A hasty reality TV exit could not dim the prospects of Chef Dushyant Singh. After being cut in the entrée round of Food Network’s Chopped: Grill Masters special in 2012, the former Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa sous chef beelined for top billing at the Westin Chicago River North. Now he’s back in Phoenix to launch Artizen, the posh American kitchen that took over the old Bistro 24 space at the former Ritz-Carlton, recently remodeled and rebranded as The Camby Hotel.
Singh appears ready for the long hall with this reality endeavor. He clearly understands his audience, incorporating once-lowly, now urbane meats like oxtail, lamb neck and boar to lure destination diners while appeasing tony Biltmore regulars with juicy prime steaks and weekend brunch. The result is a luxurious, lively menu on par with neighborhood hotspots The Gladly and Frank & Albert’s.
Where Bistro 24 was all French frills and damask stripes, Artizen is its sophisticated city-slicker cousin. The cream, red and green color palette has given way to classy charcoal and taupe, with bowl-shaped copper pendant lamps spotlighting cozy round banquettes and an ultra-modern bar area where solo guitarists croon folksy pop songs on weekends. Artizen’s neutral décor lacks the pop of the hotel’s whimsical artwork or the charm of the adjacent Bee’s Knees cocktail lounge with its tufted leather, mahogany wood and speakeasy theme. Instead, the color palette plays like a white bone china plate, serving as a clean slate upon which to showcase the chef’s culinary artistry.
Subdivided by ingredients – with cheeky section names like “schools, beds and shoals” for seafood and “herds, mobs and flocks” for meat – his intriguing menu boasts upscale starters such as roasted bone marrow ($15) and oxtail rillettes ($13). Singh’s silky marrow performs like melted butter, oozing off the bone and lending a layer of umami goodness to tangy pickled cactus buds. It’s an easier sell for meat-and-potatoes types than the pasty, pâté-like rillettes, served in a Mason jar with crusty toast slices and prickly pear jam; as is creamy goat cheese fondue ($9) with its smoky undertone and sanguine kettle chip dippers.
Singh’s glazed boar floundered on Chopped, but at Artizen the gristly meat proves his worth as a grill master. Topped with midnight black trumpet mushrooms and tangy tomato-onion jam and served on a cast iron skillet, Singh’s boar striploin ($18) is beautifully charred and flavorful enough to give a not-so-subtle middle finger to the show’s judges. Prime New York steak ($52) also drips with natural juices, requiring little more than sea salt and rosemary to highlight its beauty, while a thick mustard and herb crust combines with gooey, salty Gruyère to make cedar-wrapped chicken – locally sourced from Red Bird Farms – a standout ($19). Think chicken cutlet parmesan, minus the heartburn-inducing acidity of tomato sauce.
Artizen’s fish didn’t float my boat. Miniscule branzino filets ($19) are heavy on ocean flavor, with only minimal hints of Meyer lemon to cut the fishiness, while overplayed Scottish salmon with roasted root veggies doesn’t pack enough pesto punch to be memorable ($21). For lighter fare, swim over to the “greens, veggies and grains” section for crisp, elegantly charred Brussels sprouts with shaved parmesan ($8) or a grilled endive salad that employs sweet candied nuts and roasted grapes to mask the bitterness of the chicory root ($12).
With its dedicated tea maître d’ and towering scone platters, the Ritz-Carlton was a popular brunch stop for well-heeled Biltmore matrons. Artizen continues the tradition with a menu that ranges from petite $3 crêpes and beignets to a gluttonous $75 lobster tail omelet – aka the “status symbol special” – with foie gras and truffle. The aforementioned strawberry crêpe is light, with an agave flavor; a trio of sturdy beignets are the ideal vehicle for dollops of fluffy mocha whipped cream. Mexican chorizo sliders and the delectable-sounding savory Artizen meat pie ($6 each) proved disappointing, the latter a tiny pastry crammed with mushy vegetable filling.
The croque madame ($16), on the other hand, makes masterful use of meat and bread. A giant smoked pork chop served on rustic bread and topped with a perfectly cooked sunny-side-up egg, it’s a hearty open-face twist on the breakfast classic. Gooey yolk with a light dusting of pepper serves as a sauce for the juicy chop, its chargrilled flavor shining through without overpowering the other ingredients. This is Singh’s morning magnum opus, the luscious chop only sharing the savory spotlight with the tender, Mexican-spiced flank of his steak and eggs dish ($16).
Though not technically a dessert, Camby French toast ($9) could pull double-duty as the denouement to your dinner. The single triangle of custard-soaked bread is rich and creamy, with a flan-like texture that melts on the tongue. Our table universally declared the accompanying organic maple syrup nonessential; this puppy is amazing as-is.
Housemade desserts ($7 each) are where the culinary team’s playful side emerges. “Coffee and donuts” is a clever twist on the traditional, with rich espresso cream smeared on sugary pastry, while the naughty-sounding “dark sticky dates” resembles a sweet, figgy bread pudding topped with caramelized banana. The candy shop trio satisfies kids of all ages with a candied mini-apple, cotton candy-covered white fudge, and a housemade peanut butter cup that makes Reese’s look second-rate.
The bright, emerald green faux grass sign outside Artizen’s main entrance seems out of place given the restaurant’s muted palette, but it hints as Singh’s fun side. The former reality TV contestant takes his meat seriously, as evidenced by nicely charred boar, succulent New York steak and smoky pork chops. But he also likes to play. Whimsical touches, from moo-cow cream dispensers to cotton candy fudge, make Artizen accessible to everyone, not just the Biltmore biddies that frequented its predecessor.