Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Eat Beat: You don't need much incentive to eat at Restaurant Hapa (6204 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480-998-8220), one of this town's very best restaurants. I recently revisited and had a marvelous dinner: fiery squid salad, gilded with papaya and litchi nuts in a chile lemongrass sauce; superb, miso-marinated Chilean sea bass; and a knockout warm chocolate cake with homemade lemongrass ice cream.

But chef/proprietors James and Stacey McDevitt (he was named one of America's Best New Chefs in the July issue of Food & Wine magazine) have just given foodies another reason to stop in. They've taken over the empty storefront next door and turned it into a sushi lounge.

The sushi master comes from Yamakasa, the outstanding sushi parlor in Chandler. He's got a thing for pairing sushi with wine, a rather untraditional coupling. What wine do you drink with unagi? I'm looking forward to finding out.

Furnished with comfy sofas and chairs, the sushi lounge should help take care of the overflow crowds that Restaurant Hapa draws. Maybe it will become a destination in its own right.

Our Daily Bread: The Good Book tells us that man can't live by bread alone. But I could, if it came from Wildflower Bread Company.

This outstanding bakery started up a couple of years ago in north Scottsdale, in the mega shopping complex on the southwest corner of Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Pima Road. Its artisanal breads won a Best of Phoenix last year.

Now, the company is branching out to other parts of the Valley. About a month ago, Wildflower opened in Tempe, on the southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe.

And it's venturing into the breakfast business there, too. Look for items like banana walnut pancakes, honey-cured ham and Brie frittata, and cinnamon raisin nut French toast. If the breakfasts are as good as the breads, Wildflower Bread Company will be rolling in dough.

The bakery is also scheduled to open a west-side branch this summer, at 2805 West Agua Fria Freeway, where I-17 meets Loop 101.

Take Another Little Pizza My Heart: Everybody knows that Pizzeria Bianco (623 East Adams, 602-258-8300) makes the best pizza in town. Tiffany made lamps; Chippendale made chairs; Stradivari made violins--craftsman Chris Bianco makes pizzas.

But not everyone knows that Bianco also puts out one of the finest antipasto plates in this time zone. The platter I had there recently was so extraordinary I almost forgot about the pizza that was coming afterward.

The ingredients can change, depending on what's in the market. On my visit, they included beets, portabella mushrooms, red peppers, fresh artichokes and baby carrots, roasted and caramelized in Bianco's wood-burning brick oven. Also on the plate: Italian salami, olives and ricotta salata, a sweet/salty Italian cheese that resembles feta. If all veggie platters tasted like this, I could almost toy with the idea of becoming a vegan.

And Bianco doesn't stint on the portion, either. The $9 platter is more than adequate for two people to share.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel