Chef News

First Taste: Flagstaff's Atria is a Restaurant Worth the Trip

Atria serves a scratch-made menu on Leroux Street in Flagstaff.
Atria serves a scratch-made menu on Leroux Street in Flagstaff. Atria
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, 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 — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

People follow chef Rochelle Daniel. The James Beard-nominated chef, who carved out a name for herself as executive chef of Cress on Oak Creek at L’Auberge in Sedona and more recently as chef de cuisine at Fat Ox in Scottsdale, has opened her first solo venture in Flagstaff. Many of her longstanding employees have joined her.

Named Atria, the fine-dining destination stands out among the pub food and burger joints along historic Leroux Street. But it’s not the lure of Flagstaff that brought along much of her team, it’s Daniel herself. As Atria's beverage director Connor Barrett puts it, “She’s never complacent.” 

That lack of contentment constantly pushes Daniel in new, innovative directions. This may not be obvious when you first step inside Atria, the first of three concepts Daniel is set to open on Leroux Street. Sure, the setting stands out in Flagstaff, a mountain town with a flannel dress code proud to serve anything that can be washed down with a craft beer, but the décor shares a lot with the Scottsdale scene.

The stylish space starts with a front atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows and hightop tables, and stretches back with intimate banquettes in beachy, pastel shades on one side and a modern bar on the other, ending with a nine-seat chef’s table overlooking the open kitchen.

It’s all gorgeous – light, airy, romantic, and upscale – but it’s the food that really gives you a glimpse inside Daniel’s mind, a magical merging of left brain-right brain brilliance that’s equally measured and imaginative. That’s the real trip.
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Chef Rochelle Daniel competed on Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters.”
Atria
The menu’s wording is all left brain. Free of trendy monikers like house-made, artisan, and made-from-scratch, ingredients and components are listed with no-nonsense precision.

Steamed mussels come with roasted tomato, herbs, mole butter and Bahn mi toast. Smoked short ribs come with celeriac, roasted onion and Bordelaise sauce. Slow smoked organic chicken comes with cauliflower, capers, and lemon. The apt descriptions are more practical than poetic.

But indulging in the finished product, first with your eyes and then the rest of your senses, righteously reveals Daniel’s visionary side, a right brain revelry rich in rhythm and imagination.
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Make a mess smearing the cultured cranberry butter on Atria’s signature bread.
Atria
Start your journey with Atria’s signature bread, a mountainous loaf served on a wooden slab designed to be pulled apart and plunged into the cultured butter, a sumptuous, slightly tangy smear enhanced with hints of huckleberry or cranberry. Daniel and her team churn and cure the butter for a total of nine days, but you’ll destroy it in a matter of seconds.

In fact, 90 percent of Atria’s menu is made from scratch, and takes the kitchen days to prepare. Salmon is cured in house and turned into a smoky spread that plays off the crunch of the house-made potato chips.

Plump raw oysters are spiked with apple, ginger, and hibiscus granita that adds a briny sweetness to the slurpable shuckers. Grilled oysters bring the bravado, each shell bathed in a buttery broth of chorizo, lemon, and parsley that’s salty, herby, and unapologetic.

The beet dish features the earthy produce served two ways, coal-roasted into smoky submission and pickled in Argentinian tea. The cold appetizer is finished with creamy dollops of whipped ricotta, tahini dressing, candied pepitas, and herb powder for a study in textural balance.

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Make no mistake, Atria’s bone marrow is flirting with you.
Atria
The roasted bone marrow is one of Daniel’s favorites and rightfully so. Two sizeable split bones are served on a portable grill, a meaty display of decadence that smokes and seduces with its brandy, butter, and garlic scent. The whole thing is topped off with shaved trumpet mushrooms.

You’ll dig in, literally, and probably want to lick the bone to get every last drop of fatty, flavorsome intensity. But Atria has a more ingenious answer. Ask for their house-made cinnamon Whiskey to pour down the bone luge.  
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Plump raw oysters are served on a bed of ice laced with knotted kelp.
Allison Young
For those searching for dinner and a show, make sure to sit at the chef’s table, where the kitchen team’s talents are on full display. Watch sous chef Anthony Suazo at the mesquite-fired grill working delicate green onions and grand tomahawk steaks with the same playful panache, chef de cuisine Maribel Silva adding finishing touches to dishes beautifully plated on beds of pinecones and whimsical ceramic platters that look more nature-made than man-made, and of course, Daniel quietly commanding it all with military poise.

Whether you order straight off the menu, or opt for the tasting menu, a five or eight-course mind-altering journey Daniel creates just for you, you’ll find yourself surprised.

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Atria's seasonal cocktails, like the Honey Bee which is made with chamomile-infused local honey, will have you buzzing.
Atria
Just like her staff, you should follow Daniel too. Yes, for her boundary-pushing, progressive food that helps you lean into the unfamiliar while keeping one foot on the ground, but there’s an even better reason. Daniel thinks of everything, so you don’t have to.

That means tilting your head back and turning bone broth into a carnal cocktail and losing yourself in layers of flavor and fantasy without coming up for air. It means truly being in the moment with food. It's definitely worth a trip to Flagstaff.

Atria

103 North Leroux Street, Flagstaff
928-440-4377
atriarestaurant.com
Hours: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m Friday and Saturday.
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Allison Young has written about food, nutrition, and travel for Sunset, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Clean Eating, Mindbodygreen, and Prevention. Her local jam is food writing, where she happily eats her way across the Valley to discover the best hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, pizza joints, and the latest Phoenix food trends. She also loves to pick Valley chef’s brains for their favorite food finds. On her website, TheGlitterList.com, she posts one thing she’s looking forward to each day, from food to books and podcasts.
Contact: Allison Young