Chow Bella

The Great 2008 Boom: Talavera, Estate House, Bourbon Steak and more...

Alto, at the Hyatt Regency, is one of many new high-end eateries on the local foodie radar

If you love going to restaurants, this is a really good time to be hungry. The new year has already brought a flurry of new places to eat, drink, and be merry, and there's more to come.

Talavera, which replaces Acacia as the Four Seasons' fine dining spot, opened earlier this week, along with the resort's new watering hole, Onyx Bar & Lounge.

Executive chef Mel Mecinas' menu looks intriguing. There's a lot of seafood in the appetizer menu, from Maine lobster parfait with sweet corn panna cotta and American caviar, to tempura king crab with beef roulade, wasabi root (yum) and lemon confit.

And -- burrata alert! -- one of the salads includes the super-creamy, super-trendy cheese with warm tomato, eggplant, olives, and aged balsamic. I'm sure we have Taggia to thank for the fledgling local burrata frenzy; recently I've noticed it at Humble Pie (served on pizza, with shrimp and lemon zest) and Furio (melted atop asparagus on bruschetta) as well. The upstairs lounge at soon-to-open Estate House (keep reading) will include burrata with cold-pressed olive oil and green olive tapenade in its artisan cheese selection.

Entrees at Talavera include several steak selections, and the side dishes aren't restricted to the predictable. Sure, the prime bone-in ribeye comes with Yukon potato and sweet onions, but the Australian Wagyu skirt steak is paired with Okinawan sweet potato and candied ginger, while the Arizona grass-fed tenderloin is accompanied by chorizo bread pudding. I also think it's interesting that the steaks come with a choice of butter: blue cheese, truffle, lobster, garlic, and molé.

Right now, I'm dreaming of the day that molé butter will catch on and I can buy it at Trader Joes...

Anyway, Ling & Louie's Asian Bar & Grill also opened its doors this week, at 9397 East Shea in Scottsdale. It's the latest concept from Randy Schoch, the creator of Thaifoon. The restaurant first debuted in Denver, and more outposts are on the way, including one inside the new Wild Horse Pass Casino, scheduled to open next year.

The menu gives nods to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai cuisine, with plenty of good ol' American comfort food touches. Think meatloaf with Asian gravy (what's that, I wonder?) and wasabi mashed potatoes, or Kobe beef sliders with garlic parmesan fries, as well as Pad Thai, Hong Kong seafood hot pot, and orange peel chicken.

Two more restaurants recently debuted at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale in the spaces that formerly housed Squash Blossom and Ristorante Sandolo: SWB and Alto.

SWB is subtitled "a southwest bistro," and that fits the atmosphere as well as the casual regional cuisine, which includes smoked pork, onion and mushroom tamales, and roasted mushroom salad with prickly pear vinaigrette. Inside, there's a fireplace in the dining room and an open kitchen with three wood-burning ovens. Out on the terrace, you can get cozy by the fire pits and stare at the McDowell Mountains in the distance.

Meanwhile, Alto is all about Italian classics: vitello tonnato, fritto misto, penne carbonara, bistecca alla Fiorentina, and so on. And, just like at Ristorante Sandolo, you still get a free gondola ride with your dinner. Who needs Vegas?

Coming up a week from today, on February 8, Fred Unger's third restaurant is scheduled to open at high-profile SouthBridge: The Estate House.

Canal is pretty damn glam, but The Estate House sounds downright swanky, with white linen tablecloths and a champagne bar. The setting is supposed to evoke a grand mansion, with multiple dining rooms and terraces on different levels.

Executive chef Ron Dimas calls his culinary creations "French-inspired wine country cuisine," and although the menu isn't finalized yet, here's a taste of the most recent draft. To start, how about seared ahi and pickled Beech mushrooms with white asparagus, radishes, and almond oil, or a Belgian endive salad with creme fraiche dressing, fois gras toasts, and quince jelly?

A good friend -- who's mentioned duck eggs more than once recently -- comes to mind as I look at the main dishes; there's truffled linguini carbonara with guanciale (a kind of pork cheek bacon celebrated by Batali), duck egg, and Parmigiano Reggiano that reminds me of him. Other options include La Belle Magret duck breast and leg sausage with pear, chanterelles, and salsify puree, and braised pork osso buco with dried fig and onion polenta, roasted brussels sprouts, and chestnuts.

As I mentioned earlier, the upstairs lounge at The Estate House will feature cheeses, along with other small plates like seared Nantucket Bay scallops, spiced chicken confit, and -- listen to this -- seckel pear and mascarpone cheesecake with spiced tawny port sauce. (I could go for a bite of that cheesecake right this second!) The champagne bar nibbles are pretty similar to the lounge menu, although if you want caviar or oysters on the half-shell, you'll have to head to the former.

Two-time James Beard award-winning chef Michael Mina will launch a new Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess on February 11, and I wouldn't be surprised if the place is already booked for Valentine's Day.

Like at his other restaurants, including the successful Stripsteak in Las Vegas, Mina's meat-centric menu will focus on prime steaks that are poached before being mesquite-grilled, as well as slow-poached meats and seafood. The decadence extends to small plates as well, from duck fat fries to a casserole of hearts of palm, blue cheese, and black truffle.

Face it. You're gonna blow your diet -- big time -- at Bourbon Steak, and you're gonna love every minute of it.

A week after that opening, London's Roka Akor is scheduled to open its doors to the public, on February 18. I've blogged about this stylish Japanese robatayaki spot before, so take a look at my previous post for an idea of what to expect.

Whew, that's quite an exhaustive list we've got, and there's plenty more coming down the pike. Stay tuned, and don't spoil your appetite...

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig