Arizona Restaurant Week kicked off last Saturday and ends this coming Sunday, September 23 -- which means there's still time to find a great bargain if your favorite restaurant isn't already booked. "You snooze, you lose" definitely applies here.
Although it's true you may no longer be able to book a reservation for Saturday at 7 pm (the primo time slots are likely already taken), a little flexibility on your part (dining early, dining late, booking a week night) could still land you a stellar meal for a relative pittance. I've shopped the Arizona Restaurant Week website extensively -- as should you -- and here are four more places I'd love to check out because they show effort, not just a re-hash of the regular menu at a reduced price.
A sidenote: When I'm shopping Restaurant Week, I don't expect to love every single course; I won't be eating them all anyway, given that each course category generally has two or three choices. So I simply read and see what jumps out at me, what makes my mouth water, what makes me say, "Oh my God, I want to eat that RIGHT NOW."
Ask a die-hard local food-person to name a half dozen of their favorite restaurants and chances are, Atlas Bistro -- the little BYOB that could -- will probably be on that list. Chefs Joshua Riesner and Keenan Bosworth are wildly creative (sometimes changing their eclectic American menu daily), and their commitment to sourcing exceptional local ingredients is evident course after course. For years it was said that the excitement was on the plate, given that the room was a box, the decor a bit minimalist (to put it kindly). But now the Atlas boys are working with Bonner David Galleries, and the place has a far more sophisticated look. And because the BYOB-bistro is located in AZ Wine Company -- a wine shop with an impressive inventory -- you can select a wine that will complement your meal and save yourself a ton of money: no usual restaurant markup, no corkage fee. For Restaurant Week, Atlas's three courses are appetizer, salad and entree, not the usual app/salad, entree and dessert. Works for me. I can add a dessert, which I always share anyway, for an extra $8-$10. What strikes my fancy is: hand-rolled porcini gnocchi with maitake mushrooms (1st course); apple wood-smoked duck breast with peaches (2nd) and grilled pork porterhouse with spaetzle and Amish Asian pear butter (3rd). Pork and pear butter? Yeah, baby!
Smoked Paprika Braised Pork Shoulder, Queso Cotija, Guacamole, Shaved Baby Radishes
Kurobuta Pork Belly, Butternut Squash Hash, Tamarind Peach Glaze
Hand Rolled Porcini Gnocchi, Maitakes, Ginger Cabbage, Black Bean Miso Cream
Grilled Romaine, Fried Rainbow Valley Egg, Spanish Anchovies, Capers, Raisins
Roasted Striped Beets, Gala Apples, Horseradish Cream, Prairie Breeze Amish Cheddar
Applewood Smoked Duck Breast, Peaches, Sweet Corn, Cranberries, Almonds, Arugula, Frisee *Add $5
Grilled Pork Porterhouse, Spaetzle, Spaghetti Squash, Bacon Brussel Slaw, Amish Asian Pear Butter
Niman Ranch Tri-Tip Steak, Roasted Fingerlings, Baby Rainbow Carrots, Black Mesa Ranch Feta, Caper Aioli
Wild Caught Market Fish, White Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Fennel, Baby Spinach, Green Goddess Christopher's
Funny how longevity can work against you. Christopher Gross is one of the city's best chefs, turning out swoon-worthy French bistro food with the occasional modern riff for decades. But because he's been around forever (and because our town is fickle), people sometimes dismiss his exceptional talent. Not me. Nobody makes more beautiful mille-feuille (heck, precious few chefs bother to make it at all) or keeps the classic French flame alive with more heart and artfulness. Like Atlas, Christopher's is also skipping dessert on its three-course, $40 Restaurant Week menu. But who cares when you can have elegant options such as foie gras terrine or scallop mousse with lobster sauce, as well as hard-to-find classics such as frog legs and Boudin Noir? An extra $15 buys you three wines by the glass, paired with each course. So you can sit on the patio, drink wine, eat coq au vin and watch the world go by (is there anything more Parisian?) for a measly $55.
Smoked Salmon Mille-Feuille Paired with: Wrigley Mansion Private Label Brut
Terrine of Foie Gras with Brioche Paired With: 2001 Helfrich Steinklotz Gewurztraminer - France
Salad of House Made Ricotta and Beets Paired With: 2005 Cantina di Custoza Lugana Trebbiano - Italy
Mousse of Scallops with Lobster Sauce Paired WIth: 2009 Montgras Sauvignon Blanc - Chile
Cuisses de Grenouille (Frog Legs) Paired WIth: 2007 Maison Arnoux & Fils Cotes du Ventoux - France
Alsatian Onion Tart with Bacon Paired With: 2009 Cuatro Pasos Mencia - Spain
Hanger Steak with Au Poive Sauce And Sautéed Shallots Paired With: 2009 Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon
Boudin Noir de Shreiners with Onions and Red Wine Sauce Paired With: 2008 Domaine 'La Garrigue' Cotes du Rhone - France Or
Sole Meunière Paired With: 2009 'The Honorable' Chardonnay - Washington Or
Coq Au Vin Paired With: 2008 Seven Hills Merlot - Washington Lon's at the Hermosa
There's not a prettier patio in town or a restaurant that better reflects the Western spirit of Arizona as it once was. These are reasons enough to go to Lon's, named for the cowboy artist and rabble rouser Lon Megargee, who built his house here back in the 30s. Chef Jeremy Pacheco takes a farm-to-table approach on his "Artful American" menu, harvesting from a one-acre garden on property. And now that Travis Nass is mixing drinks at the Last Drop Bar, it's become a hangout for cocktail aficionados. Here are a few of the other reasons I'd happily shell out 40 bucks for the three-course menu: goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms; house salumi with shisito peppers; roasted Jidori chicken with basil mashed potatoes and an ice cream sandwich of local pistachio cookies, mascarpone ice cream and dark chocolate sauce. It sounds like simple, straightforward American cooking and I want me some.
goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms
house salumi, shishito peppers, shaved radish & citrus vinaigrette
hermosa greens spiced pecans, blueberries, local goat cheese & chocolate-balsamic vinaigrette
southwest tortilla soup roasted chicken, avocado & crisp tortillas
Second Course choice of:
*seared scottish salmon rock shrimp, summer squash, semolina gnocchi & roasted tomato broth
roasted half jidori chicken basil mashed potatoes, glazed baby carrots & sweet onion jus
*brandt farm natural hanger steak herb fries, grilled asparagus & sauce foyot
ibarra chocolate pudding cake cajeta caramel ice cream
lon's ice cream sandwich local pistachio cookies, mascarpone ice cream, dark hocolate sauce Zinc Bistro
I've been a Matt Carter fan for a very long time. As a former protégé of Chris Gross, he's got classic French technique down cold, and of course, it doesn't hurt that he honed his skills at the French Laundry. But pedigree aside, I love the way he cooks. His imaginative menus invariably make me hungry and the $40 one he's created for Restaurant Week is no exception. Factor in the lively street-side patio and the quiet, more romantic one out back, and you've got a slew of good reasons to head to Zinc. No sense in mentioning what I want to eat. I want all of it. Every course. Read for yourself.
CHOICE OF: CAVOLO NERO, BROKEN PARMESAN VINAIGRETTE, AVOCADO, GRILLED BLOOD ORANGE, NICOISE OLIVES
DUCK RILLETTE, SWEET TRUFFLE ONION, CRISPY SKIN, TURNIP HONEY, PUMPERNICKEL
FOIE GRAS RAVIOLIS, DOUBLE DUCK CONSOMME, CELERY ROOT, FENNEL
CHOICE OF: GRILLED HANGER STEAK BASQUAISE, SHERRIED PEEWEE POTATO, SWEET ONIONS AND PEPPERS
ROASTED JIDORI CHICKEN BREAST AND CONFIT THIGH, POTATO RISOTTO, ENGLISH PEA, BEURRE DE POULET, SWEET MOSTARDA BABY CARROTS
GRILLED SCOTTISH SALMON, SMOKEY BURRATA, ROASTED BROCCOLI, PANCETTA, MOLLET EGG, GRILLED TRUMPET MUSHROOMS
CHOICE OF: ZINC VALRHONA CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE, CHOCOLATE SAUCE
OLIVE CAKE FINANCIER, FIRE ROAST PEACHES, VANILLA FROMAGE BLANC, TOASTED ROSEMARY SORBET
LEMON RICOTTA BEIGNETS, MILK JAM, BLACKBERRY COULIS, WHIPPED RICOTTA
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