By Heather Hoch
By Lauren Saria
By JK Grence
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By Robrt L. Pela
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By Laura Hahnefeld
By Laura Hahnefeld
The quality of ingredients is the highlight of each dish we sample. Simple presentation, though, is better here. When the kitchen stretches for dramatic effect, the result is like a woman wearing one too many pieces of jewelry.
A quite straightforward dinner appetizer of mussels marinière, for example, brings a boatload of blue East Coast shellfish, the pretty black shells and briny meat lightly dressed with chopped red pepper, garlic and shallots in a puddle of cream, Chardonnay and fresh thyme. A lettuce wrap (from the all-day grazing menu) illustrates why everyday iceberg lettuce is making a comeback on fancier plates -- the tasty dish is nothing more than crystal-crunchy greens, torn and tucked with butter lettuce, sautéed chicken, ginger and garlic, then dipped in a soy wasabi sauce.
Whatever our server's feelings about the mushroom soup, I'm quite happy with Bartilomo's light-handed takes on a signature baked-potato soup and a du jour offering of clam chowder. A cup is big enough to share, with my companion and I savoring spoonfuls of smooth potato purée and delicate sour cream under crisp potato frizzles. Clam chowder is an excellent hot-weather dish, more broth-based than cream-based, and loaded with chopped potato, real bacon slices and lots of tender clams, topped with sesame flat bread.
2708 W. Anthem Club Drive
Anthem, AZ 85086
Shrimp salad wrap: $9.50
Fairway burger: $7
American lamb chops: $23.50
Delmonico steak: $22
Chocolate torte: $5
Hours: Lunch, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner, Wednesday through Sunday, 6 to 9 p.m.; brunch, Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; grazing menu, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Our server gawks when we order salads as appetizers at lunch, and when they arrive, I do, too. The Anthem Caesar may be starter-priced at $5.50, but it's a meal-size plate paired with a slice of grilled ciabatta. Too bad the dressing is so flat it bogs down the fresh romaine.
Weak dressing also mars a dinner serving of bleu crepe salad, an already baffling jumble of spinach, fennel and frisée lettuces, strawberry chunks, shelled pistachios, sweet potato frizzles, radish slivers and bleu cheese served in a thin, dill-flecked crepe shell. Whew. There's way too much going on in this hyper dish -- sweet, soft, chewy, crisp, with no unity of flavor under watery bleu cheese vinaigrette. Stick with the Mediterranean salad instead, a fine toss of fresh greens, eggplant, roasted bell pepper, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber and Feta crumbles in a thick balsamic vinaigrette. Dip some of Persimmon's great foccacia or French bread in the dressing, and you've got a satisfying lunch.
A blackened sea bass "jet fresh" selection of the day actually makes me smile in the Anthem spirit. It's a small piece, to be sure, but Bartilomo obviously knows blackened doesn't mean burned, rendering a wonderfully moist fillet. It's partnered with a lemon vinaigrette and cherry-tomato salad, plus a timbale of dirty rice lightly seasoned to match country club tastes.
I'm also impressed with the shrimp wrap, a healthy portion of tender shrimp, diced red onion and lettuce in a whisper of mayonnaise, served with yummy, pepper-marinated cherry tomatoes and a big salad. The only quibble I've got with a tuna melt is that its soft bun turns to mush under generous heaps of thick avocado, white cheddar, tomato and white albacore -- especially when the semi-sweet juices of accompanying coleslaw overlap their boundaries of chopped cabbage and red, green and yellow peppers. What happened to the hearth-baked bread the menu promises?
Likely it's hiding out with the ciabatta bun advertised with the Fairway burger. What I get is another average yellow bun, topped with a half-pound of okay beef and jack cheese (not the Cheddar I requested). Grilled whole-grain hearth bread is another no-show on the chicken sandwich, just the ubiquitous bun cradling a hefty slab of grilled breast and jack cheese. The sandwiches are very acceptable club cuisine, but the best part of the plates? The very fresh shoestring French fries, dipped in cocktail glasses of ketchup.
Hopefully as Anthem fills up with more residents, its heartier entrees will be up to better speed. For sure, it needs to rethink its à la carte dinner pricing -- Persimmon isn't a Ruth's Chris.
Roast chicken, labeled a house specialty, for example, is an unexciting plate of two thighs on a thin chop of sautéed greens for $11. That's it. The meat's good, but taken off the bone, it would barely make a sandwich filling. A pasta of the day is boring, with undercooked fettuccine and summer vegetables (squash, zucchini, carrot, avocado) in an oily cream sauce. Three chops of garlic-and-tomato-dressed American lamb cower under a huge sprig of rosemary, with no additional adornment than a few forkfuls of Swiss chard and Napa cabbage. The meat's raw-red, rather than the medium-rare requested.
The largest oversight, though, is with our Delmonico steak, a generous parcel of ribeye. It's cooked a bit past medium-rare, but more disturbing is the unexpected drenching of butter and chopped herbs it swims in. The menu proudly states the meat is "served naked, to savor the true American flavor."
After adding side dishes of very buttery, skin-on garlic mashed potatoes ($3) and unremarkable sautéed wild mushrooms ($6), we're looking at a pretty expensive dinner for two.
Meals end on a happier note, bringing better-than-average crème brûlée topped with huge, fresh strawberries, and a chocolate torte that's delicious once we dig it out from its whirlwind presentation of fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, crème anglaise, banana chips and raspberry coulis in two dramatic designs, plus dustings of cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Is Persimmon Bar & Grille worth a special trip? No. But if you happen to be in that neck of the desert, or you're an Anthem resident, it's worth stopping in. Now, everybody, smile.