Kudos to Executive Chef Stephen Jones for sprucing up a hotel dining menu with style – i.e. dinosaur kale Caesar – and offering many plates in half portions. Blue Hound serves three squares, but dinner was our focus.
For starters, the Hickman’s Farm deviled eggs ($6/$9) are superb: mousse-like, smoky and tangy. Cheddar scallion biscuits ($9/$16) sport a dab of sweet bacon jam and a sunny-side-up quail egg. One of several Mexican menu nods, sopes ($6/$10) would be perfect if not drowning in cloying pasilla chile jam. The crisp masa fritter and pork belly deserve better.
In “Farm & Garden,” roasted cauliflower ($9) with brown butter, currants and capers is terrific, as is basil-tomato risotto ($10/$16). Precision-cubed roasted beet salad ($10) needs work: It’s crowned with bitter, undressed watercress, and the accompanying lavender-cured feta lacks lavender.
The “Sea & Ocean” standout is grilled rainbow trout ($15/$26), with delicate, crisp skin, on top of sweet corn and basil pistou. Our sharp server tried, unsuccessfully, to steer us away from the bland brandade ($15) – a chilled salt cod and potato spread with grilled bread.
The “Meat & Game” section stars a rich mac and cheese ($11) punctuated with smoky ham, and a posole-like stew with braised pork neck ($17), topped with an egg and avocado. Kentucky fried quail ($15) is tasty, and paired with foie gras-brushed cornbread and anise-scented, red bean-studded sausage gravy, this dish is destined for signature status.
Desserts ($9) are lacking, from a Cake N Shake (a tasty Nutella shake paired with nondescript brownie bites) to a dry pineapple upside-down cake with teasingly small amounts of caramel sauce and date ice cream.
Blue Hound treats cocktails with both irreverence and seriousness. Unless you are a mixology whiz, ask for guidance through the multi-page libations book. I was blithely led to a potent, slightly bitter but tasty Midnight Punch ($10) made with Indonesian rum.
We’re all suckers for a playful puppy, and with a little discipline, Blue Hound could turn out to be Downtown’s new best friend.
Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
Address: 2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Highlights: Deviled eggs ($6/$9); cheddar scallion biscuits ($9/$16); grilled rainbow trout ($15/$26); ancho chile-braised pork neck ($17); mac and cheese ($11); Midnight Punch ($10).