J. and I wanted to do something relaxing and fairly light for a lunch, so we convinced Madge and Boris to join us for a bistro lunch. I wasn’t quite sure where to go and then I remembered of a place that could fit the bill.
I remembered the place in question because J. and I had recently discovered a bottle of Imperial Kir from Kokopelli Winery, located in Chandler, AZ. J. and I had our first bottle on our last anniversary and it was heaven. The sparkling wine combined with raspberry liqueur was outstanding. We have enjoyed it so much that we decided to use it as the drink for our first toast when we get married.
While doing some research on Imperial Kir, I came across the Kokopelli Winery website and discovered they had a little bistro attached to the winery in Chandler. So, Madge, Boris, J. and I met there for lunch. What surprised me about the place was the area it was in: downtown Chandler. The place was quite different than the last time I was there. There was a common-like green in the center of the downtown square surrounded by wine bars, restaurants and shops. We parked and entered the bistro.
We were taken to a table for four against the far wall near the front of the bistro. The interior was open and breezy, and I liked how various sizes of their wines had decorated the place. The wooden floors were a nice touch as well. Boris noticed a sign that said “Zero to Naked in 1.2 bottles” and said that was perfect for Madge. I didn’t even know how to respond to that.
Our server appeared with menus and took our drink order. Since we were at a winery, we decided to drink wine. Shocking, I know. Boris decided to go with the multiple wine tasting with the souvenir glass ($7.50). J. decided to try a glass of the Meritage ($6.00). I wanted something cool and fun, so I decided to go with their Wine-A-Rita Slushee ($6.00). Madge decided to go with a Diet Coke ($2.00) and just try everyone else’s wines. My guess is she was wondering which 1.2 bottles would work best for her, but I digress. For my part, I ordered a Diet Coke as well, while J. and Boris got Iced Teas ($2.00 each).
Our server returned in short order with our non-alcoholic drinks and we placed our initial orders. To start, J. and I were curious about their Crostini Plate ($6.00). We were allowed to get two kinds of the four listed and J. picked the Basil Pesto and I went with the Diced Herbed Tomato with Goat Cheese. J. also ordered a cup of the French Onion Soup ($2.75) and Madge and I couldn’t turndown a cup each of the Tortilla Soup ($2.75).
For our entrees, we were all hyped for the panini selections. J. was all over the Salami, Fontina, Roasted Bell Pepper and Sun Dried Tomato Panini ($7.25). Madge went simple and chose the Ham and Brie Panini ($7.25). Boris liked the idea of the Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini ($7.25) and I wasn’t about to turn down the Cuban Sandwich Panini ($7.25).
Our server placed our order with the kitchen and brought back my Wine-A-Rita Slushee. Okay, that wasn’t the real name of it. The wine was actually called Wine-A-Rita and it was a light white wine with flavors of lime and Triple Sec. This was mixed with lemonade and then made into a slushee treat. It was cold, sweet, tangy and very green. I liked it, but it didn’t seem to make points with the other three.
Boris was free to choose five wines for his wine flight and got a little glass to try his selections. The server would bring each bottle to the table and pour just over an ounce into the glass. As with all wine tastings, Boris loved some, liked others and disliked one. Still it was a success for him. J.’s Meritage didn’t seem to hit a high note with J., although there were some praises for it at the table. Since my Slushee was sweet, any attempt for me to try the Meritage ended up with me tasting nothing.
Our Crostini arrived in short order. Six pieces of crisp baguette had been covered with either the tomato mixture or the pesto. J. and I tried the Tomato and Goat Cheese first. It was excellent. The tomatoes were fresh, there was plenty of garlic and the creaminess of the goat cheese really make this a great starter. We then moved onto the pesto. J. and I didn’t like it as much. It was good and I enjoyed it, but it paled in comparison to the tomato and goat cheese. I think this was due to the fact that the first crostini was such a great mixture of tastes while the second was the monolithic taste of pesto. Still, we enjoyed the crostini.
Next up were the soups. The French Onion soup smelled very good as it was passed in front of me to J. A cup of the soup featured a rich and salty broth with plenty of onions and then topped with croutons and melted cheese. This wasn’t the best French Onion Soup in the world, but it was very good and I would order it. J. and Boris enjoyed it and Madge thought it was a winner as well.
After tasting the French Onion soup, it was time to try the Tortilla Soup. Madge and I both dove in, took a bite and then looked at each other and smiled. It was grand. Slightly thick, spicy, hot and with pieces of beans and veggies in the stock, we were hooked. Boris and J. tried tastes and agreed that it was excellent. My only complaint was that the tortillas were cooked with the broth, so they were without much texture. If they had spinkled some strips of fried corn tortillas on top, this would have been outstanding.
Boris was enjoying his samples of wine as we waited for our paninis to arrive. They did in short order and we all liked the presentation. Madge had a simple Ham and Brie Panini and really liked the demi ciabatta it was served on. It was crusty and crispy due to the cooking. The ham and brie was top notch, according to Madge, and she adored the dijon mustard sauce. However, Madge felt the sandwich was lacking in quantity. It was her observation that the sandwich would have been much more substantial if it had more meat or more cheese or perhaps an addition of something else.
Boris’ Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini was presented the same way as Madge’s sandwich, but this was filled with a chicken breast, ham and provolone, all dressed with the dijon mustard dressing. Boris did enjoy this and said the panini was perfectly cooked and the ingredients were fresh. He also noted the mustard was fantastic.
J.’s Salami, Fontina, Bell Pepper and Sun Dried Tomato Panini was bursting with color. The mixture of ingredients was good, according to J., but would have been greatly enhanced if the panini had been topped off with some of the dijon mustard that Madge and Boris were raving about. Still, J. did enjoy the panini and finished up every crumb.
My Cuban Sandwich Panini was quite good. The ciabatta was excellent and I have always loved the mix of flavors in a Cuban sandwich: ham, pork, mustard, provolone, and pickles. Thankfully, the bistro used strong, tart pickles that really gave the mouth a shock. I would have to agree with everyone else, though, that the mustard was absolutely fantastic. Out of all of the paninis, I think mine was the best, with Madge’s being the one that didn’t quite make the grade in terms of satisfaction. Still, we did enjoy our meals.
The one thing that we felt was lacking, however, was the side dish. Regardless of what you ordered, you got a small bowl of diced melon. Most of the melon was honeydew, with a few chunks of cantalope thrown in for color. While I have nothing against melon, a lot of people don’t like melon, as was the case with one person at our table. There is no other side dish to be had, so you get melon. I felt that this was something the Bistro could easily improve upon. A simple pasta salad or even individual serving bags of Poore Brothers chips (also a local favorite in Phoenix metro) would have been a perfect alternative.
After our plates were cleared and Boris had his last wine tasting serving, our server tempted the table with dessert. Madge led the charge by ordering a Cannoli Italiano ($4.00). Our server returned in minutes with the treat. Cannoli has never really done anything for me so I refrained, but the others said the cannoli was decent, tasty and creamy. There weren’t any raves about it, but they weren’t disappointed either.
A second dessert was summoned and our server brought the table a slice of the Creole Bread Pudding ($4.00). The square of pudding was dressed with chocolate chips and was slightly warmed. I thought the pudding was good due to its density and it wasn’t overly sweet. The others agreed and we were pleased with this selection noting how superior it was to the cannoli.
We finished our dessert and asked for the bill, but not before Boris decided to get a bottle of wine to take home. The total bill sans the bottle of wine was $82.08 including tax. We felt it was a decent value, with the exception of Madge’s Panini which definitely needed a filling boost. Still, we were happy. Service was engaging, professional and fun. We had no complaints about it whatsoever, and we certainly would return for another meal.
So, we headed out, back into the heat of the desert and went our separate ways as J. and I had some errands to run. Boris and Madge departed with Boris carrying his souvenir glass and bottle of wine. J. wondered if 1.2 bottles got Madge from zero to naked, what would one bottle get?
I didn’t even know how to respond to that.
The Bistro at Kokopelli Winery
35 West Boston Street
Chandler, AZ 85225
Notes: There is another Kokopelli Winery Bistro in Scottsdale at 13901 North 73rd Street.
Additional photos from this review can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com