Taste the World While Never Leaving the Valley
Longtime Phoenicians (and by longtime, we mean old-time) may recall the International Food Bazaar at Town and Country Shopping Center, the dark warehouse of a food court that allowed your mom to eat Chinese food while your dad pigged out on Mexican. Unless you head to the aisles of Lee Lee's Market in Chandler, you won't encounter such a smorgasbord in metro Phoenix, but we do have plenty of local spots that will allow you to pretend you've traveled far to eat well.
Japan might be halfway around the world, but once inside Nobuo at Teeter House (622 E. Adams St., 602-254-0600, www.nobuofukuda.com), the Land of the Rising Sun doesn't feel quite so far away. Tokyo native and James Beard Award winner Nobuo Fukuda converted this historic Phoenix house into a Japanese tea room, the perfect setting for his carefully crafted menu of Japanese tapas-style plates. Don't expect to find sushi here. Instead, lunchtime favorites include braised pork belly buns with pickled mustard greens and Tokyo-style okonomiyaki, an egg- and potato-based pancake served with pork belly, octopus, squid, shrimp, clams, okonomi sauce, aonori (seaweed), shaved bonito, and Japanese mayo. Dinner options include yellowtail ceviche, served with myouga, sesame seed, and shredded taro, and kaei karaage, a dish of fried black sole, blood orange vinaigrette, and bone chips. Almond fritters with azuki bean syrup complete the Japanese culinary experience. With one bite of this dessert, you'll be able to close your eyes and see the fog settling over Mount Kumotori.
The Southern hemisphere's seasons are the opposite of ours, so when Arizona's summer heat is overbearing, Australia is experiencing its own mild desert winter. If you love Phoenix for its cooler season, escape the summer and run away to Oz at DownUnder Wine Bar and Bistro (1422 W. Warner Road, Gilbert, 480-545-4900, www.downunderwinebar.com). Bring your adventurous spirit along with your appetite and try the crocodile spring rolls and one of several kangaroo dishes: chili spiced with mace, a bleu cheeseburger, or seared loin with grilled Portobello mushrooms, fried onions, and a port reduction sauce. There are more familiar options for less-daring diners, like Shrimp on the Barbie, served with rice and cucumber relish, and fish and chips with malt vinegar aioli. Wine enthusiasts can build a cheese board to pair with their vino, choosing from 12 varieties of cheese as well as prosciutto, salami, and smoked fish.
There's nothing as good for cooling off in the summer as a sweet frozen treat, especially when that treat is authentic gelato handcrafted by Italian husband-and-wife team Alberto Della Casea and Letizia de Lucia using recipes from one of Italy's top gelatieri, or gelato artisans. That reputation comes with high expectations, which the intense flavor and luscious texture match if not exceed. Cool Gelato Italiano (7373 E. Scottsdale Mall, Ste. 125, Scottsdale, 480-941-3100, www.coolgelatoitaliano.com) features 20 flavors every day and also serves fresh fruit sorbets, gelato sandwiches, and cafe beverages. Coffee addicts and those in search of a midday pick-me-up will love the gelato affogato, your choice of any flavor doused with a shot of espresso. Although traditionally made with vanilla, the tiramisu gelato is a natural pairing for the affogato, with rich flavors that sing. Other flavors of gelato include rocher (chocolate hazelnut), amaretto, cherry, pineapple, lemon cookie, straciatella, crema Catalana, and cappuccino.
Located in historic downtown Glendale, Haus Murphy's (5739 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623-939-2480, www.hausmurphys.com) is decorated with German flags, beer signs and steins, and folk art. The air conditioning is kept on high, so you can leave the summer heat behind and dine in a traditional German restaurant (that could be) nestled in the snowy Alps. Go to Haus Murphy's on an empty stomach; the popular specialties, all as heavy as the last meal before hibernation, will really make it feel like the dead of winter. There are six schnitzels to choose from, including breaded pork loin with an onion- and bacon-infused paprika sauce, and nine sausage platters, like nürnurger bratwürstche, six pork sausages served with sauerkraut and German fried potatoes. Haus Murphy's also has "haus specialties," including hackbraten (German-style meatloaf) and the Farmer Skillet, spaetzle mixed with smoked pork, seasonal vegetables, and lots of Swiss cheese. And of course, everything can be washed down with a pint of imported German beer, like Franziskaner Dunkel, a malty, dark beer with the refreshing finish of a hefeweizen.
Latin American cuisines often get grouped together in one big category, but since the region covers two continents, it should go without saying that the culinary traditions are incredibly diverse. For a fresh view, take your taste buds to Peru, located on the Western coast of South America. The country contains 28 of Earth's 32 climates, so while you enjoy Peru's specialties, you can imagine that you're basking in any weather you like. Contigo Peru (1245 W. Guadalupe Road, Ste. B8, Mesa, 480-383-7378, www.contigoperuaz.com) brings authentic Peruvian food to Mesa with appetizers like causa rellena de camarones, two layers of cold mashed potatoes with lime juice, aji, and a layer of shrimp salad in between. A must-try is the lomo saltado, a flavorful stir fry of tenderloin beef, onions, tomatoes, and French fries served over rice. Add fried plantains and an egg sunnyside up for something extra-special. Or for a South American twist on pasta, order tallarin, stir-fried linguini served with a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, or mariscos.
The food at Beaver Choice (1742 E. Broadway Road, Tempe, 480-921-3137, www.beaverchoice.com) might be wholly unfamiliar, but leave your reservations (and your Swedish Chef impressions) at the door and let yourself be transported to chilly Scandinavia. With specialties like chicken schnitzel cordon bleu, which is stuffed with French Brie and Black Forest ham and served with mushroom sauce, and laxpudding, one of Sweden's oldest dishes composed of sliced potatoes, cream, dill, egg, and house-cured salmon, you definitely won't feel like you're in Arizona anymore. For something really out of this world, try Flygande Jakob (Flying Jacob), chicken baked with bananas, peanuts, sour cream, and chili sauce and seasoned with curry — a unique taste worth the 45-minute wait. Don't leave without trying dessert. If you're stuffed full of salmon, opt for a crispy Swedish cookie with a surprising cream filling. If you're planning on a post-meal nap filled with dreams of Stockholm, go all-out with the Beaver Supreme, a rich dessert with chocolate, walnut meringue, whipped cream, and orange.
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