Former Kai chef Michael O'Dowd delivered on his promise of entertaining appetizers and a lineup of fun-to-drink cocktails Thursday night at the launch event of Renegade by MOD in Scottsdale.
The restaurant will open to the public this evening, and though we've already shown you the menu, here's a little bit more about what you can expect.
If you were expecting Renegade to adopt some of the vibes from O'Dowd's old digs at Kai, which is the only five-star and five-diamond restaurant in the state, you'd be totally off the mark. This place is quite the opposite, in fact, with a rustic-meets-urban theme. Think: an up-cycled bike, lots of wood, and even more graffiti. In addition to an indoor-outdoor bar and spacious bar seating area, the restaurant has two dining room spaces and an outdoor patio complete with an inviting fireplace.
At first glance, the menu may not wow you. It's got a lot of familiar stuff that chefs are into right now like kale, pork belly, and heirloom tomatoes, even ramen is sort of "in." But the food and drinks guests tried at Thursday night's event were well thought out and anything but boring -- even, at times, a bit odd.
The standout dish had to be the flavored goat cheese under smoke with fennel pollen essence and the platters of kale and chard kimchi with Braunschweiger pâté made quite a few rounds as well. Other bites included the venison lollipops, tender MOD 'n' sour pork wings and black bean hummus with raw veggies. On the stranger end of the spectrum fell items like the waffle cones filled with mango mousse and cayenne, which were memorable in taste but almost overly extravagant in design.
If you're worried about getting reservations for the opening weekend but want to check it out yourself, you'd do well taken to sit at the bar. The fun at Renegade doesn't stop with the food and the cocktails also have a perfect balance of interesting and exciting without being unapproachable . . . at least mostly.
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The except to that rule might be the Renegade Punch in a Bag, which is exactly what it sounds like: a plastic bag filled with a fruity punch (that will really sneak up on you if you sit around while sipping it for too long.) It was strange for sure, and mentally transported us back to Bourbon Street, where sipping booze in a bag might not be so out of place.
If that doesn't sound like your thing, you might want to opt for the Cracker Jacks, which features house infused buttered popcorn vodka (sound familiar? well, it sort of is), butterscotch, and RC Cola. Or the Rosemary Margarita with a rosemary and rose petal ice cube that's as pretty to look at as it melts as it is easy to drink. Or you could just order up something totally different from the talented house mixologist John Woo, though do so at your own risk since he's got quite a sense of humor and isn't afraid to show it through his work.
We know the restaurant business is a revolving door of chefs and menus and though we were sad to see chef Peter DeRuvo of Davanti Enoteca throw in the towel earlier this week, Renegade and O'Dowd have provided more than enough to distract us from the loss, at least for now.