Whatever happened to sleeping through the summer? Remember how the Valley used to just shut down during the warm months, and to work was considered some sort of crime? Somebody tell that to our chefs today.
The toqued talent has been busy lately, opening new operations and renovating existing ones. It looks to be a delicious fall for foodies.
Mika debuted last week at the Borgata of Scottsdale (south of Lincoln Drive on Scottsdale Road). The restaurant, taking its name from the Japanese word for "beautiful," is the creation of James and Stacey McDevitt, owners of the posh Asian-American Restaurant Hapa just a few doors north. Look for more casual Asian flair at Mika, with dishes like chilled Shiso shrimp rolls with Thai citrus sauce, and a seared ahi burger with caramelized miso sauce and taro chips. A "beverage specialist" will lead diners through premium chilled sakes and Asian beers.
Pulling from an entirely different part of the globe is Restaurante Centro Americano, offering authentic Honduran cuisine on Seventh Avenue south of Camelback. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menu sounds terrific, with signature items like pollo frito (fried chicken on a bed of banana slices), and sopa de jaiba con coco (crab soup with yucca, banana and vegetables).
Southwestern star Vincent Guerithault, meanwhile, reopens his eponymous eatery September 3, bringing new tastes from France to his table. While many of Guerithault's popular items remain on the menu, the setting has been completely revised, with lots of decorative stone and a lounge offering cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
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North by North Best: With all the commotion of so many new restaurants in Kierland Commons, it's taken me a while to check out the new North cafe. It seems I'm not alone in overlooking the place -- a dinner last Tuesday found North occupied by just one party. Mine.
Why? Perhaps we're finally reaching saturation in the contemporary American bistro concept. How many gourmet pizzas, decorator pastas and "fresh" entrees can we eat? Having it so well hidden in the back of the shopping center doesn't help much, either.
It's not the food, certainly -- my mushroom potato cream soup was heavenly, and my whole roasted sea bass was a refreshing change from the traditional fat fillet -- much more fun to eat. I also love the freebie snacks at the bar, tiny curls of gently fried zucchini dusted with sea salt and flat parsley.
The test will be if North operators can break out from the crowd and convince diners to keep driving past P.F. Chang's, Zinc Bistro, Morton's, Mezcal, RA Sushi, the Cheesecake Factory . . . the list goes on and on.