Subtle spices and sweet endings materialize at east Phoenix’s best-kept secret.
Months before a new restaurant opens, my inbox is typically flooded with promotional info. Local newspapers blog about the new addition, foodies post on Chowhound message boards; there might even be a Facebook contest or streetside banners advertising the grand opening. Not so for The Post. When the Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport hotel leaked news of its new restaurant in late 2013, it was as if The Post materialized from thin air.
Helmed by Chef Dennis Delamater, formerly of Estate House and Citrus Café, the elegant eatery arrives as part of the hotel’s $8 million renovation and re-branding project. PR reps kept quiet until about a month before The Post’s official opening, with construction on the hotel – newly christened The Wren – still ongoing.
This “hush-hush” principle encapsulates the dining experience at The Post. Everything here is understated, from the taupe damask wallpaper and chromed glass chandeliers to Delamater’s delicious desserts. Artwork is minimal. Signage is limited. Most notably, there’s no evidence of a kitchen, making it feel as if David Copperfield has produced dinner (poof!) from a magical wormhole. Luckily, there’s no culinary trickery involved. Delamater’s food is subtle and refined, allowing each ingredient’s natural flavor to shine.
left to right: Wild mushroom risotto; Marinated lamb chops
The menu incorporates French and Southwestern influences, as well as several Citrus Café holdovers, including creamy almond-crusted brie and The Post’s most popular entrée, pistachio chicken ($16). A moist, lightly breaded cutlet served alongside crunchy wild rice, the latter is a delicate, nutty alternative to traditional fried chicken. Even more enjoyable are the well-seasoned rib-eye ($25, 12 oz./$35, 22 oz.) and marinated lamb pops ($25) – Frenched chops that beg to be sucked off the bone like protein Popsicles. Delamater applies garlic and herbs with a reserved hand, highlighting the meat’s velvety texture without burying its naturally pungent taste.
Seasonings are kept at a minimum in entrées such as wild mushroom risotto ($15), which could just as easily be labeled mild mushroom risotto. Rather than the thick, creamy sauce I’ve come to expect from Italian eateries, Delamater’s fungi swim in hearty vegetable stock. It’s a wise choice. The saltiness of the broth brings the shrooms’ earthy, nutty flavor to the forefront so it isn’t overshadowed by sharp Parmesan and truffle oil. For headier spices, try The Post’s pork belly taco appetizer ($11) or the Sonoran shrimp our chile-averse server confided he couldn’t handle ($12). The tacos make use of piquant adobo-spiced shredded pork for a scrumptious and less gristly alternative to blubbery belly, while the shrimp is more tangy than tear-inducing.
The same can be said for lunch’s Arizonian burger ($12), which features American-style Kobe beef topped with pepper jack and blue corn chips. The meat’s rich flavor stands up to the barrage of salty chips and zesty fromage, making for a patty that’s savory with a faint afterburn. Red onion jam is a surprisingly sweet foil for avocado and Swiss in a buttery turkey bacon croissant ($12), while the sugary sauce of barbecue pork flatbread ($12) proves too sweet for a main course. A more balanced option is the fresh-tasting pesto shrimp flatbread ($11) with creamy Boursin and tangy oven-roasted tomatoes.
The Post gets a bit more adventurous with breakfast, spicing up mornings with chile relleno omelets and creamy mascarpone crêpes. Their take on huevos rancheros ($12) layers pinto and black beans, pico and grassy avocado slices between crisp corn tortillas. It’s savory and refreshing without the puddle of ranchero sauce that usually turns this dish into a flaccid, soggy mess. Sauce stinginess proves to be a problem with the dry, flavorless mushroom and egg white frittata ($13), while thick brioche and caramelized bananas make The Post’s cinnamon-dusted French toast ($12) delish even sans syrup.
If The Post’s hidden-in-the-back location and lack of exterior signage isn’t enough to make diners feel like they’re in a spy flick, the “secret” dessert menu will. Offerings rotate almost daily, so there’s no printed menu. Ask about sweets, though, and prepare to be assaulted with a mouthwatering list of pies, cakes and French-inspired treats handmade by Delamater. Here’s the trick: They’re all delicious.
Hazelnut crème brûlée is light and subtle, silky Irish cream cheesecake tastes like a spiked Frappuccino and twin mousses are beautifully presented in a toffee-like almond lace cup. Tipping the scales – literally and figuratively – is Delamater’s vacherin ($7.95), a French specialty from his Citrus Café days. There are myriad ways to make this dessert (Vincent Guerithault’s berry-topped meringue slab and West-coaster Kristen Murray’s celery-rhubarb roundel come to mind), but Delamater nails it with icy triangles of crisp chocolate meringue and mocha-tinged cream that float like clouds on the tongue.
Considering he trained under award-winning dessert chef Linda Marcinko, Delamater’s pastry prowess is no surprise. But The Post’s well-spiced pork tacos and succulent lamb pops prove he’s no one-trick pony. With subtle Southwest-influenced fare and an atmosphere that makes guests feel like they’re in a private dining room, The Post won’t remain secret for long.
Contact: 4300 E. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-273-7778, thewrenaz.com
Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. breakfast; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch; 5-10 p.m. dinner daily.
Highlights: Marinated lamb pops ($25); bone-in rib-eye ($25/$35); wild mushroom risotto ($15); pork belly tacos ($11); Sonoran shrimp ($12); Arizonian burger ($12); pesto shrimp flatbread ($11); huevos rancheros ($12); cinnamon French toast ($12); vacherin ($7.95)
left to right: Interior of The Post; Vacherin