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: The Henry Location: 4455 East Camelback Road Open: About a month Eats: American Price: $15 to $30 per person
Billed as "The Greatest Neighborhood Restaurant," The Henry arguably is restaurateur Sam Fox's most ambitious project yet -- part coffeehouse, part American brasserie serving three meals a day. And there's a full bar.
The place even looks ambitious from the outside, occupying a large hunk of real estate near the southeast corner of Camelback and 44th Street. At first glance, the giant building looks more like an impeccably stylish office (the building does house Fox Restaurant Concept's corporate offices) than a restaurant.
After you've been seated -- perhaps in a comfortable booth -- you'll be able to take in a handsome blend of such industrial touches as exposed piping and an eye-catching grouping of paintings on the walls. The "just so" design and the Stepford-ness of the servers' matching button-up/jean combos might make you feel slightly uneasy -- like you're in a movie scene in which every quirky detail looks almost natural or even accidental, but not quite.
The Henry's menu features appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees, while drink offerings include "homemade" soda and tonics, beer, wine, cocktails, and coffee. Starters include matzoh ball soup and Swedish meatballs, and though the Prairie Breeze Cheddar Popovers are the spotlighted choice on the menu, our server recommended the Brie Toast ($8).
It was good -- a slice of crusty bread cut four ways and topped with Brie, pear, pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts, and arugula. Use a fork to avoid ending up with toppings in your lap and you'll be off to a satisfying, if not tremendous, start.
For a drink, the Fig and Ginger Mule ($10) features Tito's Handmade vodka and Gosling's Ginger Beer and arrives in a copper cup (naturally). Be warned that you might find it light on the booze.
On my visit, the restaurant was out of corned beef, so I couldn't try the highly recommended C.B. & Rye, and opted instead for The Chevy Chase Sandwich ($18). With perfectly pink slices of New York steak, burnt onions, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese, the sandwich made for an enjoyable light dinner. The garlic Parmesan roll almost succeeded in overpowering the steak, though there was still a nice char taste from the purposely scorched onions.
We also tried the Roasted Half Chicken ($18), which comes with a choice of two sides. The dish is a reasonable portion of remarkably moist chicken, but if you also get the apple and kale slaw, the side will likely overshadow the main course. The macaroni and cheese, made with spiral pasta and a thick cheesy sauce, is simple and good.
The Gemelli and Black Truffle Pasta ($16) comes in a creamy sauce with braised greens and Parmesan cheese on top. But as the dish relies heavily on chunks of bacon (which is really more like ham) and truffle for flavor, it was too heavy to finish.
If you save room for dessert, the bread pudding ($8) is a wise choice. The side of brown butter walnut ice cream ($3) delivers a great flavor, but the texture was icy.
So is The Henry "the greatest neighborhood restaurant?" Judging by the fact that reservations are highly recommended for dinner (yes, even on a Monday) and pretty much required for weekend lunch, it seems the neighborhood thinks so. To be fair, it does offers ambiance, excellent service, and perfectly acceptable food.
There are countless places where you can find more innovative, authentic, or interesting things to eat. But for a restaurant that's trying to do everything, at least The Henry does nothing poorly. And that's out of the gate.