BEST NEW RESTAURANT Phoenix 2006 - Backstreet Wine Salon
"In vino veritas," as the Romans were fond of saying when they weren't having orgies or out conquering the ancient world: That is, "In wine, there's truth." But the truth we've discovered through our own oenophilia is that it's often too damned expensive to drink the blood of the vine while dining out at a fine restaurant, assuming you want something better than the cheapest swill on hand. Then along comes cork dork Jock Wulffson, who had the nutty idea of combining a wine store and storage facility with a French-influenced restaurant where the eclectic art and decor are all for sale. And voil?! Backstreet Wine Salon was born. Wulffson knows how to score deals on various vintages, passing along the savings to the customer. And should you spy a bottle you crave from the retail side of the aisle, you can consume it on the premises for a corkage fee, instead of doling out two or three times the bottle's worth. To this setup, Wulffson adds the culinary know-how of chef Patrice Barry, who cranks out scrumptious, small plates, such as veal empanadas, roasted head of garlic, frisee aux lardons, sorrel bisque, pork-fig roulade, petite osso buco, and so on. As a result, Wulffson's got a winning recipe on his hands ? a funky-cool ambiance with a very knowledgeable wait staff, a kick-ass chef producing value-laden, Frenchified eats, and a collection of affordable, palate-tickling wines. Best new restaurant? You betcha. If only all newbies gave you this much for your hard-earned greenback.