Nine 05

Written by Carey Sweet Category: Food Reviews Issue: December 2009
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 My choice had been tonkatsu amen, which promised to have many of the ingredients I love most in the world: pork, noodles, egg and savory broth. I'd practically surived on those staples during my childhood years in Tokyo, and to this day, my first order of business after getting off the plane on trips there is to scout out this dish, usually sold in amshackle roadside stands or in little subway station shops where diners stand at counters and slurp noisily. You can fill up mightily for the equivalent of just a few American dollars.

"We used to eat street food just like this in San Francisco and New York," Bogsinske continues. Having a conversation while he works is easy, since my companions and I are the restaurant's sole occupants at a very late lunch, and Nine 05 seats just 30 guests.

This soup was ele ant, done in big chunks of unctuous pork belly, strips of crisp, charred scallion, a poached local farm egg, and brown broth so insanely blessed with fat it coated my lips in butte silk and left a sheen on my teak chopsticks. The generous bowl also had a more lavish price tag of $16.

Anyone who has dined with Matt Carter at his other restaurants, Zinc Bistro and The Mission, both in Scottsdale, knows the chef has a thing for rich food. At the French-inspired Zinc, it's foie gras and confit; at the Latin American Mission, it's pig in all its glo . At Nine 05, which opened in August in the former Fate space in Downtown Phoenix, it's those ingredients and more, roaming freely in a modern Asian fantasy crossing Japan to China to India.

Bogsinke knows Carter's drill intimately, having worked with him at Michael's at the Citadel and Zinc before moving to Chelsea's Kitchen and Radio Milano. Here, he nails the new concept, offering a wide-ranging experience that works equally well whatever a guest's mood and appetite.

I stopped in for a quick lunch one day, filling up on Korean chicken wings brightened with sharp pickled adish and spicy soy arlic ($8), plus a delightful chilled salad of crispy squid and octopus sweetened with papaya, cashew and a vivid note of green cur ($14). Other visits were with larger groups, gazing and sharing our way through the menu, which is impressively lengthy given the tight quaters Bogsinke works in. One evening, I stopped in very late (the spot is open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), mingling with a loud, urban chic crowd bent on doing damage with yuzu-infused sake and Rubenesque duck confit buns kicked up with seven spice and slicked in plum sauce ($8).

Be warned: Plates pile up fast because it all looks so tempting; take the appetizer of hoisin-glazed pork belly bundled in lacethin scallion crepes ($12) for instance, or the knockout entrée of duck leg confit melded with foie gras, sweet corn and plum wine ($22). My servers always kept things wellpaced, but your best bet is to order as you go. With food this full-bodied, it's not uncommon to leave feeling overly full yourself.

There often is a multitude of flavors in one single dish. Vindaloo chicken ($19) is one undulating wave after another, a rainbow of spices, herbs and a bit of pepperinfused heat over slabs of "rice fries" and minted yogurt, while mussels ($18) bob in a creamy, vibrantly sour red curry broth accented with coconut and lemong grass. You can add sides ($5) like spicy eggplant, braised gailan (Chinese broccoli) and fiery house-made kimchee (a Korean staple).

While most of the innovative recipes succeed, sometimes there's too much going on in a cacophony of ingredients. There's no punctuation, for example, to a plate of five off –puttingly sweet shrimp and pork potstickers ($11) dotted with tiny cubes of bacon "cracklings," peanut purée, pickled melon rind and shishito peppers. Duck out-dazzles itself when it's teasmoked, then paired with green apple, jicama, plum glaze and sake emulsion ($14). Another variation is better – a duck salad prettied with melon, basil and green cur ($12). But then, while barbecued eel and foie g as with spicy arlic miso ($18) sounds awful, it's actually weird enough to work – salty and silky and tiltyour- head curious in a way you'll mull over on your drive home.

Similarly, at desse t (all $7), blueber mochi is a luscious portrait of flavors – the big square of sweet, spon rice cake sprinkled with fresh sliced blueberries, drizzled in guava sauce and topped with lychee ice cream. Yet, a thick slab of fud coffee-chocolate torte comes with chai ice cream dusted with Vietnamese coffee grounds and homemade butterscotch; the flavors strongarm each other and no one wins.

I can't imagine any visitor not being impressed by Nine 05's architecture – the historic building with hardwood floors, old brick walls and a newly opened, vaulted after ceiling with windows cross-hatched in stylish metal. If you dined here when it was the shabby-chic Fate, prepare to be blown away by the classy, contemporary renovation that's visible in sleek, white plastic tables and pea green plastic chairs, the tables hung with white plastic buckets that act as water bottle caddies. The best seat in the house is in a tiny, wood paneled cubby that seats eight – it has a rollup a age door that opens onto the front patio, lined with two dozen more seats and buzzing with the ener and DJ tunes of an adjacent open bar.

The only thing I don't like is that the unisex restrooms overlook the open kitchen in the back, with hallway sinks that make us feel as if we're washing our hands in public. Maybe the hip crowd rolls with this, but just a folding privacy screen would do wonders. In the next few months, Carter plans to open more restaurants right next door to Nine 05: Canteen, a European astro pub; El Rey Taqueria; and a yet-to-be-named tapas concept. He's apparently aiming to cover all the cuisines of the world.

If he turns out anything as successful as Zinc, Mission and Nine 05, he should, quite simply, rock.


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