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Gwen Ashley Walters
December, 2009, Page 140
Photos by David Moore
full-bodied flavors and local ingredients shatter stereotypes of goopy Mexican food at this hip hotel restaurant.
Does the mere mention of Mexican food stir up images of gloppy, cheese-smothered enchiladas and greasy tacos?
“Mexican food gets a bad rap,” says Doug Robson, chef and owner of the hip Gallo Blanco Café and Bar at The Clarendon Hotel in midtown Phoenix. Robson, the former founding chef at La Grande Orange, is on a mission to dispel the myth that all Mexican food is stereotypical, hotter-than-hell goo.
Gallo Blanco doesn’t feel like a stuffy hotel restaurant. It doesn’t feel like a Mexican food restaurant either. Yet Robson, born in Mexico to parents of French, Vietnamese and English descent, named Gallo Blanco in honor of his roots. Gallo Blanco literally means “white rooster,” but it’s also Mexican slang for “white dude.”
Postre de chocolate (back), a creamy chocolate pudding dessert; orange and cocoa spice cake with cream cheese frosting (front)
It feels like a casual, hip neighborhood hangout, sporting an open kitchen in the main dining room. Concrete floors, an exposed ceiling and colorful striped chairs and banquettes surrounding blond wood tables complete the modern look. Large windows on two sides let bright light in during the day and reflect, like mirrors, the bustling restaurant scene at night.
The menu is surprisingly small (especially for a hotel restaurant) with only a handful of starters, a few street tacos, several flavors of tortas and burgers, and a smidgen of house specialties along with five “breakfast all day” entries.
Libations are thoughtfully crafted to enhance the food, with wines from Spain, Argentina and Chile, and Latin cocktails with pizzazz, like fruity, vodka-spiked
aguas frescas ($7)
. A few bottled beers and local draft brews round out the bar menu.
Gallo Blanco’s dining space
Servers, who know the menu and the specific ingredients like the backs of their hands, come across as genuinely invested in the freshness of the cuisine. Many of the ingredients come from local farms, like Seacat Gardens, Love Grows Farms and Maya’s Farm. Red Bird Farms supplies the fresh chicken, The Meat Shop ponies up pork, and Schreiner’s Fine Sausage crafts the chorizo. Robson buys all the local eggs he can get his hands on; even the breads and masa come from a local Mexican tortilla factory and bakery.
Local ingredients don’t always guarantee a delicious plate, but Robson and his band of cooks coax the best out of the farm fresh produce and local meats. While there isn’t a single enchilada or burrito on the menu, Gallo Blanco shimmies up one of the best
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