Dining in a department store is nothing new, but it's no wonder the concept has such staying power. Keep shoppers on the premises to refuel, and hopefully they'll go right back to spending their dough.
However, Fred's — the restaurant at Scottsdale Fashion Square's new Barneys New York — is head and shoulders above the typical in-house cafe. Named after the late Fred Pressman, son of store founder Barney Pressman, it's a real sit-down restaurant, with white tablecloths and all. There's a full menu of mostly Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, a stylish atmosphere, and even a good-looking, well-stocked bar.
I can only imagine the kind of credit card damage I could do in the Barneys shoe department if I happened to overindulge at Fred's happy hour. And surely it's no accident that designer handbags and pretty jewelry are just steps from the restaurant door. Where's the danger sign?
At Barneys, Scottsdale Fashion Square
4500 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Fred's Brunch: $24
Grilled hen of the woods mushrooms: $14
Nioise salad: $18
Seared sea scallops: $24
Given the high-fashion merch that Barneys is famous for, Fred's is suitably geared toward the ladies-who-lunch crowd — as expected, there are a lot of salads and lighter bites like tuna tartare. What's surprising, though, is how much Fred's also caters to a hungrier clientele, with hearty pastas, entrees, and pizzas. The offerings struck me as a little disjointed at first. But browsing the menu and snacking on focaccia one day last week, a friend handily sized up the situation:
Fred's caters not only to the lady who lunches, but her pool boy, too.
The restaurant feels sort of like a chic, retro airplane hangar, with smooth wooden panels running down the curved ceiling. Tables fill the middle of the long space, but the place to be is at one of the booths along the windows, where you get a second-story view of palm trees, rooftops, and jagged mountains in the distance. The bustle of Scottsdale Road, just below, seems quietly far away.
I'm particularly fond of the Sunday brunch here, not only because the setting puts me in a good mood — it does not feel like the mall — but because it's a generous prix fixe deal. It includes a soft drink, sparkling wine, mimosa, or Bloody Mary; an entrée and side salad; freshly baked pastries, scones, and bread; dessert, and coffee.
Top-shelf vodka was a nice touch with the Bloody Mary, and I could've stuffed myself on nothing more than warm muffins and focaccia. I was excited to try the housemade bagels, although my single complaint about the bagel club was that it was served with smoked wild salmon and whipped cream cheese already on it — I'd rather control my own portion of cream cheese.
Still, it was a great bagel with a firm, moist interior, teamed with a light salad of ripe tomato, red onion, and cucumber. Poached eggs "alla campagna" were perched on slices of rustic bread, smothered in garlicky tomato sauce with a slight kick. A decent crème brûlée with fresh berries and tasty profiteroles with chocolate sauce ended brunch on a sugar high.
Another time, I tasted a bizarre blueberry panna cotta topped with starkly chemical-tasting key lime mousse, as well as a disappointing apple cobbler. Should've quit while I was ahead.
I loved the appetizer plate of grilled hen of the woods mushrooms — heady, almost smoky, their delicate edges roasted 'til crispy — with shards of Parmesan and arugula dressed in a light balsamic glaze. I didn't expect the whole thing to be served on a blanket of prosciutto, though, and I'm sure vegetarians wouldn't have been happy about it. The kitchen ought to nix the meat and throw in a few more 'shrooms.
While I'd happily order the chile-flecked sautéed broccoli rabe again, I'd probably skip the robiola with truffle oil — truffle-scented cream cheese on focaccia was heavenly, but I was quite content with what was in the gratis breadbasket.
Entrée-size salads were about what I expected, and sure enough, there were lots of fashionably dressed women picking at them every time I visited. My chopped chicken salad — Bibb lettuce, tomato, sliced pear, onion, haricots verts, and Dijon mustard-balsamic — was overdressed. Meanwhile, the niçoise was one of the nicer versions I've eaten lately, with baby greens, fingerling potatoes, olives, hardboiled egg, cucumbers, and haricots verts tossed in refreshing mustard-lemon dressing. Ruby slices of seared rare tuna were carefully arranged on top, with a large anchovy in the middle.
Something about the prosciutto, arugula, and Parmesan pizza was lacking — more tomato sauce might've given it a flavor boost. Next time, I might go for a simple Margherita, just to try that Neapolitan crust again. It was thin and crisp, delicate but slightly chewy.
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Fred's did a really fine job with seafood. In particular, enormous seared sea scallops were fresh and creamy, served with simple roasted potatoes and tangy sautéed peppers. And one day, a special of halibut, scallops, and large macaroni in spicy tomato sauce was an impressive dish that had everyone at my table jousting their forks, thanks to al dente pasta and fresh, cooked-right seafood.
However, chicken balsamico — balsamic-braised chicken with sides of broccoli rabe and mashed potatoes — was well prepared but far from exciting. A few bites in, my mind wandered to other upscale dinner options in Scottsdale. Would I go out of my way for this? Nah.
But when I'm famished and need a break from browsing through racks of beautiful things, or when I'm in the area, looking for a classy place to relax, Fred's is lovely. It feels almost like a private club.
Thankfully, you don't need to be a lady who lunches — or a pool boy — to join.