If you were a restaurant exec charged with finding a location for a laid-back but with-it eatery in the Valley right now, you’d most likely be exploring downtown Tempe.
The area has been going through a bit of a restaurant boom lately, with some of the food scene’s biggest names – including Postino, Culinary Dropout and Nocawich – vying for restaurant space.
Opening to far less fanfare is Nush (noosh), a Persian-inspired restaurant that launched on College Avenue in March. It’s the project of husband-and-wife owners Scott O’Neill and Nona Saravi and general manager Joe Tameron – three former employees of Pita Jungle, perhaps Arizona’s leading purveyor of good-for-you food.
Nush (the name is essentially the Farsi equivalent of bon appétit) is a stripped-down yet funky kind of place, a healthy-eating restaurant in the style of a New Age welding studio stocked with organic ingredients, craft beers and wine, and options for those eating vegetarian, vegan, or gluten- and dairy-free. You’d be thrilled to come here for a well-constructed salad or snack – the herbed Nush fries and a lemony medley of sautéed spinach and garbanzo beans are both standouts – but not for the restaurant’s more meat-focused dishes. Most lack the thoughtfulness of their smaller and leafier counterparts, with mountains of rice or lackluster pasta adding more bulk than brio.
There is a near-obsession with pomegranate at Nush; the sweet-tart fruit appears in just about everything. There is pomegranate green tea and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on thick and garlicky hummus; strewn into a clever snack of snappy sautéed green beans with red onions, garlic, and orange zest; and dotting a decent roasted vegetable salad topped with impossibly addictive shavings of caramelized carrots. A very good and aptly named Everything Salad features pomegranate seeds intermingled with a garden’s worth of vegetables, dried fruit and roasted pumpkin seeds. Even the mint dipping sauce looks back at you with sparkling ruby red eyes.
Nush’s pomegranate seed parade isn’t such a bad idea. But save for a trio of meaty and crisp chicken legs flecked with Parmesan and basil, and a bulked-out chicken wrap with a mildly spiced red sauce, they’re of little help to the restaurant’s more protein-focused dishes, easily lumped together into one underwhelming and mostly under-seasoned group.
As you might expect, dessert includes a dish of vanilla yogurt with pomegranate syrup. And fresh pomegranate.
Contact: 560 S. College Ave., Tempe, 480-664-4967, thenush.com
Hours: Dinner 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. M-Th., 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. F-Sa., 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Su.; happy hour 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily
Highlights: Everything Salad ($10.77); organic hummus ($5.77); green beans ($3.77); red chicken wrap ($9.77); roasted vegetable salad ($9.77); garlic Parmesan chicken legs ($7.77)
50 Best AZ Restaurants
We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. ...
2015 Best New Restaurants
Our annual highlight reel of metro Phoenix’s most damnably delicious new restaurants. ...
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. ...
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. ...