gee, what a novel concept.
The ValIey's big-time resort-restaurant league is no place for weaklings. But T. Cook's can dish it out with anyone.
5200 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Region: East Phoenix
Griff's, Scottsdale Hilton, 6333 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 948-7750. Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner, 5 to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
In contrast to T. Cook's, Griff's is hopelessly minor league. The Scottsdale Hilton resort, where it's housed, is owned by Merv Griffin, the former big-band singer and talk-show host turned entertainment mogul. He's the genius behind such television blockbusters as Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
In recent years, Griffin has become a hotelier. Several months ago, he tried turning around this resort's dining room (which he renamed after himself).
Forget it. If Griff's were a television show, it would be canceled. This place is strictly for comatose guests too debilitated to leave the property.
The room looks forlorn, with all the bland, plastic energy of a chain family restaurant. The principal decor motif is Merv himself. There's a photo of Merv with Bing and Bob. There's Merv with Ron and Nancy. There he is with Zsa Zsa, Elvis and Charo. Angie Dickinson, Judy Garland and Burt Reynolds are also great pals.
Maybe Merv should have hung around fewer celebrities and more chefs. Griff's would have been the better for it.
The fare here isn't terrible. It's just utterly, totally and completely forgettable. The kitchen goes through the motions preparing it; I went through the motions eating it.
Start with the breadbasket. On one visit we got inedibly spongy focaccia; on another, out-of-the-bag dinner rolls.
Appetizers are astonishingly hackneyed. Potato skins? Jalapeno poppers? Buffalo wings? Onion rings? Is this a resort restaurant or a sports bar? What's worse is that they're not particularly good. And this kitchen couldn't even get them out hot.
One evening's soup special, a cream of sweet potato, was so oddly sweet it tasted like melted sweet potato pie. The only decent pre-entree nibble is the quesadilla, cooked up fresh and stuffed with smoked chicken, wild mushrooms, cheese and chile, paired with a perky green sauce.
The best thing here? It's the dinner salad that comes with all entrees, put together with a mix of fresh greens, radicchio and endive. So why didn't anything else show a hint of flair?
The entrees are barely a step above banquet-level quality. Grilled salmon is a real snoozer, brushed with the world's mildest honey mustard glaze and somnambulently paired with an institutional rice pilaf and steamed veggies. I feel myself nodding off just thinking about it.
Seafood pasta is just as tepid, a yawn-inducing pile of linguini, topped with a few undistinguished shrimp and scallops and coated with an underseasoned marinara sauce. This platter had no zest, no punch, no life.
The ribs/chicken combo is another harmless option. It comes with out-of-the-freezer-bag fries and out-of-the-warehouse-tub coleslaw. And don't look for great things from the eight-ounce filet mignon. It's coated with what's billed as a "mop'in" sauce. But it's just a thin, vinegary liquid that does nothing for the beef.
Desserts are dullsville. The cheesecake was dry, and the texture was off. Apple pie could have come from the employee cafeteria.
Amateur-hour service--drinks neglected, salads forgotten, glacial pacing--doesn't make this place any more appealing. Griff's: It's down the end of lonely street, in heartbreak hotel.
Parma-wrapped sea bass
Collage de chocolate