Through the Looking Glass: Windows on the Green is the Phoenician's "casual" Southwestern-themed restaurant.
Why the quotation marks around "casual"? Because there's nothing casual about $10 appetizers, $28 entrees and a sommelier with a list of big-buck wines, even if you aren't wearing a coat and tie.
The Phoenician's restaurants all have one thing in common: They don't cut corners. Whether it's the fresh artichoke hearts in the Sunday-brunch salads or the Belgian chocolate in the homemade ice cream, the battle between the bean counters and chefs always goes to the latter. That's how it is at Windows on the Green, too.
Meals start off with a magnificent breadbasket--corn bread flecked with sun-dried cherries and jalapenos; marigold-mint rolls; and blue-cheese-dusted lahvosh.
A small freebie bowl of smoked tomato gazpacho got us primed for appetizers. Shredded smoked brisket, draped over luscious corn bread and spiked with a mild green-chile vinaigrette, is mesmerizing, full of sharp-edged flavors. Lovely filleted rainbow trout, crusty outside, moist inside, is teamed with grilled pineapple and lentil salad. "Locally farmed organic tomatoes" are grown especially for the Phoenician at The Farm on South Mountain. A summery delight, they're peeled and served with roasted poblanos and a bit of fresh mozzarella, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Why can't all restaurant salads taste like this?
The divine sweet corn and rock shrimp chowder is equally remarkable, rich and lush. "How much cream is in here?" I asked the waiter. "You don't want to know," he said, smiling. Floating atop the chowder are two huitlacoche fritters. Huitlacoche is a corn fungus of trufflelike intensity, a favorite south of the border, and you don't see it very often in Valley restaurants.
The papers have been reporting that Sheriff Joe is going to be serving ostrich. But why should prisoners have all the fun? The ostrich at Windows on the Green is magnificent, grilled and paired with a righteous mango barbecue sauce.
For dessert, the cajeta ice cream sundae can't be surpassed. Fashioned from sweetened goat's milk, it's got an addictive butterscotch flavor. Topped with fudge, bananas, cookies and thin leaves of chocolate, it leaves you panting.
Now for the bad news. Chef Robert McGrath is leaving--this is his last week at Windows on the Green.
He'll be working with Paul Fleming, the restaurateur/entrepreneur behind Z'Tejas Grill, P.F. Chang's and Brio. Hiring McGrath looks like another coup for Fleming.
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McGrath's first task will be overseeing the complete makeover of Brio. No more around-the-world fare: Brio is being repositioned as a spot for what McGrath calls "west of the Mississippi" American food. Look for entrees like pan-fried trout and Kansas City sirloin.
The Brio name is going, too. The new place will be called "Roaring Fork" and should be ready by the beginning of October.
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