Chef Michael Mina starts the local conspicuous consumption trend with Bourbon Steak

Considering everything that's made a cultural splash so far in the 21st century — from extreme sports to religious extremism — it's fair to say that these are pretty extreme times we're living in, and cuisine is no exception.

"Celebrity chef" has supplanted "rock star" as the most glamorous profession. Everyone's a gourmet, and thanks to the Internet, everyone's a food critic, too. Meanwhile, high-end restaurants are constantly trying to outdo each other in the quest for more exquisite, exotic fare to please adventurous diners. A lot's been said about the desensitizing effect of violent entertainment, but has anyone ever considered how our increasingly food-centric culture might have made us ever more jaded? Just watch a few episodes of Top Chef and see what that does to your attitude.

At Bourbon Steak, the ultra-high-end steakhouse that recently opened at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, managing chef Michael Mina and executive chef push fine dining still further into the far reaches of excess — for Phoenix, at least.

Decadent dining: Tapioca-crusted snapper and grilled rib eye are just a couple of options at posh new Bourbon Steak.
Jackie Mercandetti
Decadent dining: Tapioca-crusted snapper and grilled rib eye are just a couple of options at posh new Bourbon Steak.

Location Info


Bourbon Steak

7575 E. Princess Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85255

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: North Scottsdale


Beets and burrata salad: $17
Snapper: $36
Molten chocolate cake: $12
Whole fried chicken: $58
480-513-6002, »web link
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 to 10:30 p.m.
Bourbon Steak, The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale

The food preparations are utterly decadent — premium cuts of meat poached in butter, bacon fat, or olive oil, accompanied by an orgy of lobster and foie gras and roasted marrow bones — and so are the prices. Here, the steaks go for double, if not quadruple what you'll pay for your protein fix at other high-end steakhouses in town (so far none of them are quite this upscale). You'll find a jaw-dropping variety of three- or four-figure wines on the menu, 55-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whiskey for $2,500 a shot, and limited-edition Louis XIII Black Pearl Cognac for $23,000 a bottle. No, those extra zeroes aren't a typo.

This is the new wave of luxury dining in the Valley. And Mina — a James Beard Award-winning chef whose San Francisco-based restaurant-management company operates more than a dozen upscale eateries (including two other Bourbon Steaks, in Detroit and Miami) — is riding that wave to success.

Soon, Mina won't be the only celebrity chef to make a splash in the Phoenix area. Upscale steakhouses are replacing legendary fine-dining spots at some of our most high-profile resorts, and Bourbon Steak is just our first glimpse of the trend.

At the Princess, Bourbon Steak filled the void left by Marquesa, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant. Forty-year-old Chaparral, at Camelback Inn, closed its doors to make way for chef Laurent Tourondel's BLT Steak, set to open this summer. And at the Phoenician, legendary Mary Elaine's closed a little over a month ago. By October, it will be transformed into J&G Steakhouse, a new concept from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Certainly, they've all set their sights on prime real estate. Last week, the results of an annual study by market research firm TNS Global revealed that Maricopa County, with more than 126,000 millionaire households, ranks third in the country for the highest number of millionaire residents (behind Los Angeles County and Cook County, Illinois). With so much talk of recession, restaurants geared to the shrinking middle class may be struggling, but the growing divide between the haves and have-nots could actually benefit restaurants that focus on the upper echelons of the dining public.

It's beside the point to talk about the obscene prices at Bourbon Steak, because when I visited, the well-heeled customers — many who looked to be in their late 30s and 40s — didn't seem to mind. Anyway, if you make a reservation at a place like this, you likely already know what you're in for.

But what's the big deal about steakhouses, you might ask? I'd wondered the same thing, too. After all, it's not like there aren't enough places in town to find a filet mignon.

It made much more sense once I got a look for myself. Forget about the masculine image of a traditional steakhouse, where fat cats smoke cigars and swill martinis in a den of dark wood and leather. This place was more unisex — and sexy. Think sleek black and white furnishings contrasting with concrete block walls, dramatic lighting, and an intriguing variety of seating areas, including an outdoor patio and a stylish bar/lounge. A soundtrack of New Order and The Psychedelic Furs added a Gen X appeal.

Service was polished and efficient, although quite low-key. I wouldn't call it exceptional — I was surprised our server was nowhere in sight when a couple of my dining companions and I had empty wine glasses.

A few other things distracted me. My table, in particular, was oddly positioned near an entrance to one of the dining rooms, which made my friends feel exposed and uneasy. If Bourbon Steak had been packed, I wouldn't have minded as much, but seeing how many empty tables there were, it was a curious choice for them to seat us there. The lighting was so poor in that spot that it was difficult to read the tiny print on the menu. And when a janitor lugged his gear into a service room, the stark light shining from the doorway put him in full view of most of our table. For the moment, it killed the special-occasion aura for me.

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That article was worthless. It hardly mentioned any of the main dishes. It failed to describe how the meat is cooked. No mention of what poaching a steak in butter is, which is the signature of Bourbon Steak. Just a bunch of babble, congrats