Central Bistro

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Food Reviews Issue: March 2013
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German Osio’s classy new Phoenix counterpart to Local Bistro is flush with French-Italian keepers. Just bring your own salt shaker.

German Osio’s classy new Phoenix counterpart to Local Bistro is flush with French-Italian keepers. Just bring your own salt shaker.

A larger, flashier version of north Scottsdale’s neighborhood gem Local Bistro opened a few months ago in the Camelback Corridor, upping the ante in a dining borough already rife with competition. Restaurateur German Osio and Chef Andrea Volpi’s French-Italian-inflected Central Bistro will face off against Noca and Delux, among others. But you know what they say about competition: The consumer wins.

Osio spared no expense converting the former Zen 32 into a gleaming glass, brick and wood showpiece. The space flows from the stylish patio to the spacious bar, sometimes thumping with loud Euro-techno beats, to the dining room flanked by large pocket windows on one side and a glimpse of the kitchen on the other. A floor-to-ceiling glass wine closet shows off an impressive 250-plus bottles.

Volpi’s menu, laden with old-school steaks, seafood, pastas, risottos and wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, seems designed to please everyone, particularly those of a certain age and income bracket. Local Bistro’s award-winning drunk bread ($12) made the trip across town, but the wood-grilled, tender octopus ($14) served with lemony hummus and chunks of purple potatoes, then ladled with a garlicky pesto broth, is new. I loved the
combination, although it didn’t particularly taste grill-smoked. Seasonal winter Caprese ($11) is pure joy, with grilled vine-on tomatoes and a mound of creamy mozzarella topped with pearls of balsamic “caviar.” But frisée salad ($9) was drowned in oil.

Central bouillabaisse

Filet Rossini ($38, dinner only) is ornately draped in a rich porcini wine sauce topped with a princely amount of foie gras. Duck prosciutto risotto’s ($18) simple appearance undermines its luxuriousness, but the pièce de résistance is Central bouillabaisse ($36). The server ceremoniously removes the lid of a Le Creuset French oven, and a waft of saffron-scented, buttery wine broth curls through the air, matched only by the utter sweetness of the seafood – lobster, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams and fish. No poor French fisherman ever assembled a stew so lavish. Less successful is the under-seasoned cutlet of breaded chicken Parmesan ($20), served with a crock of under-seasoned marinara and under-seasoned mac and cheese. Speaking of seasoning, I don’t know what happened to Volpi’s box of salt on my three visits, but clearly it went unopened.

Lunch caters to the expense account crowd. I thought $60 plus tip for two people drinking iced tea was absurd. What did we get? Superb French onion soup ($12), menu-misfit Thai steak salad ($18), and a decent prosciutto and fig jam panino ($12) with so-so fries.

Central Bistro isn’t operating at the level of their competition (or their own Local Bistro) – yet – but the neighborhood has another respectable, high-end dining choice, and that’s a win for them.

inside Central Bistro

Central Bistro
Cuisine: Italian/French bistro
Address: 3160 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Phone: 602-646-8560
Website: centralbistroaz.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Highlights: Wood-grilled octopus ($14); French onion soup ($12); winter Caprese ($11); Central bouillabaisse ($36)