When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait 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).
Restaurant: FLINT By Baltaire
Location: 2425 East Camelback Road
Eats: Contemporary American, Mediterranean
Price: $30 to $50
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
You may or may not notice FLINT by Baltaire driving on Camelback Road. During the day, the wooden shutters are closed and all you see is "FLINT" on the charcoal metallic frame. However, drive by at night, with the shutters open, and you’ll see glinting lights shining through to the street. Though the restaurant has an overall modern design, the Old World-style shutters herald the food, which is Mediterranean fare with Middle Eastern accents.
Midcentury Modern-inspired decor carries inside the restaurant. It is an open-concept design with two dining areas flanking the bar. One gives the diners a view into the impeccable kitchen, the other faces outside. Two rooms behind the bar are more private, allowing for larger parties. Two television screens are visible from the bar, however, are purposefully de-emphasized.
This is definitively a grown-up place. Earthen tones and wooden tables suffuse the restaurant. Even the style and color palette of the dinnerware complement the earthy tones of the dining room, which allow the food to be the true star.
The menu has plenty of sharable plates as many modern restaurants do. You can choose from hummus, dips, appetizers, and wood-fired pizzas. Following these options, you see the entree section and sides. Robb Report called the dishes at FLINT “recognizable, but still thought-provoking” — and that was exactly our experience.
We skipped the wine list and went straight for the cocktail menu to try the All Grown Up (think hard lemonade) and Grapefruit & Chill (a feminine concoction of Mi Campo tequila, elderflower, and grapefruit), which presented a refreshingly smooth taste.
From the spread section, we ordered the smoked eggplant. Its soft texture and subtle smoky flavor were balanced by the crunch of the pine nuts and acidity of pomegranates. But the best part of the dish was FLINT’s interpretation of pita bread. Made of enriched dough the small, round flatbread is a cross between pita bread and dinner rolls. It makes you throw caution to the wind, forget about carb-watching, and ask for more. This is the only bread they make in house, and it is a must-try.
In the appetizer section, you find familiar options — and some not so familiar. The smoked bone marrow seemed intriguing. Prepared in the wood-fired oven, the dish is composed of three half-sections of bone resting on a modern chafer and grill. It's served with salsa verde, Medjool date jam, and grilled slices of Noble Bread. Spread the rich, creamy bone marrow over toast, add the salsa verde followed by the date jam, then sprinkle parsley leaves and sea salt for the perfect bite. The sweetness of the date jam gives way to the piquant salsa verde.
Our server also recommended the tuna crudo. Drizzled in citrus oil, it arrived with small medallions of hearts of palm and tiny sprigs of dill. In contrast to the bone marrow, the tuna was delicate and bright. But the bone marrow won our taste buds for its many layers of flavor.
For the main dish, we chose whole grilled branzino, which came with a beautifully charred romanesco along with grilled lemon. Blanketing the flaky, smoky grilled fish is a layer of bagna cauda, a sauce of oil, butter, and vegetables — a beautiful union of texture and taste. Make sure you get a little of everything on your fork.
The menu only mentioned lemon, Parmesan, and sea salt over a side dish of Brussels sprouts, yet, once again, the chefs surprised us. There is rich tartness rounded off with a hint of sweet. Vinegar? Yes, our server confirmed. The dressing also has rice vinegar and honey. Wear loose clothing. You won’t be able to stop eating these sprouts.
The desserts likewise carried a nod to Middle Eastern ingredients. Feeling a sense of responsibility to our readers, we tried not one but two desserts: Warm doughnuts and a chocolate sesame ganache tart. We chose the doughnuts because how can you turn down any dessert with mentions cardamom and coffee? The melt-in-your-mouth doughnut holes were covered with a cinnamon-cardamom sugar and came with a velvety Turkish coffee mousse.
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As for the chocolate tart, if you like a salt-forward dessert, this is for you. Our favorite parts, however, were the halva crumbles and ice cream on the side. We’d take a full plate of those, please.
Overall, the food and environment at FLINT by Baltaire will beckon you back. Their menu changes seasonally, though, just so you know.
If we had to have one complaint, it would be this: We felt a little rushed. We wish the speed with which we received the food were a bit slower, just so we could have time to savor every bite.