Chocolate and peanut butter desserts have been on Elements’ menu since the Paradise Valley restaurant opened in 2001. Pastry Chef Samantha Sharrar recently modernized this menu-must, and it’s the bomb. Technically, it’s a bombe – a half-spherical frozen combo of chocolate-covered peanut butter mousse garnished with tuile cookies and chocolate gelato from Arcadia’s The Grateful Spoon.
Sharrar whips the mousse not once, but twice, freezing it in the interim to create a cloud-like, airy texture, then freezing it again in a half-sphere mold. She bakes buttery tuile cookies and makes a dark chocolate glaze by boiling water, cream and sugar, then whisking in dark cocoa powder.
Make yourself at home at this stripped-down Mexican joint, where fresh, unforgettable Oaxacan dishes shine.
I was clearing my table, ready to dump the detritus and exit Tacos Atoyac, when a heavily tattooed gent glided over, smiled and bussed for me. When I thanked him, he responded by saying, “I eat here so often, I’m just part of the team.”
Open less than a year, Tacos Atoyac has clearly become a neighborhood favorite. Located in a drab little shopping strip in west Phoenix, it’s an immaculate white shoebox of an eatery that’s almost conspicuously unfancy. Orders are placed at a rudimentary counter, but for first-timers it pays to first suss out the menu. Dan Maldonado, the genial proprietor who seemingly never leaves his post, will offer help, explaining that this is Oaxacan cuisine. That means the food is less saucy and cheesy and more veggie-intensive than the usual Arizona-Sonoran variety.
Vive les crêpes! Husband-wife restaurateurs bring a taste of Alsace to Scottsdale Road.
La Petite France is a most
apropos name for this charming Scottsdale bistro – it’s truly a miniature piece of French paradise. Owners and recent Arizona transplants Denis and Catherine Michel (yes, it’s a bona fide mom-and-pop shop) doted on us all night and became visibly giddy when we showed sincere appreciation for their wares. I’ve been to France three times – once, just a day trip to Strasbourg, the owners’ hometown – and contrary to popular perception, the people are warm, hospitable and wildly receptive to anyone interested in their food and culture.
Authentic Mexican? No, señor. But this stylish eatery from the creators of Kona Grill makes for a palate-pleasing nosh.
Folks who know their poblanos from their jalapeÑos aren’t likely to mistake Black Chile Mexican Grill for an authentic Mexican experience. Still, the restaurant – which aims squarely for spice-intolerant American palates – delivers a surprisingly pleasant punch. Created by the founders of Kona Grill (who sold the Asian-fusion chain in 2005), Black Chile is a stylish, modern eatery serving mainstream American-Mexican dishes delivered by an energetic and, for the most part, meticulously trained staff.
Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House
4773 N. 20th St., Phoenix, 602-283-1210
Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House is not just an herb shop, tea house and restaurant rolled into one – it’s also the product of years of research into healing.
When a restaurant labels a dish “signature,” we often wonder if it will live up to the hype. Mastro’s Restaurants, a collection of high-end steak and seafood restaurants with roots in the Valley, including the Ocean Club in Scottsdale, quietly put a warm butter cake on the menu roughly eight years ago, according to Chef Siegfried Hohaus.
The seemingly simple cake became the best selling dessert across all nine restaurants, and eventually the word “signature” was added to the description on the menu. Hohaus says it sounds simple enough to make, but the ingredients can be temperamental, and the method is tricky.
Soup is great for fall, but chowder is its heartier, happier sibling. Here are three Valley restaurants that will make all your steamiest, chowderiest dreams come to life.
Blue Adobe Grille
10885 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale
Fall in Phoenix isn’t quite roaring-fireplace season, but locals know a little chile heat is perfect to warm the soul year-round. For more than a decade, chef/owner Jose Leyva has been putting serious spice into his Santa Fe/Southwestern cooking, first in Mesa, and now at the newer Blue Adobe Grille he opened in north Scottsdale with partner Michael Savoie (note: the Mesa operation is not affiliated anymore).
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).
This cozy, comfortable neighborhood restaurant serves up solid drinks and service, and respectable-if-average Italian bistro fare.
It’s hard to miss the sultry stare from Sophia Loren when you walk into Stone & Vine, a cozy neighborhood Italian bistro. The “everything you see I owe to spaghetti” actress is immortalized in a mesmerizing floor-to-ceiling, black-and-white mural overlooking the wood-, stone- and brick-accented modern space.
Friendly, efficient servers point out favorites and steer diners away from potential duds. With a lengthy menu – appetizers, bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, calzones, pastas and full-plate entrées, plus daily “Stone” value-priced specials – there are bound to be winners and losers. In the winner column, the wine list is crafty, with smart by-the-glass choices, and draft beers range from Stella Artois to a hoppy IPA from Stone Brewery.
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