Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge
We tried it last night and I must say that both my wife and I were exceptionally disappointed. I was a big fan of Chistopher's Bistro back in the day, as well as Christopher's, the "fine dining component" before he moved to the Biltmore Fashion Park. Maybe there wasn't as much competition back then, other than Vincent's, Mary Elaine's and L'Orangerie much earlier.
We arrived and walked up to the hostess stand where we stood for 5 minutes before we were greeted. Christopher even walked right past us and said "hi" but never asked why we were standing there or if we needed to be seated. Once we were finally seated - in a great booth in a beautiful room (they sunk a ton of money into this place) we were asked if we wanted bottled or tap water. When we said bottled, our server said "that's good because the tap isn't filtered." Huh?
This isn't a thorough review, but here is quick rundown on what we ordered:
Torchon de Foie Gras - described as "fair" by my wife, a foie gras connoisseur. Not nearly in the same league as that at NOCA, Binkley's, or Cafe Bink. And a very small portion.
Escargot en Croute - Excellent. HUGE and flavorful snails, great garlic butter, delicious pastry over the top. This was my favorite part of whole meal.
Seafood Platter consisting of 1/2 lobster tail, 4-6 large shrimp, several king crab legs, several oysters (we were never told where they came from), several cooked mussels, and two sauces....one was choppotle and one was a garlicky butter. We had to ask what they were, and they were then described to us incorrectly. No cocktail sauce and we had to ask for horseradish, which wasn't the "atomic" type that I prefer....this was straight from a jar. The crab legs were the highlight...everything else was rather forgettable.
Truffle Infused Filet Mignon for my wife - no trace of truffle whatsoever. A good filet, but nothing to write home about.
Lamb Chops for me - quite good, but not better than what I could find at many other restaurants in town including Mastro's, Zinc Bistro, or Eddie V's.
Sides: Spinach - simple preparation of very fresh wilted spinach and Truffled Fries - nowhere even close to the truffled duck fat fries at Bourbon Steak.
Dessert: Chocolate Tower, his signature dessert. Quite good, very sweet, but not as "cool" as it was back in 1991!
All in all, I wonder if the Phoenix culinary scene has left Christopher Gross in the dust. No question that he has talent, but I'm wondering if he just hasn't kept up. Vincent, who has been around just as long (longer?), has stood the test of time but Christopher's just seemed so predictable and average....as if it was GREAT 15 years ago but just "so so" today. For that "type" or cuisine I much prefer Zinc Bistro, or a host of others.
Futhermore, they didn't get the service details right. Other than the episode when were had to wait to be seated and the weird comment about the water, the servers repeatedly brought my wife and I eacother's entrees, and the wrong appetizers. Sauces were described incorrectly. Iced tea was not refilled. Food was set down on our table even though I had gotten up to use the restroom. (Speaking of restrooms....the sinks are communal for men and women. Very gimmicky, and not in a good way.) These are little things, but they add up to a lackluster experience, especially when they come from a James Bears Award-winning chef...and one who prominently hangs his award where you can see it when you walk in. One disclaimer: our server was very good and quite wise about food, in general, and this menu. She seemed spread too thin, however, and we were left with an array of servers and secondary staff that didn't seem to have much of a clue and weren't of the same caliber as our server.
NOCA, for example, puts this place to shame. No wonder that two of Christopher's kitchen staff were walking into NOCA for late-night eats last time we were there!
More details to follow on my blog at www.ericeatsout.com
2502 E Camelback Rd Phoenix AZ