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Province, the much-anticipated restaurant at the Westin Downtown, doesn't disappoint in the looks department.
The main room is anchored by sassy hot pink walls, speaking loudly of Latin flair but subdued by the simplicity of the cork and recycled wood tabletops. Just a few framed square pieces of kaleidoscopic food art hanging on the walls, a gorgeous petrified tree limb sculpture planted firmly above a dark wood credenza, and a vibrantly green moss-framed wall of the patio entrance to the restaurant pay decorative homage to dishes influenced by Central and South American and Spanish cuisine.
The bar is separated from the main dining area by an 8-foot-tall wall of custom, climate-controlled wine storage. The space is inviting and cozy, with a large cushioned bench running the length of the south wall and dim Edison bulbs hanging from above wrapped in deep purple blown-glass coverings. I could sit here and drink wine on tap all night.
333 N. Central
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Region: Central Phoenix
And maybe that's what I should have done.
Province's sister (and original) location in Chicago was awarded Gold Level LEED certification for its eco-friendly construction and sustainable operations, and it transposed a lot of the same Earth-conscious elements to Phoenix — from recycled leather chairs to PVC-free vinyl booths, floor-to-ceiling windows, highly efficient heat pump, mechanical and lighting systems, environmentally friendly paint, and regenerated cotton sheers.
If only the same standard had applied to the food I was served during several visits to the restaurant. To be sure, there were hits among the misses, but the misses were not even close. For as detail-oriented as executive chef and restaurateur Randy Zweiban clearly is, it's a wonder what his cooks will do when the boss isn't looking.
I stopped in for a Saturday morning brunch with my boyfriend and his parents. The parents, a sweet couple from the Midwest, were content picking around softly scrambled eggs drenched in butter to fork up a medley of fingerling potatoes and cherry tomatoes. I, on the other hand, will not be ordering salmon for breakfast again. Maybe ever. Definitely not at Province. The salmon Benedict had a lot of strong flavors that didn't come together: salty, smoky, bitter, buttery. It was unfortunate that my eggs were so under-poached that they more closely resembled a science experiment than breakfast. The whites were still translucent, as was the stingy dribble of ancho Hollandaise sauce. I did enjoy the side of housemade chorizo links, which were bursting with all the right spices: paprika, salt, cayenne, cumin, and fennel seeds.
If you find yourself in the mood for a sweet breakfast treat with blueberries, definitely order the orange oatmeal almond pancakes. Maple syrup, whipped cream, and butter were served on the side but were hardly necessary.
The check was dropped uncomfortably early, and our table was never actually wiped down before or after we were seated. I was left wondering whether Zweiban had someone he trusted executing his lunch and dinner menu.
My date and I started dinner with crushed hominy deep-fried into light fluffy balls with a crispy outer shell atop ancho aioli. Excellent beginning. Memories of my Nana's menudo came rushing back; I only wish her menudo had been deep-fried.
The mini Cuban pork sandwich is so mini you almost want to pop the whole thing in your mouth at once. Which I did. It took me ages to chew — somewhat politely, so that it didn't look like I had a huge jawbreaker candy inside my mouth. Even cute, tiny things pack a punch.
On a lighter note, we tried the hamachi sashimi for balance. I found it completely forgettable, especially with two types of ceviche on the menu.
It had actually been the delicious salmon ceviche sprinkled with fried capers on a crispy cracker that got me anticipating a full Province experience, after a tiny taste at Devoured Culinary Festival in March. But after the salmon Benedict, I wasn't up to it and, instead, went with the farm-raised shrimp ceviche. I was delighted with the service — atop a mini ice bath. Then I tried the dish.
It was overbearingly spicy and had no place next to the pink grapefruit segments, a combination I hope to never come across again. The shrimp itself was ice-cold and rubbery, with not the slightest hint of freshness.
It sounds as though I'm warning against all seafood items on the menu, but please do not avoid the shrimp and organic grits with manchego cheese. The grits took on a hint of smokiness from the perfectly grilled shrimp. The manchego cheese added another dimension to the creamy, well-seasoned grits — setting the dish apart from most other grits in town.
If ordering a salad at a meal isn't already second nature, it seems almost mandatory at a restaurant boasting a farm-to-table commitment. Knowing asparagus will soon be out of season, I couldn't pass up the Foxy Farms asparagus salad with spring onions, garlic, and fresh herbed ricotta cheese atop crostini. I wasn't familiar with Foxy Farms and asked our server if they were local. The maître d' was within earshot, looked over her shoulder, and simply replied, "Yes." I was hoping for some sort of location, but I figured I could Google it later, which I did. She might have meant to say that the asparagus was delivered by a local truck, because the only Foxy Farms I found is in Pennsylvania. Maybe that explains why the asparagus tasted like it just came out of a can. Or maybe it was just overcooked, or maybe this was a rare okra-asparagus hybrid. In any case, it was inedible, and the burnt crostini did the one edible item — herbed ricotta — no justice.
Great review. I think restauruants masquerading US foods products for farm to table need to be called out.
Wow, did I write this review? Exactly the same lineup of food, exactly the same opinions, both good and bad. The only difference is that Nicole doesn't mention whether her experience also included it taking 20 minutes and 4 people to locate the table's chosen bottle of wine, an Albarino. Said wine arrived warmer than room temp and when questioned about it, the server said it was the restaurant's policy to bring the whites to the table warm, then put them in ice after it was open. (I swear I am not making this up.) Server went on to tell me that the temperature of the wine wall was *very* carefully calibrated to meet Chef Zwieban's specifications and offered no recourse when we couldn't even drink it for 20 more minutes of ice bath. My dining companion and I never did figure out if the (otherwise very lovely and friendly) server was truly that clueless, or trying to save face by asserting this preposterous notion was the restaurant's intentionally asinine plan. I haven't been able to summon the courage to try again, and the food doesn't really provide a compelling reason (except for that damn shrimp and grits!).
On the asparagus I think its actually worse than you thought. We asked the same thing and they told us that it came from CA. This is a large scale commercial grower that had problems with e coli in their lettuce a few years back. (although they do grow in AZ). I think this is their website. http://www.foxy.com/ At the time it struck as more amusing than anything else. Sort of like describing chicken as "Tyson Farm raised chicken"
I am sorry you didn't try the "slow cooked organic salmon" on the lunch menu, because I was hoping for your take on this offering. I work in the building so my coworkers and I have eaten lunch here a few times, with mixed results. On my first visit a coworker ordered the lunch portion of this so-called "main," and for $12 received three miniature bits of strangely translucent salmon with about half a dozen edamame beans. She couldn't get past the texture, and offered me a bite -- it wasn't raw, but not cooked in the usual sense. Eventually the waiter returned and volunteered to take it back and have it cooked further. She accepted, after which she finished the other two teaspoonfuls, wondering if this had actually been an appetizer portion instead of a lunch portion. (I located a spare leftover sandwich for her when we returned to the office, since her lunch had hardly been enough to sustain life.) But what I have been wondering is, what does "slow cooked" mean? Sous vide? It is still listed on the menu, so somebody must be eating it as served.
We did enjoy the ceasar salad with added chicken and the chopped market vegetable salad on another visit.