By Heather Hoch
By Eric Schaefer
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If you like cauliflower, you'll enjoy it even more when it's roasted, swathed in charred tomato vinaigrette, and encircling a piece of delicately sweet Alaskan halibut topped with a pad of bittersweet tarragon butter dripping down its sides. And the sweet, tender pork loin, topped with stone fruit compote alongside a hearty helping of savory Gorgonzola and white corn spoon bread, includes whole pistachios perfect for popping in your mouth between bites or after your plate is clean.
There's also charred short ribs with a coffee rub and dried cherry barbecue sauce, and a grilled chicken breast my server described as "not as interesting as the others."
When it comes to menu requisites like burgers and sandwiches, Kantak doesn't let things slide. Like the rest of the menu, he turns the ordinary into extraordinary, and his accompanying side dishes are equally munch-worthy. The house-made tzatziki, pickled cucumber and onions, and chewy bun of the lamb burger had me swooning, even though I would have preferred a better-seasoned patty.
7111 E. 5th Ave. Ste. E.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Region: Central Scottsdale
The caramelized French bread of the BLT lent sweetness to the traditional sandwich, and though I was intrigued by the idea of cherry mostarda inside the grilled cheese (really, more a grilled ham and cheese, given the flavorful Berkshire ham), there was too much of it, its sweet tangy taste taking over an otherwise enjoyable creation. Sides of pickled veggies and fries with a sweet house-made ketchup, tinged with cinnamon, are not to be ignored.
Tracy Dempsey, who used to work with Kantak at Cowboy Ciao, creates the desserts, and her expertise with sweets continues at CPH. "Pig in the Orchard" bread pudding, made with, yes, bacon, Granny Smith apples, and bourbon brown sugar sauce, topped with cinnamon ice cream, was understated and delicious. Dempsey also provides bags of her original bacon-pecan brittle for those who prefer their meat candy to go.
Partner and mixologist Richie Moe (also a Cowboy Ciao alum) devotes as much attention to the libations as Kantak does to the food. His handcrafted sangria is as pretty as it is flavorful, arriving as a glassful of deep red tiers of liquid. On my first sip of the Midwest Manhattan, I tasted a hint of leather, its rich warmth enveloping me like a well-worn jacket.
Like the atmosphere, the servers at Citizen Public House are relaxed and friendly, referring to Kantak as "Chef Bernie" and offering a welcome depth of knowledge about the dishes and their ingredients. The servers read their guests well: On my visits, they guided me to a selection of fabulous dishes, more in the manner of a trusted friend than a restaurant employee.
There's a difference between pretentious and classy, and despite the name and its Scottsdale address, Citizen Public House is the latter. Kantak's new venture is easily moving into heavy rotation on my restaurant playlist. It should on yours, too.
I'll be sure to go there just to use the restroom after I have eaten my friends fire chilli so I can flood the toilet and stink the place up. Then I may have a drink at the bar, and make sure to not leave a tip.