Ensconced under a Downtown high-rise, this otherworldly modern American eatery preys on our hunger for elegant, citified dining.
Located in Renaissance Square, in the thick of Downtown’s construction chaos, Wren & Wolf is a strange and beautiful world apart. The cavernous, dimly lit space is filled with taxidermied animals and dramatic murals of wolves and their feathered prey, conjuring a mystical land of fairytales, Shakespeare and Darwin, all at once.
It’s trippy, all right, and worthy of a trip, even if the modern American cuisine – reconceived since the restaurant’s bumpy opening last December – proves somewhat less jaw-dropping than designer Peter Bowden’s decor. If you simply want to drink pretty craft cocktails (designed by Highball Cocktail Bar owners Libby Lingua and Mitch
Lyons), nosh on fancy small plates and lap up some magical ambiance, it will prove elite.
Owners Teddy and Katie Meyers, the couple behind CityScape’s hipster Mexican restaurant Chico Malo, play to a bougie crowd, showcasing $125 Japanese A5 wagyu with a Champagne and caviar add-on. For us plebes, there are affordable options such as za’atar man’ouche, a Lebanese flatbread stuffed with cheeses, sprinkled with herby za’atar and littered with kalamata olives and artichoke petals. It’s essentially a Middle Eastern quesadilla, and I would have loved it were it still hot when it hit the table.
Prosciutto and melon, a salty-sweet Italian classic, gets lost in a mix of spring lettuces, strawberries, candied pistachios, whipped honey ricotta and tarragon vinaigrette, but I like this busy, textural salad just the same. Meanwhile, beef carpaccio, gussied up with arugula, cured egg yolk, brown butter breadcrumbs, Parmesan snow and bone marrow aioli, is a cluttered umami bomb, but you won’t hear me complaining.
However, my favorite small plate is probably Peruvian ceviche – silky Chilean seabass and Japanese yam, brightened with pickled onions and aji amarillo. Just as delicious are grilled and chilled prawns, painted with spicy-sweet sauce and dredged through Calabrian chile-sparked chive aioli.
The main courses I tried from the seven-item entrée menu aren’t quite as successful. Despite harissa embellishment, the duck a l’orange just sits there, while lobster ragù with pasta and Manchego truffle foam is pleasant, but not transcendent enough for $38. Or am I living in the inflation-less past?
No matter its flaws, Wren & Wolf is a citified call of the wild that’s hard to resist.
Wren & Wolf
Cuisine: Modern American
Contact: 2 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-562-3510, wrenandwolf.com
Hours: M-Th 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m., F 7:30 a.m.-midnight, Sa 4 p.m.-midnight, Su 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Highlights: Za’atar man’ouche ($15); Peruvian ceviche ($20); prosciutto and melon salad ($16); beef carpaccio ($22); chilled prawns ($26)