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November, 2011, Page 163
Photos by David Moore
This bank-turned-flashy-nightclub caters to a younger crowd, but its tasty Asian tapas are right on the money for folks of any age.
The mint opened in May and is housed in a former bank (thus the name, though minting money isn’t quite the same as dealing in it). It’s a slick, dramatically-staged nightclub with a massive bar, enormous booths and endless floor space. Oversize geometric light fixtures are an artful eyeful, and the attractive wraparound patio might be the city’s biggest. It’s a typical hotspot for cocktails, but The Mint also serves credible food courtesy of chef Johnny Chu (and the champagne bar in the unisex bathroom adds a touch of unexpected whimsy).
I am so not The Mint’s demographic, but those Asian tapas called, and I answered. Chu, formerly of Fate and currently at Sens in Downtown Phoenix, works with a bright palate of flavors, such as chiles, lime, garlic, sesame and ginger. His small, reasonably priced dishes appeal to eaters who’d rather have an assortment of taste experiences than a big hunk o’ protein.
Thanks to the opulent and messy drizzle of truffle butter on the edamame ($6), I may never go back to the unadorned kind. Plump shrimp sizzling in a hot skillet and even hotter Sriracha-based sauce ($12) was excellent but could have used some rice ($2 extra). Instead, we scooped it up with the shrimp crackers that accompanied the excellent mint-enlivened tuna tartare ($8).
Your soup-slurping inner child will love Chu’s soup gyoza ($7), tender dumplings filled with a pork nugget and delicious broth. And Chu has a gift with chicken. I’ve never tasted juicier wings than the garlic-marinated “lollipops” ($7). Those who live by salad alone can feast on a gingery slaw topped with medium rare slices of duck breast ($8). Not so successful was the plain old romaine oddly paired with leaden fried tofu chunks ($7).
The gristly Korean short ribs ($9) were leatheresque, and the evocatively named wasabi slider ($9) was just weird – tough, slivered short ribs on a soft, sweet, doughy oval with no wasabi in sight. But I have nothing but praise for the tiny goat cheese-filled fried wontons lashed with a caramelly peach sauce ($5) – tangy, sweet and crunchy.
If you aren’t the Mint’s target audience, don’t let that stop you from enjoying happy hour munchies ($2 off on all food items) or an early dinner. The variety and refinement of the food isn’t quite up to Sens standards, but it still packs a flavor wallop for a reasonable price, and that’s something we can all bank on.
Photos - From left: goat cheese wontons • inside The Mint
: Asian Tapas
: 7373 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale
: 3 p.m. until closing Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
: Edamame with truffle butter ($6), sizzling shrimp ($12), soup gyoza ($7), tuna tartare ($8), spicy lollipops ($7), ginger mint duck ($8), goat cheese wontons ($5)
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