Friday, October 31, 2014

Otro

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Gallo Blanco’s owner-chef bolsters the uptown Phoenix dining scene with his “other”  mod-Mex sensation.

When Doug Robson announced he was opening a second modern-Mex restaurant in Phoenix, the prevailing question was: “Will it be Gallo Blanco Dos?” The short answer: not exactly. Otro (“other” in Spanish) is another high concept – and moderately priced – Mexican restaurant, but it’s no carbon copy, despite some shared menu items, especially in the all-day breakfast column.


The digs are subdued with neutral tones and minimalist flair, but the open kitchen pounds the proverbial drum with firepower dishes like mole negro ($15), half a wood-grilled chicken smothered in an ebony-colored sauce so rich, so complex, so delicious it will make your head spin.

Even if the once-gratis chips now cost a buck, they’re worth it: near perfect local La Sonorense chips paired with two fresh salsas, tart tomatillo and spicy chile de árbol. First-rate guacamole ($3/$6) is the same as Gallo, but other starters are Otro-exclusive, including coctel de camaron ($8.50), a chunky Mexican shrimp cocktail; and El Español ($9), wide ribbons of silky Serrano ham strewn with bits of green olives, avocado and red onion, splashed with olive oil and citrus juices. Inca salad ($5/$9) proves quinoa is not just trendy – it’s tasty when chock full of sweet and salty notes.

phm1013 ebsd5 mdIn lieu of Gallo’s corn tortillas, Otro serves its street tacos ($2.50-$3.50) on ultra-thin, house-made flour tortillas, griddled and stuffed with marinated meats and fresh salsas. Of the pork, beef, shrimp, fish and veggie options, the pineapple-and-achiote braised pork is the alpha. A few of the tacos can be ordered as tortas, but my torta-dollar was best spent on the B. L. T. & A. ($9): toasted telera savory bread layered with pickled vegetables, ripe tomatoes, dressed lettuce, avocado slices and many strips of crisp bacon.

Don’t quibble with Robson for naming his rustic Mexican rice skillet after a Spanish classic – just eat it. Paella Mexicana ($9) achieves a rarified state of comfort-food grace with pork, chicken and chorizo, but it’s the slow-roasted carrots, onions, celery and herbs that really elevate the plump, short-grained rice.

If there’s a bone to pick, it’s the misleading “sides” section. Robson lists vegetable sides from three local farms, implying that all of the constituent foodstuffs are locally grown – but that’s not always true. The portabella mushrooms ($4) might have been purchased from a prominent local farm, but they weren’t grown in the Valley. Neither were the Brussels sprouts. Soothe any ruffled locavore feathers with another margarita or, even better, a fantastic lime tart ($4.50), crowned with a puff of soft-whipped cream covered in lime zest. If there’s a better one in town, I’ve not found it.

phm1013 ebsd4 smDETAILS
Otro
Cuisine: Mexican
Address: 6035 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Phone: 602-266-0831
Website: otrocafe.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; happy hour 2-6 p.m. daily
Highlights: Guacamole ($3/$6); Inca salad ($5/$9); al pastor taco ($2.50); mole negro ($15); lime tart ($4.50)

 

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