Restaurant Week can suck, but it doesn't have to. Sure, plenty of chefs out there are milling out their easiest dishes, but others step up, turning the 10-day "week" into an event that can be worth attending for even the most jaded, seasoned, scene-Hoovering eater.
We've done some scouting this year. If you're hitting Arizona Restaurant Week from May 17 through May 26, consider one of these five spots looking to bring some gustatory heat. And note: Not many east or west Valley restaurants are participating. Maybe next year, the event organizers can better spread the love.
Nobuo at Teeter House
622 East Adams Street
Though Nobuo Fukuda has some fancy national award hardware to his name, his Heritage Square restaurant remains an underappreciated Valley gem. For restaurant week at Nobuo at Teeter House, his menu is fixedly unfixed. You get the usual Restaurant Week prix-fixe of three plates (for $44), and the menu Fukuda is offering has built-in flexibility at each stage. You won't quite know what's coming (other than maybe a bento box staple at course number two), and there is room for improvisation. And when these two stars align, Fukuda and the heights of Japanese-inspired food in the Valley can be astounding.
1006 East Warner Road, #102, Tempe
The Aaron Chamberlin-owned south Tempe restaurant where Robert Centeno and Rene Andrade skillfully pilot the modern Southwestern kitchen is showing up with a strong menu. For a cool $33 at Ghost Ranch, you'll get the privilege of making hard choices at three courses. This is a great price for good ceviche, enchiladas, and chile-chocolate cake — a run deeply rooted in this part of the country and dining in 2019. Though the heartier mesquite-grilled proteins are off the table, one could hardly complain given the wealth of plant-centric options, including a lush corn soup and jicama salad with bright nopales.
Mowry & Cotton
6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
One of the most original resort restaurants in town will be rolling out one of the most interesting Restaurant Week menus. Tandy Peterson of Mowry & Cotton will be cooking some favorites from her roster, including hangar steak with sunflower pesto and pickled blueberries. For $33, you get three courses plus buttermilk buns for the table, seemingly an afterthought unless you've tasted them, smeared with baroque, heady duck-fat-fig butter. Dessert suits the sweaty season and palm-treed poolscape by the patio: lemon meringue and whoopie pies.
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Citizen Public House
7111 East Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale
This downtown Scottsdale den of barrel-aged cocktails is going respectably hard this spring. Bernie Kantak's restaurant will offer a choice from five entrees for the main course portion of his $44 meal, including his adeptly seared scallops (with cola gastrique) and Amaro meatloaf — the latter a dish with the individuality of a thumbprint. The first course at Citizen Public House is a choice between salads. Not good news to those who like starting good stories. But when you're talking about his chopped salad, and then about grilled endive, well, what they say about salads and stories doesn't seem to apply.
5445 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale
The signature restaurant inside Mountain Shadows Resort serves some intriguing plates of food, many of them on the pricier side. One of the great things about Restaurant Week is that you can try a tiny litany of dishes for the price that, on other nights, might get you just one. For $44 while the mid-May week is humming, executive chef Charles Wiley will be building some serious dishes — no doubt as visually striking as they are the other 50-and-a-half weeks of the year. Look forward to soft shell crab, yuzu créme brûlée, and chilled pea soup.