Fans of House of Tricks in Tempe may notice a few changes to the restaurant's lengthy lunch menu. Earlier this year the restaurant removed a few items from the lunch selection and replaced them with new dishes.
The changes include taking away the restaurant's popular PB&J sandwich, which was made with balsamic macerated strawberries, pistachio butter, shaved fennel, mascarpone cheese, and arugula. The good news is the new dishes include excellent options such as harissa pork tenderloin served with charred eggplant puree, and arugula and chickpea salad.
In place of that one-of-a-kind PB&J, House of Tricks now offers a grilled vegetable sandwich. On our visit the medley of veggies included carrot, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach piled between two pieces of focaccia bread.
Though the toasted bread tasted great, the crusty exterior did a little damage to the roof of the mouth, which is always a downer when it comes to otherwise enjoyable sandwiches. We would have liked a little more of the herbed goated cheese, but the sweet apricot chutney made an appearance throughout the dish.
New in the salad section of the menu is the tempura shrimp salad with Asian vegetables and umami dressing. We enjoyed the mixture of greens and vegetables, which included snap peas, cucumbers, red peppers, and mushrooms. It didn't exactly scream "Asian" to us, but the inclusion of green onions did add a nice zip to the mix.
And while the flavor of the tempura batter was great, sitting over dressing-laden greens caused the batter to get soggy making the texture slightly off-putting toward the end of the meal. Luckily, we loved the rich and slightly salty flavor of the salad dressing.
The best of the new dishes we tried was definitely the harissa pork tenderloin, one of two new additions to the specialties section of the menu. (The other is a sweet chile flank steak strif ry with grilled bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, snap peas, rice noodles, and Fresno peppers.)
The tender pork offered a light harissa flavor, spicy with a hint of garlic, that was well-balanced with mild eggplant puree and a nice coriander yogurt dressing drizzled on top of the dish. Sweet and sour pickled cucumbers also covered the dish, while a mild but pleasant arugula and chickpea salad served as a side. There were certainly a lot of completing flavors in the dish, though none were so strong as to overpower the whole thing.
Whether you're going to try the new selections at House of Tricks, or just going back for a favorite dish, it's undeniable that the restaurant's picture-perfect patio is a great place for lunch.