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Crudo: still my favorite restaurant in Phoenix

finlero | Mar 23, 201510:17 AM

We swung briefly through Phoenix last week and made our obligatory pilgrimage to Crudo. Man, this place is at least as good as ever, maybe a shade better. Although the place was far from empty (and the bar packed), I can't help but wonder if Crudo's greatness might be a little bit lost on some Phoenicians. "Uncompromising" can mean different things in different situations, but here I feel like it means that chef Cullen Campbell is refusing to turn up the metaphorical volume on his dishes, sticking to unusually subtle combinations of flavors that you could miss if they don't have your full attention.

Specials aside, the short menu has barely changed in three years, and I don't mean that as a complaint. Not unlike Pizzeria Bianco, whose menu just about hasn't changed in 20 years, the kitchen seems laser beam-focused on executing well without getting distracted by a new menu every 3 or 6 or 12 months.

While everything was excellent, DC and I were split on favorites, simply as a matter of preference. We both loved the raw fish preparations, especially the albacore and yellowtail (I'll quibble that the ahi wasn't on par with the rest of the meal, just a bit fishy). My absolute favorites were the burrata and fresh mozzarella dishes. Standouts for my DC were the cooked dishes, especially the squid ink risotto and the perfectly-textured potato gnocchi. And while we weren't expecting anything memorable for dessert, the orange vanilla budino was wonderful, a subtle, not-too-sweet blend of excellent flavors including a perfect pistachio biscotto.

The thoughtful modern cocktails seriously bolster the overall experience, arguably turning the restaurant into a top-notch stuzzichini (Italian tapas) bar. Whereas the food menu is pretty static, it's been fun watching the cocktail menu evolve, with the wide array of fresh fruits and herbs highlighting different facets of the food. And the wine list ain't half bad either, with both some not-unreasonably-priced bottles and, more surprisingly, about two dozen wines by the glass that don't suck (nearly all glasses in the $10 - $15 range, so not cheap, but perhaps the price of avoiding plonk).

At about $200 for two people after tax and tip, just a fantastic meal top to bottom. For my money I can't think of a better restaurant within a day's drive of my home. We'll definitely be back.

Pizzeria Bianco
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