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 Revival Location: 603 W University Drive, Tempe Open: Over a week Eats: New American Price: $10 - $30 a person
Chef Kelly Fletcher, who spent the last decade running the kitchen at House of Tricks, has a lot of fans in this town. It's not surprising when you learn that he was born and raised here and has worked in Valley kitchens pretty much his entire life. The Revival, which opened its doors on July 1, is the chef's first venture into captaining his own ship. For the project he's teamed up with partner Chad Withycombe, who also owned the space under its former name, Mucho Gusto.
At the new spot Fletcher serves up an eclectic menu of New American dishes that draw inspiration from a number of places. There are entrees such as a Spicy Red Curry Chicken Salad alongside plates of Caprese Salad. The menu also offers a little bit of Arizona flair, thanks to ingredients including dates, various peppers and chilies, and stone fruit.
The restaurant's interior, though certainly refreshed, leaves a little to be desired in the way of ambiance. One wall in the dining room features reclaimed wood and an assortment of Arizona-themed posters making a nice focal point for the room. The bar, also wrapped in reclaimed wood, feels a little bare.
On the cocktail front The Revial provides a small menu of craft cocktails. We started with the Skinny Ginny, a light summer drink featuring locally-made Arizona Distilling Company gin. The citrus in the the cocktail helped highlight the unique botanicals of the gin, but we didn't get quite as much flavor as we would have liked from the stone fruit puree. We'd best describe the drink as a gin sangria -- which isn't really a bad thing if you like gin.
We also tried a FigGetAboutIt, a pun-ny drink that featured whiskey, sweet vermouth, figs, and AZ Bitters Lab's Figgy Pudding bitters. The spirit-forward cocktail will be a hit with whiskey lovers looking for a subtly-sweet summer drink; think whiskey martini with hint of fig.
On Sunday the restaurant, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., offers only a concise brunch selection with a few items borrowed from the much larger lunch menu.
The Chicken and Waffles ($10) may be a confusing plate to those who aren't fond of reading menu item descriptions. Despite what the name sounds like your entree doesn't actually come with any waffles, rather waffle-battered pieces of chicken. The batter didn't quite remind of us waffles but was delicious nonetheless, particularly with the generous amount of honey poured all over the plate. The chicken -- thighs, not breasts -- was incredibly moist; you probably could have cut it with a fork if the batter hadn't been so thick. The sprinkling of arugula, which got weighed down by all the honey, didn't seem necessary but was inoffensive on the whole.
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The Chilaquiles ($12) were also a hit. To purists the combination of red chile pork, Yukon gold potatoes, tortillas, chipotle cheddar, cilantro cream, pickled onion, and egg might seem overly-complicated. The good news is all those flavors work perfectly together to provide a breakfast that's bold and filling.
Less successful were the BBQ Duck Breast Sliders ($9), which also appear on The Revival's lunch menu. The innards of the sandwich were perfectly fine: several small but well-seasoned pieces of duck accented with a cool apple cider slaw. But the bread made us sad. We wanted pieces of crusty baguette, not what felt and tasted like grocery store bread. Rather than waste stomach space on it we picked out the duck breast and slaw.
According to The Revival Facebook, the chef's already working on some menu changes. Hopefully he keeps the hits and works out the kinks with the dishes that could use a boost. Either way, we'll be back.