north scottsdale dining with tanzy
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North Scottsdale Dining with TANZY
June, 2011, Page 167
Photos by Richard Maack
With its lavish Mediterranean menu and dark, dramatic ambience, Tanzy transports diners out of north Scottsdale to the heart of glitzy Vegas.
Some reviews almost write themselves; others are a struggle. This falls smack into the latter category, because almost everything about Tanzy, one of the restaurants in the sleek new Scottsdale Quarter, defies categorization.
Its name alone, lacking a tagline that explains its cuisine, makes it sound as if it could be a children’s clothing boutique (an employee told me it refers to a Greek myth). Then there’s the daunting first impression: You arrive up a steep, dramatic escalator reminiscent of an airport or Vegas casino. Inside the huge restaurant/bar, which is part of the high-end iPic movie theater, the resemblance to a Vegas nightclub is even more pronounced.
With a soaring ceiling, smoky color palette, dramatic architectural features and floor-to-ceiling windows, the place does look impressively slick. But on the north wall, a utilitarian-looking opening to the kitchen and four doors with porthole windows that swing directly into the dining room looks distinctly downscale, and the whole setup spits out light, clatter and distraction each time a server enters or exits.
In the evening, lights are so dim it’s difficult to read the menu or see the food, and glaring televisions in the glitzy bar area blind diners facing that direction. At lunch, with bright light streaming in, I had that off-putting, slightly naughty sensation of a daytime visit to a cocktail lounge. Oversized booths are so long the service staff struggles valiantly to pass plates and glasses.
Given the over-the-top trappings, if I’d had to guess the style of food served I would have gone with eclectic American or some froufrou fusion cuisine. Instead, it’s earthy Mediterranean. Except for a few sandwiches and an entrée salad at lunch, the day and nighttime menus overlap.
Starters include a well-crusted, creamy polenta cake ($9) sparked up and enriched with tarragon butter and glazed with melted cheese. It’s the best cornmeal you’ll ever taste. Beautifully presented, classic carpaccio ($12) could have used a side of crostini. While the fragrant focaccia served with meals (sometimes warm, sometimes not) is good, it is too soft to offer sufficient contrast to the raw beef. The house-made mozzarella ($9) is as full-flavored and satisfying as it can be, if a little on the chewy side. This year’s go-to vegetable, Brussels sprouts ($9), simply don’t work when deep-fried whole – too dense and fibrous.
Some things are simply inexplicable. Arancini ($9), fried rice balls, were completely missing the essential cheese stuffing and, thus, were dry and dull. The Tanzy salad ($9) is described as a chiffonade (cut in thin strips) of greens. Only, the greens were whole, and the salad was missing its promised red onion, roasted peppers and olives. Asparagus was represented by one ultra-chewy end piece. Calamari ($11) consisted of ungainly pieces of the tenderized squid body with artichokes, fields of capers and tomato hunks glopped with melted butter. It seemed like a sauce in search of a bowl of pasta.
Black cod on polenta cake, topped with ratatouille
Except for an equally clumsily executed shrimp pasta puttanesca ($24) loaded with hunks of canned tomato (good quality but nevertheless overwhelming), entrées shine. I loved the textbook-perfect, musky tasting saffron risotto ($19) with a mix of succulent mushrooms and nicely aged Parmesan. Meltingly tender short ribs ($28) got a fruity kick from a fig-balsamic glaze, though the accompanying gnocchi were leaden and gummy. Another offbeat and sensational flavor pairing is a black olive glaze, usually seen on tuna, painted on a succulent hunk of done-to-order beef filet ($34). Perched on lentils studded with bits of smoky bacon, lamb shank ($28) could have been a bit juicier for my taste, but my companions took turns tearing into it.
Seafood is beautifully handled. Firm yet moist black cod ($26) holds up well to a textural polenta cake and vibrant ratatouille, and flaky, mild salmon ($25) is paired with an imaginative veggie-laden couscous singing with flavor. Perfectly caramelized scallops ($28) with meaty chanterelle mushrooms and a lively parsnip and pear purée is a made-in-heaven match.
Like the rest of the lineup, desserts (all $8) vary widely. The pleasantly fluffy croissant bread pudding kissed with chocolate and dolloped with Chambord-spiked whipped cream suffered a bit from overheating but was nonetheless terrific. A chocolate duo consisted of a little pot of well-balanced bittersweet mousse and another of what seemed to be hot brownie batter. By far the least successful was the enticing-sounding orange creamsicle brûlée, which turned out to be ordinary vanilla custard with a thick sugar crust piled high with bitter candied orange peel that was really bitter.
Photos - From left: Mushroom risotto; bread pudding
Tanzy’s prices are on the high side, particularly considering the kitchen’s mystifying lapses in execution and frequent lack of finesse. The wine list, too, is expensive – again, more befitting a glitzy Vegas venue. Unless you want to settle for a glass of the house Parducci (overpriced as well), prepare to spend some serious scratch.
The multiple, conflicting elements of Tanzy are difficult to reconcile. Yet, somewhere inside this overblown mishmash of styles and intentions, a good Mediterranean-inspired eatery is struggling mightily to get out.
: 15257 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale (at the Scottsdale Quarter)
: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday and Saturday
: Polenta cake ($9), carpaccio ($12), house-made mozzarella ($9), mushroom risotto ($19), black cod ($26), scallops ($28), short ribs ($28), salmon ($25), beef filet ($34), bread pudding ($8)
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