First Taste

First Taste: Home Cooking at Farish House in Downtown Phoenix

Is the food and drink as appealing as the restaurant itself?
Is the food and drink as appealing as the restaurant itself? Courtesy of Farish House
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Farish House
Location: 816 North Third Street
Open: Three months
Eats: Upscale American
Price: $20 to $50 per person
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Service, price, and environment make a good restaurant. When restaurant choices are numerous and growing for a specific area, as they certainly are for Roosevelt Row and downtown Phoenix, a feeling of calm occurs when you make the right choice.

Farish House is a self-proclaimed neighborhood bistro, and that does track. It’s housed — literally — in the historic 1899 brick home on Third and Garfield streets. It neighbors the SongBird coffee house and is damn cute, ideal for date night or a quiet family dinner.

Its husband-and-wife owners include Lori Hassler, the former chef and owner of Radda Caffe-Bar in Scottsdale. “We are working with our skill sets: cooking, wine, music — even the family woodworking business,” she's said in a previous email. And before you ask, yes, the spot was once Roosevelt Tavern and The Monocle, where all the Arthur John Bachelier drama went down.

Now, on to the food.

click to enlarge The burrata cheese ball before it was destroyed. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The burrata cheese ball before it was destroyed.
Lauren Cusimano
Drinks here are obviously a point of pride. The bar kicks out “pre-Prohibition-era wine estates” and cocktails, plus some beer. The wine menu is small but respectable, a given since Farish’s original concept is to be part wine bar. But the cocktails are especially fun, each coming with its own story spelled out on the menu.

We went with the Farish Cup — seemingly the title track of the restaurant’s cocktail menu. Taken from 1869’s Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks by William Terrington, this sipper (for those with control, because it’s very tasty for a gin cocktail) is heavy on the ginger and mint. It's maybe one of the few cocktails that makes you feel like you’ve just brushed your teeth.

The dinner menu is straightforward yet upscale American classics, and by American we mean there’s a mix of French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish dishes.

A burrata cheese ball was suggested as a starter by an affable server. Promises of freshness and creaminess closed the sale. It was promptly delivered (there were tales of slow service, but the issue seems to have worked itself out), and it delivered. A sizable plop of burrata and generous slices of Noble bread were absolutely descended upon.

click to enlarge The pork loin roulade with bacon Brussels sprouts. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The pork loin roulade with bacon Brussels sprouts.
Lauren Cusimano
The menu’s entree section is tight, but each option feels like a safe bet. We went with the pork loin roulade, revealing itself to be two heavy slices of pork loin injected with Farish’s creamy, brandied apricot and rosemary filling. It's sided with bacon Brussels sprouts. The trick is to get the Brussels sprouts, the remaining table bread, and even your fingertip in on the roulade action. And try to stop yourself from licking the knife clean.

Another entrée, and server suggestion, was Le Mac. Though it’s easy to plate mac and cheese, you almost don’t want to disturb the floppy, shell-like pasta glopped with sharp cheddar and gouda cream sauce. It’s topped with crispy onions, which, if you’re a mac and cheese purist, are so flavorful you could almost omit. But they do add good texture, as would the option to mix in crispy bacon.

So, these portions. These portions are big. Not Claim Jumper big, but surprisingly big enough for the price and type of restaurant. It’s welcome, too, since staff is quick with a (recyclable) to-go box with your check. Let’s just say, yes, these dishes reheat well for next-day lunch.

click to enlarge Le Mac with crispy onion. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Le Mac with crispy onion.
Lauren Cusimano
A couple of thoughts occurred during dinner in the “that’s a shame” category.

Farish would make a fantastic lunch and regular brunch spot. It’s seemingly limiting itself with a Tuesday through Saturday dinner service (there may be reasons for this, of course). Its location and aesthetic would do well combined with a tightened or reduced lunch menu.The restaurant hosted a recent Mother’s Day brunch, but it feels like Farish would be feverish every weekend thanks to that patio.

And speaking of — though this is circumstantial — the patio will yield better urban views once construction tidies up a bit. The view, because what a view it is, should be a little cleaner once patio season ramps back up in the fall or next spring.

Here’s hoping Farish has better luck than the historic home's previous tenants. But if it continues to check those three aforementioned boxes, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano