From pizza to cauliflower, there certainly was no shortage of excellent things to eat last month in metro Phoenix. This list includes a couple of dishes with which you may already be familiar, including one long-standing menu item and one dish that's quickly earned itself a cult following, but also a few dishes that you may never have heard of.
I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.
Hot and sour lamb dumpling soup at House of Egg Roll
If you're looking for a real dining adventure, you'll want to head to House of Egg Roll in Chandler. Don't let the underwhelming name fool you; this is a destination for northwestern Chinese cuisine that you won't find anywhere else in town. There's plenty to explore on the menu, but a good place to start is with the hot and sour lamb dumpling soup. The dish dates back more than 1,000 years to the Shaanxi province's capital, Xi'an, and offers a deep broth flavored with seaweed and shrimp then punched up with a healthy dose of vinegar. Loaded with pillowy dumplings stuffed with lamb, this soup is full of contrasting bright and rich flavors.
Cauliflower at The Larder + The Delta
By now, you've probably already heard about the cauliflower at Stephen Jones' The Larder + The Delta. But I'll say it again for good measure: This is one excellent dish. Lightly fried but also perfectly tender, each piece of cauliflower becomes almost unrecognizable when coated with locally made Homeboy's Hot Sauce. The hot sauce is as flavorful as it is spicy, and so benefits from the addition of cooling blue cheese and pickled celery. I've never loved eating our vegetables as much as when eating this dish — in fact, Jones turns this cauliflower into something so good that I have to remind myself not to feel guilty as I polish off an entire portion.
Mussels at Bink's Midtown
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Though this dish has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2013, the mussels at Bink's Midtown haven't lost any of their appeal. Your order will arrive in a heavy cast-iron skillet that carries the sweet, spicy fragrance of coconut curry broth to your table. Swimming inside the dish are a handful of steamed mussels served with a side of excellent focaccia for dipping. The broth is perfectly balanced, neither too sweet nor overpowering with bold curry spices, and if you're like me, you'll be tempted to pick up the bowl to drink every last drop. A better option, however, would be to ask for an extra slice or two of the focaccia bread, which you can use to sop up leftover broth.
The Prawn at Base Pizzeria
Be warned: The Prawn at Base Pizzeria isn't for the faint of heart. At least, it isn't for diners afraid of a little heat. Topped with thinly sliced red onion and shrimp, this pizza also boasts small but mighty pieces of chopped jalapeño that can and will surprise you with sudden attacks of heat. I enjoy the combination of bright, barely sweet crushed tomatoes combined with the forceful jalapeños. To notch up things a bit more, ask your server for a bit of the restaurant's house-infused ghost chile oil. A little goes a long way, but I can't resist using a dash or two to flavor the pizza's doughy crust.
Zaalouk at Moroccan Paradise
The menu at Tempe's Moroccan Paradise may be all over the map — which is to say, the restaurant serves Moroccan, Canadian, and French fare all under one roof — but don't let that scare you away. The owner arrived in the Valley from Moroccan by way of Canada, which means he knows a thing or two about making real Moroccan food. Start your exploration of the North African cuisine with the restaurant's zaalouk, which combines eggplant and tomatoes to make a chunky dip. Spiced with parsley, garlic, and cumin, it's both nutty and sweet when scooped with pieces of warmed pita bread.