First Taste

The Upton in Scottsdale: Char Siu Ribs and Thyme-Marinated Southern Fried Chicken

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 Upton Location: 7216 E. Shoeman Ln, Scottsdale Open: Less than a month Eats: New American Price: $20+/person

It's only been about a month since Petite Maison in Scottsdale closed its door for good as owners James and Wendy Porter hung up the towel on restaurant ownership. And though their little French restaurant was a staple of the Old Town neighborhood for five years, the space already looks so different you might not recognize it at all.

With a modern re-design the new The Upton has given the restaurant a new identity and one that certainly includes the food as well. Chef Chris Schlattman may be Petite Maison alum, but his food doesn't play by the old rules. At The Upton you'll find elevated versions of classic dishes from all over the world.

See also: The Upton Opens Today in Former Petite Maison Space in Scottsdale -- Here's the Menu

As is often the case these days, The Upton offers a nice selection of appetizers that can also be enjoyed as small shareable plates. Options range from Italian burrata to Mediterranean mussels, though at the suggestion of our waiter we went with the Chinese char siu ribs ($9).

The order comes with four saucy ribs, each heavy with meat to make for a filling start to your meal. The crispy outside and tender inner meat definitely reminded us of char siu and pieces of crunchy peanuts really complemented the sweet, tangy sauce. It's a messy but excellent start.

Also at the recommendation of our server, we tried the Southern fried picnic chicken ($14), an entree that includes three pieces of meat. Here chef Chris Schlattman really surprises with thyme-marinated, tripped battered chicken that's subtly and pleasantly herbal. Most important, he achieves a perfect moist on the inside, light and crispy on the outside texture.

Served simply over a layer of housemade pickles with a side of shishito corn bread, this is a dish for which we'd happily return.

Sides of vegetables, which come a la carte, include the sugar snap peas, roasted caribbean plantain, and charred shishitos. We were happy to have gone with the crispy cauliflower ($6), a small but satisfying serving of fork tender veggies. The vibrant green lemon chimichurri sauce made for a pleasant blend of salt and citrus that would easily make us forget our childhood hatred of the cruciferous veg.

The rest of the menu sections include salads and five pressed sandwiches. These include everything from an updated grilled cheese to the Little Havana, a classic Cuban sandwich. Dessert (though not on the menu) is also available if you ask and if you get the chance, we'd recommend the made-to-order cheese danish made with melted chunk of triple cream Brie.

With entrees under $20 and sharable plates at a reasonable price, we predict The Upton will become a popular place for those seeking refreshingly well-executed dishes at a fair price point. And the new space -- sleek, young, and energetic -- also seems like the perfect thing to draw in a crowd. It's early to say, but The Upton shows promise.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria