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: The House Location: 6936 East Main Street, Scottsdale Open: A little over three weeks. Eats: American with European inspirations. Price: $50 and above per person.
Matt Carter, the talented chef and restaurant owner who has given the Valley a taste of French, Latin American, and Asian cuisine at Zinc Bistro, the Mission, and the defunct Nine 05, has recently opened his newest restaurant. And this time, he's calling the cuisine "American with European touches."
Aptly named, The House, Carter's restaurant has taken over a charming little 1920s bungalow in Old Town, complete with white picket fence, brick fireplace, and a grand ol' tree.
But like most new digs, Carter's house-restaurant still has some kinks to work out. Something you'll want to keep in mind before shaking your piggy bank and knocking on his front door.
Carter's decidedly sophisticated menu is dedicated to charcuterie and cheeses, shared plates, salads, entrees, and side dishes. Complementing the fare are selections of craft beers, signature cocktails, and wine.
Dishes take inspiration from all over the globe, with shared plates being the most unique. Recommended by my server was a threesome of house brisket and buttermilk biscuit ($8) topped with chili jam and white cheddar. The meat, sliced sashimi-style, was wonderfully tender. However, the too-sweet jam tasted dangerously close to ketchup, and the temperature of the dish could should have been much warmer. Next time I'll try the duck confit meatballs.
Main entrees -- think salmon, hanger steak, and pork sausage -- are a more familiar bunch than the shared plates. But that shouldn't stop you from ordering the Berkshire pork country ribs ($22.)
Meaty with dead-on seasoning and complemented beautifully by an apple fennel glaze, these grilled porky delights were nothing short of heavenly. Lightly sweet with a scrumptious licorice flavor, they pair perfectly with pieces of fennel and comforting popcorn grits (made with softened popcorn) for a dish I'd be hard-pressed to swap out for another.
If you have room or a friend in tow, don't pass by side dishes at The House. My grilled broccoli ($6), stellar on its own, got even better thanks to a woozy coating of a pancetta and egg carbonara sauce.
And after dinner, a moist and light piece of apple-laced upside-down cake with caramel sauce ($6) made for a tasty start to the fall season. Sadly, its accompanying scoop of strongly flavored pistachio ice cream felt like it belonged on another plate.
A very nice patio, flora-filled and surrounded by a white picket fence, makes for a nice dining experience now that the weather is cool. And depending on how you look at it, the indoors, decked out in gold-flocked wallpaper, mirrors, red leather banquettes, and chandeliers, is either antique chic or high-class bordello. Both of which mean little when evening sets in at The House. Crazy-dark, reading the menu isn't possible without the aid of one of the restaurant's tiny flashlights.
The service is friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable. And by one of my server's statements that Carter "still has some work to do" on one of the salads, I'm guessing there's an understanding that the menu is still in a state of change -- something Carter has stated as well.
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Given the success of Zinc Bistro and the Mission, I'm confident Carter knows what it will take to make The House as successful. Time, as always, will tell.