On a recent Saturday afternoon, T. and I decided to head to Sophie's, hoping to get in early without a reservation. Note: T. is actually a J., but has been given another initial so not to confuse with another J. mentioned on these boards.
Getting into Sophies at 5:30pm was not possible, so we headed to the Backstreet Wine Salon at 36th Street and Indian School Road. To those of you old timers out there, its in the location where Ernestos Backstreet was in the 1980s and is literally on the back street of the shopping center.
Upon entry, we felt like we'd entered someone's spacious, well decorated living room. And someone who really liked wine. As the New Times review said, it was like wed been given a password to a secret club. We were immediately greeted and escorted to the dining areas. It was a quiet, but not too quiet, atmosphere and took a few minutes to adjust our conversation level since there was only one or two tables occupied at the time. The menu politely requests that people step outside to use their cell phones, which I thought was appropriate, if not required. There are regular tables and salon type couch and coffee table set ups at which to sit. We chose a more formal table that was set with white table cloths, colorful plates, shiny silverware, and giant wine glass. We were immediately greeted by a server who put a large, glass ewer of water on the table. We reviewed our small, paper menus on which one half is wine, the other food. The food is categorized into cheese plates, small plates, salad, soup, du jour, and sweets. The wine list is not extensive, but every choice we made was outstanding. Each wine is available by the glass, half liter or bottle. T. handled the wine selection and we started off with a 2003 Bishops Peak Pinot as a basket of bread was delivered. We decided to order all at once and share. Our choices were grilled cheese nuggets, frisee aux lardons (salad), catalan soup, and a mixed plate of grilled meats.
The grilled cheese nuggets ($5.50) came as we were halfway thru the pinot. They were tasty little bites of a mild sheeps milk cheese and came with thin fried pieces of parmesan. It was time for more wine, so T. ordered a 2004 Durdilly Beaujolais for the salad course. I am not a wine expert, but am giving the names for the connoisseurs out there. The frisee aux lardons ($8.00) was the salad course. Endive, croutons, and bacon tossed in vinaigrette. A poached egg is an option with this dish, but we decided that was too French for now. There would be egg later. The salad was devoured in minutes though the spiky lettuce was a bit imposing at first. Next up was the catalan soup ($13.00) with a glass of 2004 Baronne Rose to accompany it. Although the restaurant focuses on French based cooking, this dish was from the Catalonia region of Spain. A good sized bowl of oniony broth with what can best be described as a grilled ham and cheese sandwich sitting in it. Except the sandwich is inside-out; a large hunk of country French bread smothered in manchego cheese and a slice of black forest ham. Add to this, a fresh egg cooked into the bread similar to those one-eyed jacks Olympia Dukakis made in the movie Moonstruck. A piece of bread with the center torn out, tossed on the griddle, and an egg cooked in the center. But this one-eyed jack had ham in it, was smothered in cheese and sitting in a bowl of soup. The broth was delicious and had a bacon flavor. T. is a broth lover and persistent section eater, so I had to start in on the bread-cheese-ham-egg structure in the middle. Ive heard of soups you can eat with a fork, but this one needed a fork and a knife. Halfway through the soup, the chef, Patrice, came over to greet us. I complimented her on the soup and said it must be difficult to make, to which she shook her head modestly and said it was simple. She was very pleasant and stopped by one more time before we finished our meal.
The soup and was very filling, but we still had another plate coming. The name escapes me, and the menu picked up later was different since they change it daily. However, it was a plate of mixed grilled meats; duck, quail, and a spicy chorizo-like sausage, served with grilled baby vegetables. The quail and duck were not gamey and cooked just right. It was just the right amount for the two of us for about $20. The server returned several times to check on our food and we never had to ask for something twice. A final course was in order. We chose the chocolate soufflé ($5.50) which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was small, but two or three healthy bites each was enough and a perfect ending to our meal.
Backstreet Wine Salon is a great place for a romantic date, a ladies lunch, or for some wine and cheese with friends. You can also purchase wine there to take home.
Backstreet Wine Salon
3603 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Note: Open for lunch weekdays, but closed Monday and Tuesday