Voilà bistro’s crème brûlée; photo courtesy Voilà bistro


Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: November 2017
Group Free

3 Best Places to Eat This Month: Hidden Gems
Hard to believe in this era of 24-hour social media tube-feeding, but some special restaurants do slip between the cracks.

Meritage: Tucked in the back of the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, this inventive gastropub is not heavily promoted by Marriott – possibly because the menu skews a little too “edgy” for the dull duffers who frequent it. Lots to love here, including a transcendent wedge salad sprinkled with morsels of house-cured pork belly.
5350 E. Marriott Dr., Phoenix, 480-293-5000, marriott.com

The food program at Lux Central: As the Valley’s hipster coffee hot spot of record, Lux is not remotely hidden. But lost in the glare of its fine coffee is an outstanding little food menu, including midtown’s best steak – an unvarnished ribeye blackened on the grill and served with pitch-perfect mashed spuds and steamed broccoli.
4400 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-327-1396, luxcoffee.com

VOILÀ: The French couple that own this snug North Scottsdale bistro actually do a fair job of publicizing their good works. But how visible could they be, buried next to a Walgreens in a strip mall? Two recs here: a splendid duck foie gras entree, with tart caramelized apples; and the Valley’s best sweet soufflé, done in vanilla-raspberry or Grand Marnier. Or both.
10135 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, 480-614-5600, voilafrenchbistro.com

RIP: Gourmet House of Hong Kong
Goodbye, watery but oddly pleasing corn soup. Over the years, PHOENIX gave enthusiastic coverage to this grotty, down-home Hong Kong-style diner on the McDowell Miracle Mile. Best $5 sesame chicken in town, and the thousand-year egg congee filmed really well. So it’s with a heavy heart that we report its demise after nearly four decades in operation. The space will “become another local business,” according to the GHHK Facebook page.


Mallory’s Treasure at UnderTow; photo by Angelina Aragon
Mallory’s Treasure at UnderTow; photo by Angelina Aragon

First Sip: Undertow Redux
One year after opening in a retrofitted Jiffy Lube service pit, the Valley’s favorite subterranean tiki bar is unveiling its second act. We stopped to taste the new wares, and sniff the simulated seabreeze.
S New Effects: Ingeniously, in agonizing detail, co-owners Jason Asher and Rich Furnari simulate the experience of boozing in the belly of an old wooden pirate brig. To that end, they produced a CGI video of ocean swells and bustling quays that runs on continuous loop through the bar’s “portholes.”
S New Hours: Formerly a five-days-a-week scarcity operation, the 500-
square-foot bar is now open daily. Come in Monday and stake out the coveted five-top booth in the corner – a difficult proposition on weekends.
S New Drinks: Several standards from the original menu remain on the manifest – including the Mai Tai, natch, now available in a souvenir cup. What’s new: an emphasis on Asian spices and high-end spirits, like in the dramatic Mallory’s Treasure, made with 18-year rhum, Japanese whiskey, amaro and sherry... and smoke. Lots of smoke, matey.

3620 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, undertowphx.com


Pav on Juice: Arizona Monte
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.

How in the world does a grape by the name of Montepulciano wind up in Sonoita? Credit Ann Roncone, owner of Lightning Ridge Cellars, and her penchant for Italian wine. When I ask her why she planted the red varietal, she says: “Because I’m Italian, and they’re my favorite wines.”

Ann Roncone; photo courtesy Pavle MilicMontepulciano is the second most widely planted varietal (after Sangiovese) in Italy, and one that Roncone suspected would do well in Arizona. “It’s always a gamble when introducing a new varietal to a region,” she says. “But knowing one’s [soil] and sticking to a few basics, like choosing late-budding varietals… Bada bing! Success.”

She also says she “worked her ass off” – a necessary step for any winegrowing operation.

2013 Lightning Ridge Cellars Montepulciano ($28)
Happy is how I feel whenever I get the chance to pop a cork on one of these bottles. This medium-body elixir is rich and juicy. Aromas of ripe plum and boysenberry migrated over from Europe with some herbaceousness redolent of savory oregano. Going to a pizza party? This is the wine you should bring.

A Pro tip: Like bocce ball? The winery’s bocce court is the perfect setting to sip on a glass while your debonair self gets lost in a reverie. Ask Roncone to show you the barrel room, which resembles a medieval castle.

Lightning Ridge Cellars
2368 Hwy. 68, Elgin
520-455-5383, lightningridgecellars.com