When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Pig & Pickle Location: 2922 North Hayden, Scottsdale Open: One week Eats: Global-accented fare w/ seasonal touches. Price: Between $11 and $30 per person
By the time you've taken in the meaty aromas and sat down under its low lights, there is the desire to, if you could, pull the interior of Pig & Pickle closer to you, like a blanket.
Here, inside the Scottsdale strip-mall restaurant from culinary duo Keenan Bosworth and Joshua Riesner (formerly of Scottsdale's top-notch BYOB Atlas Bistro), flavors and textures meet like unlikely lovers: bold and sweet, rustic and sophisticated, gritty and smooth.
It's pretty much perfect.
The menu is similar to Atlas Bistro's but less expensive and heavier on the meat. A kind of comfort-food-meets-gourmet listing of starters, salads, entrees, sandwiches, and sweets with global touches and seasonal ingredients.
For starters, there is a dish of three exceptional pork shoulder tostadas ($9) that are less like their moniker and more akin to the best loaded nacho chips you've had in some time. Heaped with tender shredded meat and uniquely paired with kimchi, ginger, and scallions, each bite is salty, porky, spicy, sweet, and crunchy -- like a Mexican-style snack run through an Asian kitchen.
And since you are at Pig & Pickle, why not a pickle plate ($4). A colorful array of house-pickled delights -- including beets, onions, and grapes kissed with anise -- it can be consumed before the main course or snacked on throughout the meal.
If there were a criticism to be found on the smokey mussels entree ($15), it is that the option of having them with or without slices of chorizo seems unnecessary, given the sausage's tame flavor. The mussels do the job in any case, though, gathered in a bowl with melted leeks, crème fraîche, wine, and herbs in a flavorful broth suitable for soaking the pillow-y soft pieces of bread in. The lusciously tender braised duck leg ($13), under a nest of radishes and sweet soy and atop a crunchy and mildly sweet fried mung bean cake, is nothing short of exquisite. A little less bean cake and a little more of the sweet soy may have helped overall, but not enough to stop me from ordering it again.
When it comes to dessert, Bosworth and Riesner prove they're just as adept at baking as they are at cooking. And a stellar sweet ending the friendly and helpful staff calls The Elvis ($7) proves the point. Featuring creamy peanut butter cheesecake between pieces of flaky, cinnamon-sprinkled squares of pastry dough and alongside a brûléed banana resting in a miniature pool of homemade strawberry jam, the creation is then sprinkled with nuts and topped (naturally) with a strip of crispy bacon. It's a decadent gourmet version of the King's favorite sandwich in a far more manageable size.
Dinner only (for now) and decidedly casual, Pig & Pickles' low-lit room of brick and wood features an open kitchen, a full bar, and a private dining room called the "Pig Pen," which, Bosworth says, when completed, will sport a barn door as the entrance. And its late-night hours, from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., make it a must for the after-hours crowd.
Bosworth and Riesner's Pig & Pickle has come right out of the gate as one of Scottsdale's newest and most noteworthy restaurants. I can't wait to return.
Pig & Pickle 2922 North Hayden, Scottsdale 480-990-1407
Hours: Open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m. daily. Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m. daily. Late Night: 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.