The Phoenix/Scottsdale area has an array of outstanding dining options, attracting visitors as well as local residents with amazing culinary creations. From restaurants grounded in local culture and cuisine to those offering a variety of international food, there are plenty of excellent dining options.
For one of the top dining experiences in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, FnB is a great choice. The thing I like best about it: its food is beautiful, its chef a James Beard Award winner, yet it’s as welcoming and casual a place as you can imagine. Take a seat among the variety of art on the deep red walls, and soon you’ll be enjoying simple food with a complex taste. Chef Charleen Badman isn’t one of those “look how clever I am” chefs, but rather is all about flavor and texture combinations that make sense. Thus, the best falafel in the world (dense, soft, and flavorful) are paired with kale, olives, garlic, chiles, and yogurt. Spigarello, an heirloom broccolini from Italy, rests on a bed of polenta and is not only delicious, but a new culinary discovery for me. A roasted beefsteak tomato is served over quark, with a sprinkling of the Egyptian spice/nut mix dukka on top. Pasta might feature local lobster mushrooms, pancetta, and parmesan, while a half roasted chicken is dressed with red potatoes and white barbecue sauce in a reversal of the colors you might expect. The food is amazingly fresh, which is the key to Badman’s elegant simplicity. You’ll find the same beautiful simplicity with their wines: a Syrah/Tempranillo blend, for instance, is livened by Graciano (a lesser-known grape) and is both smooth and bold, a perfect accompaniment. Dessert? My hands-down favorite is the butterscotch pudding, which is rich, creamy, and has an almost smoky/charry taste that’s a deeply satisfying end to the meal. The only thing you won’t find at FnB is pretension: these are people who take their food seriously, and it shows in the perfectly (and I do mean perfectly) straightforward amazements they serve. 7125 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale. Tel: 480-284-4777. www.fnbrestaurant.com
I must admit, entering from the faceless little strip mall, I didn’t expect CRUjiente Tacos to be so pretty. From my first glance, though, I fall in love with the place, with its wood walls, teal blue banquettes, hanging copper lights, and open kitchen at the back: comfy, classy, and lovely. Then the food arrives, and I fall even more in love. Tacos here come in two types: soft shell and crunchy (i.e., crujiente). Before I make taco decisions, however, I indulge in a Grilled Street Corn appetizer, made into a sort of salad with caramelized onion, cotija cheese, cilantro, and a variety of chiles. As you can imagine, it carries a bit of a kick, but the sweetness of the corn shines through, evening out the dish. Then it’s on to the beautiful little tacos: among the soft-shell ones, I choose the Korean Fried Chicken Taco, one of their signature dishes, spicy, deep in flavor, and wonderful, with the Korean hot sauce gochujang and pickled jalapeños uniting the two cuisines in fiery pleasure. For my crujiente, I go with vegetarian (though you can also get pork, beef, or lamb), with potatoes, poblanos, cheese, and both house hot sauce and pico de gallo. They’re sort of mirror images, the first with a soft outside and a crunchy interior, the latter reversing the process, and I don’t know which one I like better. I suggest you do what I do and get one (or more) of each type! They also feature a taco of the week, which could be anything from green beans or truffles to scallops or crab. Dessert features a similarly changing selection, as they always have a “hand pie” which could be something like pineapple/habanero, or (the day I visit) plum/hibiscus, which would be great enough even without the honey whipped cream! Pay a visit, and I think you’ll be as surprised as I was. Well, actually you won’t be surprised, because now I’ve told you about the wonders hiding behind that strip mall façade! 3961 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix. Tel: 602-687-7777. www.crutacos.com
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