Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Henry

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PHM0514Flash-7Part comfort-minded eatery, part corporate nerve-center, this new offering from Sam Fox is everything a flagship should be.

When it comes to Sam Fox immersion, it seems the rich are getting richer. Anyway, that’s one take on The Henry and its prime Camelback corridor location, just a half mile down the street from Fox’s popular North Italia trattoria. Great news for Arcadia folk, but what about the rest of us? C’mon, Sam – open something in the sticks for once.

To their credit, the locals seem to appreciate their windfall. Since opening last November, the sprawling eatery – and fifteenth brand in the Fox Restaurant Concepts empire – has become an obscenely well-trafficked spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ambitiously billed as “The Greatest Neighborhood Restaurant,” it’s the kind of happening, high-toned place where you’d celebrate a milestone, take your parents to brunch or settle in for an evening of impressive people-watching. The comfort-minded cuisine isn’t earth-shattering, but one senses purpose to that effect – you’re supposed to come here for the energy, ambiance and good noshing, not experimentation.  

Laid out on the ground level of FRC’s new corporate headquarters, The Henry is a bit of a feng shui puzzle at first glance. Upon entering through the small glass-paned door, you find the XV Coffee Bar, where you can grab coffee, pastries and other breakfast items. The entry then feeds into a bar/living room area with tables and couches on one side, and no hostess stand in sight. Keep searching and you’ll find the check-in area located in an awkward spot that’s crowded with people jockeying for a table. Those without reservations were met with an hour and a half wait on a weeknight, but they didn’t seem to mind. The hungry clientele settled into the couches and stacked up at the bar sipping cocktails and goblets of wine while soaking up the scene that included a mix of well-dressed hipsters, buttoned-up executives, casually-dressed couples and a sprinkle of sunburned tourists.

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Decorated in light woods, brown and green leather booths, butcher-block tables and various knickknacks and mismatched lamps, the low-ceilinged dining room has the open floor plan and hum of a busy urban grill. As my dining partner remarked about the decor, “It feels like my father’s study.” But much louder. Part of the din comes from the busy exhibition kitchen staffed with a throng of cooks pumping out food at a very fast clip. There’s also an adjacent test kitchen that Fox uses as a venue for cooking classes, private parties and wine-pairing events. It’s like a small culinary city.

The Henry’s American-inspired menu – billed as “simple, yet hearty” – is streamlined to one page and features appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrées as well as breakfast selections on Saturday and Sunday. The eatery also sports a sizable craft-cocktail menu and an extensive bourbon menu, a domestic and international wine list and a slew of beer options.

From the appetizer menu, the server highly recommended the wood-grilled artichoke hearts ($13). Topped with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, the hearts were served with a slather of truffle aioli. While firm and flavor-packed, the portion was skimpy. On an early visit, I also tried the matzo ball soup – and found it quite lacking. Credit The Henry brain trust for recognizing that fact. The middling matzo disappeared from the menu on a subsequent visit.

The brie toast ($8), four pieces of crunchy baguette smeared with earthy melted brie and a crown of tart pomegranate seeds, toasted hazelnuts and arugula, proved to be a palate-pleasing and filling starter.

On the salad side, the kale and apple salad ($10) stands out. The mix of chopped kale, thinly-sliced McClendon’s apples, chunks of Amish cheddar, pieces of clementine, bacon bits and toasted almonds bound by a lemony vinaigrette was light and refreshing.  Another good choice is the seasonal ingredient salad ($13) with grilled radicchio, roasted butternut squash and pears, cranberries, quinoa and farro, spiked with Rogue Valley blue cheese. For a nice complement to any of the salads, sink into the Prairie Breeze cheddar popovers ($7), crisp on the outside, airy inside. Dusted with fleur de sel, the three popovers come with smoked ham butter.

Looking at the sandwich options, the C.B. & Rye ($14) promises a tasty combo of lean, house-made corned beef topped with melted Gruyère cheese and caramelized onions and cabbage snuggled in a rye Kaiser roll. The Beverly Hills Club ($14), an old-fashioned triple-decker loaded with Zacky Farms roasted turkey, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, crisp bacon, Swiss cheese and a generous slather of mayonnaise, will please any sandwich traditionalist.

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Mediterranean branzino with pearl barley (left); braised short rib with roasted mushrooms (right)

Entrée offerings include the usual proteins, plus one vegetarian option – the wild mushroom tortelli ($13). The braised short rib ($28) is a show-stopper. Served with a bourbon caramel glaze and topped with roasted mushrooms, the tender beef fell off the bone. Cradled by a bed of smashed potatoes fortified with fourme d’Ambert, a French blue cheese, and capped with a knot of deftly dressed arugula, this dish shines.

The Mediterranean branzino ($27) – a trout-like fish served with pearl barley, roasted mushrooms, sautéed kale and braised onions – sat atop a light lemon and butter sauce. The mild fish was flaky and moist with nary a bone in sight.

Poultry lovers can get their fix with the half-roasted chicken ($18) basted in rosemary lemon pan jus. It comes with a choice of two “picnic” sides – which include kale and apple slaw, mac and cheese, French fries and cauliflower polenta. Always a sucker for French fries, I wasn’t disappointed by the salty spuds or the tangy slaw.
Desserts here are not an afterthought. Don’t miss the warm chocolate cake ($7), served in a jar and topped with marshmallow and chocolate ganache. The bread pudding ($7), which was presented as a peace offering after the kitchen threw out my leftovers instead of boxing them up, is a creamy affair packed with salted caramel apples and infused with raisins and pecans. Both desserts are rich and big enough to share.

Make sure to hit The Henry for brunch on the weekend. The breakfast menu is laden with traditional fare, including the impressive Original Egg Sandwich ($10), a fried egg cooked to perfection and loaded with bacon, avocado, American cheese and mayonnaise accompanied by seasoned fried potatoes. But the caramel apple French toast ($10), a melt-in-your mouth combination of light egg bread laced with vanilla, caramel apples and maple syrup, caused me to fend off my tablemate with a fork.

The Henry is a fine, functional addition to the Fox family of restaurants, comparable in cuisine and ambiance to Olive and Ivy – another Fox favorite poised skillfully between “neighborhood” and “destination” dining. The crowds will eventually thin out, but The Henry is the kind of well-engineered hotspot that keeps loyal diners in orbit. Every ‘hood should have one.

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Kale and apple salad with McClendon apples (left); Exterior view of The Henry (right)

DETAILS
The Henry
Cuisine: American
Contact: 4455 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 480-429-8020,
foxrc.com/restaurants/the-henry
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; breakfast/brunch 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; XV Coffee 6:30 a.m.-close.
Highlights: Kale and apple salad ($10); braised short rib ($28); Mediterranean branzino ($27); Prairie Breeze cheddar popovers ($7); caramel apple French toast ($10)

 

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