Review: Sottise

Nikki BuchananMarch 3, 2022
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From Restaurant Progress prodigy TJ Culp comes the impossibly quaint French wine bistro you need. 

TJ Culp opened Restaurant Progress as a 25-year-old upstart chef in 2017, and true to its name, the Melrose District eatery has only gotten better over time. Now, he and his partner Esther Noh have taken all they’ve learned over the past four years and poured it into Sottise, a French-inspired bistro and wine bar, tucked away in a vintage bungalow in the Roosevelt Row arts district. From its dining porch overlooking a verdant lawn to the farmhouse chic of its interior, it’s fun but on point, polished but unpretentious. I love everything about it, including the 150-bottle wine list, thoughtfully curated by resident wine wonk Oscar Avilla-Prado.

The 19-item menu, loosely arranged by cold and hot apps, salads and entrée-ish things, draws on French café classics such as pâté, escargots and steak tartare, all well-suited to grazing. A warm mélange of citrusy olives, smoothed in thyme-scented olive oil and flecked with red chile, is fantastic, as are ultra-creamy deviled eggs bearing the saltiness of capers and the tang of cornichon tapenade. Strewn with tiny bits of crispy pork, they’re my favorite deviled eggs of all time.

As they do at Progress, oysters come topped with chunky steak tartare, a fun if counterintuitive pairing, while roasted beets, served with a nose-tingling drift of horseradish cream and brightened with fresh dill, are familiar but fabulous.

A round of Camembert, baked to ooziness, is another hit, sweetened with Calvados-laced honey and given a bit of sharpness and crunch from hazelnut vinaigrette. Salmon rillettes, a bright, clean-tasting mixture of fresh salmon and gravlax, topped with pickled red onion, mashed capers and fresh dill, surpasses my expectations, as does the pistou, France’s lighter, pine nut-free version of Italian pesto, lilting with basil and tossed with pasta.

Croque Madame, France’s elegant, béchamel-mantled take on the ham and cheese sandwich, is served on toasted country bread with a lacy fried egg on top, a rich, creamy classic I adore. Even better, a spectacular pork shank braised to melting tenderness and served with cider jus and gremolata. And I can’t wait to try the five-spice-y duck again, sweetened with honey and grapes.

Sottise is a French term for “folly or “foolishness,” but there’s nothing offhand about the food, wine or service here. In fact, it would be folly not to take this well-oiled machine seriously. 

Roasted beets with horseradish, dill and lemon. Photography by David Blakeman.
Roasted beets with horseradish, dill and lemon. Photography by David Blakeman.
Baked Camembert with honey and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Baked Camembert with honey and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Croque Madame
Croque Madame

Cuisine: French

Contact: 1025 N. Second St.,
Phoenix, 602-254-6378,

Hours: W-Sa 5-11 p.m., Su 5-10 p.m.

Highlights: Deviled eggs ($4.50); baked Camembert with honey and hazelnut vinaigrette ($15.25); salmon rillettes ($16.75); pistou pasta ($21.75); pork shank ($46.50)