Swan Song

Oh, wow. That's all I can say about the Golden Swan at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale. I stopped in for dinner the other night, and couldn't believe what treasures I found.

There's a new chef in the swanky resort restaurant. There's a new style of cuisine being prepared. And there's a new tasting menu that makes a fancy dinner here one of the most unbelievable bargains in town. Why isn't the Hyatt's marketing machine shouting this from the rooftops?

Chef William Bradley has taken over as chef de cuisine at the posh spot nestled alongside a lake brimming with, what else, swans. He's tossed out Golden Swan's previously solid but predictable Southwestern fare, and created an extraordinary hybrid of Southwest/nuevo Spanish recipes accented by French-influenced sauces. Not yet even 30, the chef trained at the Mobil 5-Star Mary Elaine's at the Phoenician, and obviously learned very, very well. My meal was the most impressive I'd had in a long, local time.

With most tasting menus, we're at the whim of whatever the chef wants to send to our table. But with Bradley's approach, we can fashion our own meal, selecting our combination of four half-size plates from the regular menu, with extra bonuses of excellent crusty bread, a cheese course, and our choice of dessert. Yet here's the truly amazing part: Our main meal selection can be any variety of four plates, from appetizers or entrees, no restrictions.

The tasting menu is $95 for six courses paired with wine; $75 for food only. I quickly figured out that I could take the place to the cleaners by sticking to entrees. There's Maine lobster and chestnut fricassee with bronze fennel, sweet potato and sauce anise (regular price: $43). Mandarin duck is paired with savory cherries, rocket greens, pineapple and rosemary froth, while rack of lamb gets a Moroccan flair with apricots, chicory and sweet-sour couscous ($29 each). Glitzy European turbot, Dover sole with peeky toe crab, and wild stripe bass ring in at $28 each. Do the math.

I didn't order four lobster plates, but I could have. A diner once ordered four plates of prime tenderloin of beef with chanterelles, Savoy cabbage and Parmesan gnocchi ($29), my server mused. I went more modest, choosing lobster bisque with cognac cream and Spanish hazelnuts ($10), lovage and kohlrabi salad splayed with yellowfin tuna under passion fruit dressing ($13), the bass and the beef. The amuse a bonus sent out by the chef was virtually a full-size bowl of decadent cream of celery soup, the cheese plate too large to finish, and dessert a crème brûlée sized easily enough for two.

Suffice it to say, for high-end dining value, this Golden Swan is truly a golden goose.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet