15 Metro Phoenix Restaurants to Visit During Spring Training 2013
Chef-owner Chrysa Robertson modestly demurs when loyalists call her "the Alice Waters of Arizona," but the truth is, this feisty, BS-free chef was raising her own chickens for eggs, buying veggies from AZ farmers and meats from AZ herdsmen long before everyone else jumped on the local-seasonal bandwagon. Her Italian-inflected New American menu (always sophisticated but homey at once) changes often, but you'll always find a handful of gorgeous salads (Tuscan kale being one of many favorites), grilled quail (with creamy polenta, mustard greens and grilled plum mostarda) and Nonni's Sunday Chicken, a comfort food dish that comes straight from her grandma. Robertson's wine list shows breadth and depth, and her desserts -- many incorporating fruits of the season -- are outstanding. Insiders eat supper at the bar, where they can people-watch and chat with Chrysa, who sometimes offers regulars a complimentary sip of house-made limoncello. $$$
Named for its Central Phoenix neighborhood, this brick-walled, Mid-Century space is packed night and day for a slew of great reasons including its hip, loft-like good looks and fresh, oven-baked bread. What's more, both happy hour and brunch are among the best in town, value-priced and chock full of simple but sophisticated selections, including a seasonal veggie fritatta, a wonderfully smoky burger and herb-flecked, Parmesan-sprinkled fingerling potatoes so irresistible you'll hate yourself later for cleaning the plate. Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin set out to create a neighborhood go-to, and with help from his chef de cuisine Chris Barch, he's pulled it off nicely, giving discerning local-inclined regulars a comfy little hangout with a pretty patio and cool indoor-outdoor bar. For best results, come during off hours or make a reservation. $$-$$$
It's not surprising that Shinbay chef-owner Shinji Kurita and Nobuo Fukuda once worked together. The two are similar in their modern approach to classic Japanese cuisine. But Kurita, whom I once would've called the more traditional of the two, has been pushing the envelope since opening his tranquil new version of ShinBay in Scottsdale, turning out stunning sashimi, sushi and hot dishes that, while rooted in tradition, feel out there on the edge. Made with impeccably sourced (wild-caught and often rare) fish and other exotica, Kurita's artful, seasonal food doesn't come cheap, but if you're a bona-fide food-lover, you absolutely shouldn't miss it. You can dabble around on the a la carte menu or just jump in for a six-course ($125 + tax and tip) or seven-course ($150+ tax and tip) extravaganza. Just do it.