Though not as high-toned as the name suggests, this seafood-focused Scottsdale restaurant cashes in with great oysters and a raucous vibe.
John D. Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire, and his vast wealth is forever memorialized by the famously rich dish that bears his name – oysters Rockefeller. I give this mini history lesson by way of explaining Rockefeller in Scottsdale, a seafood-centric restaurant that sells oysters on the half shell, oyster shooters, dressed oysters (with ceviche) and, of course, oysters Rockefeller. Oysters are a thing here, even if oyster varieties are confined, for the time being, to Blue Points. Nevertheless, Rockefeller’s Rockefellers rocked my world, mantled in rich, goopy béchamel splashed with Pernod, enriched with Parmigiano-Reggiano and studded with salty nubbins of bacon. The shooters are fun, too, zingy with horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce and priced at $3 a pop during happy hour.
However, I’m mystified by the Roaring ’20s theme, given that Rockefeller and his fellow robber barons enjoyed their heyday in the late 1800s. Oh, well. The caged gold bar and mirrored ceiling capture the elegance of a bygone era, even if it’s the wrong one. Glitz and glam aside, Rockefeller aims to be a neighborhood restaurant and hits the mark, offering fancy cocktails (loved the creamy mouthfeel of my Pineapple Under the Sea), a buzzy happy hour and a menu geared toward grazing.
Mussels and chorizo are rich and creamy too, offering a faint echo of heat. Just wish we’d had a bit more Parmesan crostini to mop up all that good sauce. Tender fried calamari, served with tomato-caper aioli, is a crisp, dunk-able crowd-pleaser, good for happy hour noshing.
Kale cashew salad, drizzled with ginger, honey and soy vinaigrette, is a tasty lift from Houston’s kale cashew salad, while the baby wedge, jazzed up with avocado, bacon and blue cheese, is simply a classic done well.
Fried fish tacos are merely serviceable, but the biggest disappointment is also the priciest – mushy lobster tail served with perfectly good mussels and calamari over creamy risotto. On the upside, a vaguely described “prime filet,” smoothed in truffle-tinged mushroom-wine sauce, is tender, flavorful and satisfying.
Rockefeller may not offer the luxurious experience its name suggests, but it’s a noisy, fun hangout for North Scottsdalers.
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Contact: 8260 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-687-3757, rockefellerscottsdale.com
Hours: Su, Tu-Th 4-9 p.m., F-Sa 4 p.m.-midnight
Highlights: Oysters Rockefeller (MP); oyster shooters ($5, $3 HH); mussels with chorizo ($16); prime filet ($34)