SENS, A SAKE LOUNGE serving pan-Asian tapas, would look more at home in Greenwich Village or West L .A. than on a mostly deserted stretch of Downtown Phoenix. It’s the kind of modest, self-assured gathering spot that seems to know exactly who its audience is. More imagination than money went into the fresh, eclectic décor that combines a watch-the-fun bar/food prep area, striking light fixtures, a cluster of moon-shaped mirrors and a red, black and white palette flashed with neon. Early evenings, when I visited, the customers included people stopping by after work, families from the neighborhood and later, as the rather distressing techno music amped up, young adults in groups and pairs.
Situated on the quasi-scenic Avenue of the Fountains, Boulevard Café’s narrow outdoor seating meets a cozy spot for sipping café au lait and devouring house-made croissants. The interior is comfortably darkened by dramatic burnt-orange walls, and the tightly spaced wooden tables are gussied up with white linen and butcher paper in the evenings.
Sometimes low expectations make things better. For instance, when the new Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel – a beige box that was slammed as being painfully corporate – broke ground three years ago, the thought of it, and its accompanying restaurant, was met with a yawn.
Talk to chef Matt Carter about his Latin menu at the Mission in Scottsdale, and it’s clear he’s passionate about it.
He goes into loving detail about charring, braising, roasting or making confit. He can rattle off the exotic peppers he uses on each plate. He has a firm grasp of indigenous ingredients, but is confident enough to give dishes his own stamp.
His recipes are so succulent, so saturated with flavors, it’s no wonder they’re so complicated and time-consuming. Carter, known for his prowess with French food at Zinc Bistro, not only proves his versatility here, he outright flaunts it. He and co-owners Terry Ellisor and Brian Raab deserve a round of applause for adding something this innovative, classy and downright delicious to the Valley’s dining scene.
LIBERTY MARKET IN GILBERT seems poised to off er, well, liberation from the shackles of chain concepts that entwine the burgeoning East Valley. In a throwaway world, this retooling of a historic property into a multi-use restaurant concept has to be applauded. And because it’s another offering from Joe Johnston
50 Best AZ Restaurants
We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. ...
Where To Eat 2018
Another year, another glorious eruption of must-try restaurants, visionary chefs, hot food trends and celebrity recommendations. Find them all here, in our top o’ the year salute to Valley dining. ...
2015 Best New Restaurants
Our annual highlight reel of metro Phoenix’s most damnably delicious new restaurants. ...
Where to Eat 2017
Food trends, upcoming restaurants, rising chefs – the gang's all here! Plus: “Destination Dishes” throughout Arizona worth the drive. ...
75 Best Dishes in the Valley
The most iconic. The most creative. The best specimen of a beloved breed. ...