Location: 218 East Portland Street
Eats/drinks: Fine dining with upscale American fare, cocktails, and wine
Open: About four months
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday
In a grey brick building with black accents resembling a modern home, the space on Portland Street formerly known as Josephine now goes by Character. It opened this past November. The restaurant is led by Peter Kasperski of Scottsdale's (now closed) Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar and Richie Moe, a mixologist who ran cocktail programs at the likes of The Gladly, Citizen Public House, and Bourbon & Bones Chophouse and Bar.
We stopped by a few weeks ago for a Saturday night dinner.
In a beautiful but mostly brown dining room, the ornate chandelier that Josephine diners once marveled at was notably absent. Character's wine cellar, housed in a clear glass vault, was nice to look at, but on the whole, the interior design leaves a bit to be desired.
Another must-order: The Chopped Salad. This is an oft-mentioned dish at New Times and elsewhere, and served at Citizen Public House for years. It's dubbed the Arizona State Salad. The thing has its own Facebook page. This Chopped Salad was served with pesto buttermilk dressing and a whole lineup of winners: arugula, couscous, Asiago cheese, pepitas, and dried currants. Timeless as ever. Kasperski, you've still got it.
The crispy grilled artichoke hearts came over Bellavitano mousse (a hard cow's milk cheese with a nutty but fruity flavor) and tomato vinaigrette with lemon thyme. They were zesty but the mousse was almost too rich, though the char from the grill added some dimension to the dish.
Thanks to the hits of sodium, dessert beckoned: butterscotch bread pudding made with house brioche bread and topped with spiced pecans and butter pecan swirl ice cream. It did the trick.
As for Alias, a dimly lit speakeasy a quick stroll behind Character — it will have to wait for another night.