Monthly dining reviews from all over the Valley.
Sinbad’s Restaurant 2
Opened: January 2021
“I didn’t realize there was a Sinbad’s 1,” you’re probably thinking. The good news: You needn’t have visited the original Sinbad’s in West Phoenix – now closed, it seems – to pick up the storyline as this kinda-sorta sequel in Avondale. It’s a competent Middle Eastern-cum-Mediterranean fast-casual diner where you can score carved-off-the-spit chicken shawarma ($9) or sliced beef-lamb gyros (slightly dry but skillfully seasoned, $8); each platter served with tasty, char-grilled tomato halves, onions and green peppers. For a deeper dive into Levantine cuisine: maqlooba, with the same vertically roasted proteins married to eggplant, potatoes and bell peppers in a faintly jasmine-y, Middle Eastern version of a jambalaya rice turnover ($16).
The falafel ($5) is fine; the hummus ($5) seductively silky. One thing to avoid: misnomered Arabic salad ($6), just a pity party of wilted Romaine, olives and other kitchen castoffs.
Wild Card: Go big with baby lamb shank ($15) braised in a garlic-tomato broth.
1473 N. Dysart Rd., Avondale, 623-925-1545, sinbadsrestaurant2.business.site
Old Town Taste
Opened: April 2019
If you’re looking for a regional Chinese restaurant to roust you out of your General Tso-fortified, Canto-American comfort zone, this Tempe offering is terrifically well-suited to the task. Launched in late 2019 by a pair of Chinese expats – and subsequently sucked out of the public eye in the vacuum of the pandemic – the restaurant has dual specialties: tangy, brothy, offal-centric Shandong cuisine and spicy, garlicky, pungent Sichuan cooking. From the latter camp, Chongqing spicy chicken ($14) provides a pitiless crash course in the use of the Sichuan peppercorn: vaguely citrusy, and more “numbing” than “hot,” with a tingle that grows more intense until you can barely taste the dish’s lovely nuances of toasted chile and ginger. Delicious, but a bit much (unless you’re undergoing oral surgery in the car on the way home). The house special dry pot ($18, enough to feed four) offers a more reserved, humane use of the peppercorn, used sparingly to spark up a raucous medley of shrimp, squid, quail egg, pinwheel-shaped lotus root and tender medallions of potato, all in a spicy, sweet slick of chile oil, with chewy ribbons of tripe connecting it all together. (Not a tripe fan myself, but it’s benign here, like pasta.) Also special: tasty cold appetizers like slivered raw potato in a light vinegar ($10); chopped green beans with pickled vegetables ($13); cumin-kissed fried lamb ($14); and “special flavored” pork ribs ($18), delicious in a peanutty garlic-chile glaze, albeit not perfectly fall-off-the-bone. And that only scratches the surface of the excitingly vast menu, large swaths of which are currently unavailable due to the restaurant’s to-go-only pandemic format. The owners hope to restore dine-in service and a full menu early this summer.
Wild Card: Looking forward to trying the beer braised duck ($26) when it’s restored on the dine-in menu.
1845 E. Broadway Rd., Tempe, 480-702-7101
Opened: December 2020
Between the recent openings of Chantico in Central Phoenix (reviewed on page 161), Bandolero Cocina de Mexico in Scottsdale and this two-story behemoth of a cantina in Cave Creek, it’s safe to say upscale Mexican fusion – gird yourself for duck empanadas! – is the hottest thing in the Valley this spring. Formerly drinking hangout Indigo Crow (same owner, new concept), Ofrenda reads like a more Yucatecan, seafood-focused version of Barrio Café, with Pueblan-inspired fusion entrees such as Pasta en Nogado (tagliatelle with a poblano- and raisin-studded walnut sauce, $21) running point for a well-authored selection of tacos, salads and gourmet hand-food.
We start with plump, Washington-bred Belon oysters (market) and fresh guacamole (like Barrio’s version, jeweled with pomegranates, $14) before splitting plates of duck carnitas and beef tongue tacos, the former with a playful salsa de cacahuate (peanut salsa to gringos), the latter fork-tender in an adobo braise with micro cilantro, both professionally executed if cautiously seasoned ($21). The chef should take a cue from this famously gun-loving community and flip off the safeties. Nonetheless, Ofrenda is a must-visit for day-trippers.
Wild Card: Order a skinny-ish house margarita (sweetened with orange oleo-saccharum, $12) from the creative craft cocktail menu.
7100 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, 480-488-2187, theofrenda.com
Opened: December 2020
In a matter of months, this midcentury modern bar and eatery in Melrose has become the city’s hippest hangout for its unique coffee drinks, classic but twisty cocktails and out-of-the-box Modern American cooking – namely, chef Donald Hawk’s trendy yet oddly comforting dishes, many wood-fired and made with Arizona ingredients. Hawk’s signature dish from The Gladly – hiramasa crudo ($19), anointed with brown butter and sparked with tangy tomatillo-fish sauce vinaigrette – shows up on the dinner menu,
as do puckery citrus-peel and escabeche-marinated Castelvetrano olives ($6); ultra-crunchy, yellow-fleshed Huckleberry Gold potatoes ($12), strewn with fruit mostarda and salsa seca; and slippery, quark-dappled blue oyster mushrooms ($13), so mind-blowing they give new meaning to the words “Blue Oyster Cult.” Lightly smoked half chicken with durum wheat berries, toasted greens and dill-flecked yogurt ($32) proves that comfort food can be both decadent and healthy, all that virtue undone in an instant with pastry chef Antonia Kane’s sophisticated, never-cloying desserts, including a dreamy squash sticky bun, lavished with caramel and rose petals ($4).
Wild Card: Notably un-Southern hushpuppies, studded with gouda and caramelized kimchi cabbage, glazed with molasses and jalapeño escabeche ($7).
4130 N. Seventh Ave., 602-277-5561, valentinephx.com
— Nikki Buchanan
The Cheesecake at Lincoln Steakhouse & Bar
After spending much of the pandemic in hibernation, the flagship restaurant at JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa reopened in March. Go for the sublime patio and charcoal-oven-blasted chops – best $50 ribeye in the Valley, we say – and stay for chef Paul Valenzuela’s eerily supple cheesecake. Or make it at home. Visit the phoenixmag.com/recipes below for more recipes.
Graham Cracker Crust
1.5 lbs. Graham cracker crumbs
12 oz. Granulated sugar
1 lb. Butter, melted
3 lbs. Cream cheese
1 lb. Granulated sugar
2 tsp.Vanilla extract
8 Large eggs
1 lb. Sour cream
Sour Cream Topping
4 cups Sour cream
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
Graham Cracker Crust:
1. Mix all ingredients together till well combined. Grease sides of spring form pan. Pack graham cracker crust up sides and over bottom of pans. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1. In mixing bowl with paddle attachment cream the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
2. Once smooth add in sour cream. Mix till just combined.
3. Combine vanilla into eggs. Slowly add egg mixture in thirds. Scrap sides after each addition.
4. Pour 6 oz. into prepped pan. Bake till set. About 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Sour Cream Topping:
1. Hand whisk all ingredients. Let stand 5 minutes for sugar to dissolve. Whisk again.
2. Add to top of baked cheesecake. Bake till topping lightly set.