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: Province Urban Kitchen & Bar
Location: 333 North Central Avenue
Open: About two months
Eats: New American
Price: $15+ (lunch), $25+ (dinner)
Earlier this year, Province, the restaurant at the Westin Phoenix Downtown, welcomed a new chef, Martin Scott, into the fold. And not long after Scott's arrival came news of a new brand for the restaurant. Renamed Province Urban Kitchen & Bar, the restaurant now aims to offer a simpler menu that incorporates seasonal and fresh produce in an effort to offer healthier cuisine.
Whether or not it succeeds at those goals remains to be seen.
We stopped in for lunch to check out the new menu, grabbing a seat in the Province dining room. Sadly, the room fails to help you forget you're anywhere but a hotel restaurant. From the gray commercial-quality carpet to the dropleaf tables, Province goes halfway in attempting to be a destination of its own with tabletop succulents and a couple of citrus-filled vases.
We started with a new addition to the menu, avocado toast ($10). The order included two slices of "local sourdough," according to the restaurant's menu, topped with burrata, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and grapes. It's a bit unsettling to bite into what you think is a tomato only to find it's a grape, and we didn't think the combination of ingredients in this dish ever found its groove. Worst of all was the imbalance of textures: not-grilled-enough bread loaded with creamy cheese and creamy avocado made for mushy mouthfuls that wanted crunch.
For entrees we tried the W.P.D. Cobb ($13) and the Ultimate P.B.L.T. ($12). The latter was by far the better of the two. Grilled slices of sourdough cradled anemic-looking tomatoes, avocado, and arugula — veggies that didn't make much of an advertisement for "fresh" cuisine. Still they fared better than the slices of hickory smoked pork belly. We're not quite sure how, but Province managed to make this fatty cut of porcine goodness taste like almost nothing at all. In another feat of magic, the kitchen also managed to send out a side of sea salt fries that were simultaneously soggy and overcooked.
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As for the W.P.D. Cobb, we don't think we've ever seen such a sorrowful salad. This bowl of far-from-crisp Romaine lettuce also offered slices of avocado, a smattering of heirloom tomatoes, and oversize hunks of blue cheese that can only be compared to land mines. One wrong bite and you're chocking down a mouthful of piquant, pungent cheese. Even the crumbles of applewood smoked bacon had the gummy texture of meat that's been cooked for breakfast and recycled for lunch.
Service throughout the meal was courteous at best and careless at worst. At one point our water glass sat empty on the table while a server passed by us with a water jug several times, only halfway looking for actual glasses to fill.
From what we can tell, the majority of the diners in the restaurant during our meal were also staying at the hotel. And when it's 100-plus degrees outside, we don't blame these visitors from not venturing out into the streets on downtown in search of better food. But a captive audience for Province will only last as long as the summer — and that, thankfully, will eventually come to an end.