This wouldn't be an in-depth discussion of these three places, more like the 10,000 foot review.
Over 4 years I've eaten at Zinc at least 10 times (I don't live in PHX) and never been disappointed. Some meals have been better than others but none have been worse than pleasant). Last visit was Friday evening, no reservations of course, we were told 15 minutes at 7 pm on Friday in Feb, that usually translates into 30 minutes at most places. We left our names on the list walked down to North and were told it was 30 minutes, back to Zinc where we were seated 10 minutes after our original walk in.
A dozen oysters for the two adults, salads for the the two 16 year old girls. The oysters were great as usual and the salads were just fine (not my choice but I'm not a 16 year old girl). On to the mains, two hangar steaks with frites, duck confit and a duo of lamb; accompanied by a 2001 Chateau Talbot (not cheap but a good deal at $90). All were great, I can't stop eating the frite, Chocolate souffles for deserts, I've made these at home, the Zinc version is way better than mine. Service was to the usual high standard and the atmosphere has the right amount of buzz without being overbearing.
First visit ever on Saturday Feb 16. Same demographic attending (2 adult foodies, with two 16 year old girls who know their way around a menu). Adults had the tasting menu with the girls went al la carte (guess who's paying!). The tasting menu was good but not to Binkley's standards in terms of quality or variety; but good nonetheless. Wine guy (aka cork dork) was very willing but had to see the wine director about the half bottle of pinot that I enquired about (Talisman from Napa, would have guessed it to be Cotes du Nuits).
The food is definitely fusion, diver scallops with a curry sauce (I liked, too spicy for my date); chocolate sauce with the foie gras (nice sized portion); rack of lamb served with a mole (maybe) sauce, a bit too much like the chocolate sauce that had been served with the foie gras; cheese course was just one cheese (an excellent French triple cream) couldn have used a second variety; dessert was a whipped cream extravaganza with chocolate and nuts (prepared without nuts for one of us). The girls' meals were cooked to a high standard (the duck breast in particular was good). Service was highly competent (although there were at least two instances of dishes being served to the wrong person), didn't go through the usual would you like bottled water farce where they try to sell you a $1.29 bottle of water for $8 (that's a big plus to me), pace of service was very good, people watching was above average if a bit sedate.
We finally made it here. We've enjoyed lunches at Bloom and the Green House (same owner, a mini chain) but had been unsuccessful in getting into North. A disappointment was the order of the night. The business model is obvious, turn those tables! We arrived at 6 55 for a 7 pm reservation and were seated promptly. My sense was a fast paced service but when we were pulling out of the parking lot at Kierland and one of the girls remarked that it was only 8 12, it confirmed what I'd been feeling. It should have been obvious when two of the mains were plopped on the table while I was still finishing my artichoke starter (try eating one of those quickly).
Our server (and most of the staff) were very pleasant, BUT, the runner who brought our mains was an idiot. I think he used up all of his mental capacity for the day doing his highly scultured hair. After throwing our food on the table he asked "is there anything else you'd like?" I said yes we'd like some cutlery (we'd used up our one alloted knife on the starters), I think he interpreted this as "I'd like to fly to the moon", after a 2 second blank stare he was never seen at our table again; eventually, our waitress did bring some cutlery although my wife waited 5 minutes for a knife to eat her fish.
On to the food, starters: calamari, artichoke and two salads (yes the 16 year girls!) were all very good. Mains: angel hair pasta-can't comment, it disappeared quickly into one of the girls; Texas red fish with lentils was very good, fish and lentils cooked very well, no small feat; chicken and pasta was a like something you'd expect at the Olive Garden, too much cheese and chicken that tasted of nothing; I had the short ribs, they were nicely cooked but served with too much heavy sauce. Dessert was good but not up to the standard that you'd would hope for when everything is made in house (walking past the dessert kitchen there were boxes of industrial made canolli in plain sight, not up to Tony Soprano's standards).
Back to the service pacing issue, why do restaurants in North America serve coffee as a pre dessert beverage. Asked if I'd like a coffee, I ask for an espresso which is served within 90 seconds while I'm still finishing a glass of red wine, well before anyone has been served their dessert. This issue is not limited to North so maybe it's just a general faux pas rather than a way of getting you out quickly. If in Kierland take Zinc anytime over North.
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