Cafe Reviews

Chef Bernie Kantak's The Gladly: Neat New American Cuisine

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See also: Review - Gertrude's at The Desert Botanical Garden

Reworked from its formerly formal setting into a clubby, casual, light-filled dining room, the Gladly does comfort food one better. On an initial visit, we started with pistachio chicken liver pate. Cold and smooth and closer to chopped liver than traditionally creamy pate, the pate proved a perfect opener. Tasty on its own, this mellow liver dish is a real show-stopper paired with a dollop of sage mustard, a glob of the crunchy pickled onions that show up in a number of Gladly dishes, and a tiny pile of capers, all of which enhanced the mellow flavor of the liver. I couldn't taste pistachios.

We paired the pate with the stunning roasted Brussels sprouts appetizer, a sophisticated take on comfort food featuring perfectly paired textures. Roasted, the sprouts were soft inside and crispy outside, nestled into a puddle of mild corn grits studded with whole corn kernels and fixed up with pungent Pecorino cheese.

The Gladly's Caesar was nothing special. The dressing was fragrant with garlic but lacked any real anchovy presence. It replaced the kick of lemon or vinegar with black pepper that made for a too-spicy salad served with tomatoes, a Caesar misstep. Bacon fat croutons were a nice touch.

Duck meatloaf stopped just short of perfection. Formed, not ground, the duck meat was moist but not greasy, nicely crusted with foie gras mousseline baked on top in place of meatloaf's traditional tomato glaze. The accompanying smoked cherry demiglace was a misfire: smoky and cloying, it vanquished the subtle tastes of duck. Fortunately, it was served on the side. The accompanying rosemary millet was genius. Millett is sometimes gritty and bland, but this one was buttery and not overwhelmed by rosemary or unpleasantly grainy. I dipped the side of nicely wilted asparagus into mine.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela