The Guilty Pleasure: Dessert and Coffee Where To Get It: Compass Arizona Grill, atop the Hyatt Regency Phoenix downtown Price: $8 for dessert, $3 for coffee What It Really Costs: The only regret is that you didn't think of it sooner.
On a recent dining excursion to downtown Phoenix, I was strolling around after dinner trying to figure out where to go for something sweet. I was about to head to CityScape to decide between The Arrogant Butcher or Blue Hound Kitchen. I made it as far as 1st Street and Monroe when a light went on over my head... more than 200 feet over my head, to be specific.
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While walking past the Hyatt Regency, I realized that I hadn't been to Compass up on top of the hotel since I was about four years old. The place doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation among Phoenix's food-crazed. I can understand; their main market is a steady stream of (expense-accounted) conventioneers looking for something reasonably straightforward. After my visit for sweets a couple of weeks ago, I keep thinking about what a wonderful time I had, and trying to find any excuse to return. Even better is telling people about my visit. I always get the same reaction. First comes a glimmer of fond reminiscence of their last visit, followed by "Oh my God, I haven't been there in ages!"
Dessert up at Compass has almost instantly become my favorite affordable luxury in town. The decor is tastefully done in late-1970s brown and orange (likely to recall the 30-year-plus history of the place), but if you're not looking out the window, you're doing it wrong. What can I say, that view is magic. Being 24 stories above the glittering lights on the desert floor is already nice. When it's a revolving restaurant, with tables taking 55 minutes for a full trip around downtown's sights... They could serve me a mud pie made with real mud and I probably wouldn't mind.
Thankfully, the desserts come out of the kitchen just fine. Offerings are familiar, with whatever subtle playful touches that the kitchen could get past the corporate overlords' radar. Berry cobbler (actually a berry crisp; does anyone use proper baked fruit dessert nomenclature?) gets a garnish of popping sugar (i.e. unflavored Pop Rocks). Chocolate ganache cake was pleasantly dense, with just enough zing from wine-macerated dried cherries. The fare isn't jaw-dropping amazing, but it is certainly enjoyable. The decent sweets and stellar view come together to leave me feeling like everything is right with the world.
I should mention that the service can be on the leisurely side at times. But let's be honest: If you're in a hurry, what are you doing at a place which has the view as its main selling point? Take it as a good chance to enjoy the view some more.