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10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in May

A polenta board from Crudo.
A polenta board from Crudo.
Lauren Saria

With the end of another month comes yet another look back on the best things I've eaten in the last few weeks. I've already shared a few in-depth looks at some really great dishes this month, including the frog legs I ate at Bryan's Black Mountain BBQ and the Carne Adovada Enchiladas at Los Dos Molinos. This list contains even more delicious bites, some from extravagant dinner events and others from well-known spots around town.

I hope you get to try some if it for yourself soon.

See also: 10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in April

Polenta Board at Crudo

Chef Cullen Campbell hasn't been offering these family-style polenta board dinners for very long, but if you haven't made time to go try it for yourself, you're making a big mistake. The menu specifics change weekly, but on my visit to Crudo the meal included a farmer salad with fresh strawberries, followed by a pile of tender, moist whole roasted pork over a bed of creamy polenta. I'm not sure what Campbell puts in his polenta but it's delightfully creamy in both texture and taste. And that's not even the best part. The best parts are the jars of housemade accouterments that included sweet pickled garlic, a spicy giardinere, and bright flavorful pesto.

Horchata from Restaurant Atoyac.
Horchata from Restaurant Atoyac.
Lauren Saria

Horchata from Restaurant Atoyac

Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca may be known for its tacos -- I'm a big fan of the fish ones -- but you should know that they also have some kick ass horchata. When I last stopped in I got a cup of wonderfully mild, creamy horchata and it was probably the best I've ever had. It was topped with pieces of melon and crumbled walnuts, giving the drink just a hint of sweetness and a nice, nutty flavor making it much more complex than most versions I've tasted in the past.

A Delmonico steak from Steak 44.
A Delmonico steak from Steak 44.
Lauren Saria

Delmonico at Steak 44

I'll be honest and admit that I didn't think I was going to like Steak 44 as much as I did. I'm not a big steak fan, but the restaurant's Delmonico was one of the best steak experiences I've ever had at a restaurant. I loved the fattiness of the cut -- which is really just another name for boneless ribeye -- and the tenderness of the meat, which is 28-day wet aged and then handcut. Of course, it also helps that they drown it in butter (or truffle butter, if you so choose).

 

Octopus at PM31.
Octopus at PM31.
Lauren Saria

Sous Vide Octopus at PM31

Considering that chef T. Cook's chef Paul McCabe put forth more than a dozen courses and a few extra "snacks" during my PM31 experience, it's nearly impossible to pick which one I enjoyed best. The range of flavors and styles is dizzying to recall but in the end I think the most memorable dish was the sous vide octopus. The octopus was stunningly beautiful but also perfectly tender and fresh, offering a meatiness that's not always there in other octopus dishes. It was served over a bed of barbecue black eyed peas and a side of cornbread. The play on classic barbecue flavors made it feel familiar despite being quite a unique dish.

The Dolly at Nocawich.
The Dolly at Nocawich.
Lauren Saria

The Dolly at Nocawich

For $8 you really can't do much better than The Dolly, a regularly offered sandwich at Nocawich. It features a thin, moist fried chicken breast; slaw; pickles; parsley; oregano; and spicy aioli. The heat from the aioli contrasted with the vinegar and salt from the pickles and slaw means this sandwich packs quite a lot of flavor. It may not look like it's all that big, but it's quite filling. I do recommend you save room, however, for whatever the soup of the day might be. You can add it to your sandwich for $3.50. Just cross your fingers it's as good as the vichyssoise I had.

Butterfish Tataki at Roka Akor.
Butterfish Tataki at Roka Akor.
Lauren Saria

Butterfish Tataki at Roka Akor

This moth was by no means my first time having this dish from Roka Akor in Scottsdale. It's a menu staple for the restaurant and a must-eat for me every time I go. I really love the subtle flavors of the cold appetizer. It features slices of clean, light butterfish with pieces of white asparagus and yuzu. The Japanese citrus is floral but also adds a nice touch of acidity to the dish. It's one of the few things that always manages to taste even better than I remember.

 

24 Hour Pork Belly at Urban Vine.
24 Hour Pork Belly at Urban Vine.
Lauren Saria

24 Hour Pork Belly at Urban Vine

For now chef Michael O'Dowd is keeping things pretty tame at this new restaurant Urban Vine. But for those who have eaten his food elsewhere, there's still glimpses of the type of uber creative fare he was doing before. For me it was in the 24 Hour Pork Belly with peach chutney. The dish offered complex flavors from the pork's mole rub and was incredibly moist. Since I dined there the chef has changed the name to Slow Cooked Pork Butt but it's still prepared with the mole and topped with sweet peach chutney.

Tsukuri Six at ShinBay.
Tsukuri Six at ShinBay.
Lauren Saria

Tsukuri Six at ShinBay

Everything I ate at ShinBay is rave-worthy but there's a reason the Tsukuri Six has become the chef's best-known dish. First of all it's like 3D food porn, so pretty you almost don't want to eat it. And with such a variety, it's hard to know where to start. The dish features six different seafood bites, ranging from an briny Kumamoto oyster topped with sea urchin to whole Firefly Squids. They're all standouts but what I love most about this dish as a whole is that it gives you a wide variety of flavors in one course. It's also a great introduction to the chef Shinji Kurita's cuisine.

French Scramble at Essence Bakery Cafe.
French Scramble at Essence Bakery Cafe.
Lauren Saria

Essence French Scrambled Eggs at Essence Bakery Cafe

There are few better ways to start the day then by sharing breakfast with a friend and Essence Bakery is one of my favorite spots for a quick, casual morning meal. It's always hard to choose one dish off the menu but the Essence French Scrambled Eggs is one of the best options. It features light-as-air scrambled eggs with chives, dijon mustard, cream, and Parmesan cheese. I love that the dish is unfussy but doesn't leave me feeling like I could have made it at home.

Banana Berry Spring Rolls from Sushi Roku.
Banana Berry Spring Rolls from Sushi Roku.
Lauren Saria

Banana Berry Spring Rolls from Sushi Roku

Normally Sushi Roku in Scottsdale wouldn't be my preferred place for a meal but during happy hour the restaurant offers some smoking hot deals. There are $3 hand rolls and $5 cut rolls but whatever you do, don't skip the dessert. For $3 you can get an order of the Banana Berry Spring Rolls and the value is really impressive. You get four sticky sweet eggrolls filled with warm bananas and berries. Combine them with a scoop of the vanilla ice cream and you're pretty much in heaven.

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Related Locations

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Crudo

3603 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018

602-358-8666

www.crudoaz.com

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Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca

1830 W. Glendale Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85021

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Steak 44

5101 N. 44th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85018

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T. Cook's

5200 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018

602-808-0766

www.royalpalmshotel.com

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Roka Akor

7299 N. Scottsdale Road
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

480-306-8800

www.rokaakor.com

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ShinBay

7001 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258

480-664-0180

www.shinbay.com

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Essence Bakery Cafe

825 W. University Drive
Tempe, AZ 85281

480-966-2745

www.essencebakery.com

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Sushi Roku

7277 E. Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-970-2121

www.innovativedining.com


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