It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks and I was glad to finally get to spend some time with J. After a quick flight for J. and a trip to the baggage carousel, we were off to a reservation I had made for a new spot in Scottsdale called Digestif. All I knew about the places what it was getting some pretty good reviews and they were serving Absinthe, the long-banned anise-flavored drink that was said to make people do strange things.
But, we were first and foremost on our way there for the food. After scouting the streets of downtown Scottsdale, we ended up parking in a public lot and hoofing it over to the restaurant. The entrance was recessed from the road and we almost missed it when walking by. As we approached the door, it swung open and we were invited by the friendly hostess to the restaurant. We gave our names and were taken to a table against the far wall.
The first thing I noticed was that the place was quite loud, particularly when with it only being half full. I shuddered to think what it would be like if the place was completely full. While J. and were able to have a discussion about the world and everything else going on in our lives, we did struggle a few times to hear and be heard.
The other thing I noticed was that I was having a tough time getting comfortable in my seat. This was strictly a result of the horrible lighting that shined on our table. From a 45-degree angle, a Halogen-like bulb blasted rays of light right into our eyes and on to the table. We tried moving the table a bit and it did provide some relieve, but not much. It was very difficult on the eyes and very distracting.
Those small issues aside, we were ready to review the menu and place our order. Our pleasant server told us about some of the features of the menu and took our drink order. J. decided on a Blenheim brand of Ginger Ale ($3.00) and I went for a Diet Coke ($3.00). Our server left and we talked about sharing some appetizers.
J. was immediately drawn to the Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Garlic ($5.00) and I suggested the Homemade Meatball Bruschetta ($9.00). We also decided to get some salads, so I chose the Digestif Radicchio Salad ($8.00) and J. got the Caesar Salad ($8.00).
When our server returned with our drinks, we were ready to order the items above plus our entrees. For that, J. decided on the Garganelli Pasta with Lamb Bolognese ($17.00) and I wanted the Crispy Skin Duck Breast ($24.00). After placing our order, J. indulged in the Ginger Ale and immediately said, “Oh my. This is really strong.” I took a sip and it was, indeed, exceptionally strong. The sting of the ginger reminded me of the warm burn of brandy as it slid down my throat. This was sipping Ginger Ale. It was delicious, but a few sips were more than enough for me.
Only a few minutes passed before the Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Garlic arrived at the table. I loved the presentation of the half head of garlic baked with two small strips of bacon criss-crossing the head to hold it all together. It was served with crunchy bread pieces and a small salad dressed with a very light vinaigrette. We struggled a bit getting the garlic out but ended up just turning the head over and squeezing until the garlic plopped out onto the place.
Grabbing the warm garlic cloves, we smeared them across the bread and took a bite. I liked the mild taste of the garlic and the texture of the toast, but the bacon flavor was completely missing. I was just a tad disappointed because I thought the combination of bacon dripping and garlic would wow me, but all I got was the taste of garlic. J. expressed similar sentiments. We did like the field green salad and the dressing which cut some of the garlic taste after munching on several cloves. A solid and good dish, but it just didn’t have that kick that I wanted.
The Meatball Bruschetta was creatively presented with two pieces of homemade wheat bread buried under a large ladle of marinara sauce and one big meatball. The meatball was delicate and had a very mild taste. It literally melted in our mouths. We liked the sauce as well and the fact that it had just a tiny hint of spice that made it stand out was welcome. What was the real winner, however, was the sauce-soaked bread. The rustic, hearty bread and the sauce were a wonderful combination and J. and I said just the bread and sauce would have been a fantastic appetizer. Like the garlic, this dish was served with the same filed green salad with vinaigrette.
There was small gap of time between our appetizers and our salads and I was pleased to see a plate brimming with greens as they brought my Digestif Radicchio Salad to the table. Large pieces of radicchio and field greens formed a small bowl that held more greens and a large portion of “Roaring 40’s Blue Cheese.” This was drizzled with a tangy and subtly sweet balsamic dressing and sprinkled with candied hazelnuts and marinated figs. The whole concoction was an excellent formula. The bitterness of the lettuces and the sweetness of everything else was a true palate pleaser. The figs were exceptional. J. agreed that the salad was top notch. However, I would certainly warn people that the salad was very bitter and probably not for the shrinking violets of the world.
J.’s Caesar Salad was fresh and plentiful with full leaves of Romaine that had been flash grilled and then dressed with a garlicky Caesar dressing. They were then sprinkled with capers and Parmigiano shavings. J. said the salad was delicious but wished that the leaves had been torn down a bit in the back. A minor point, but J. was fumbling a few times to get the right size of bite that could hold a little bit of everything on the plate. I thought the salad was quite good but would have wanted a more pungent dressing mix.
When are entrees arrived, Digestif got great kudos for the presentation. J’s Garganelli Pasta with Lamb Bolognese also contained smoked bacon and garlic ricotta and was served on a narrow and long dish. The scent of the dish wafted across the table and made me salivate. The meaty lamb sauce and the delicate pasta were a perfect match. J. was thrilled with the dish and I couldn’t help but enjoy the bite I was given. The pasta was al dente and the sauce was unique in its flavor with the lamb, garlic and bacon. It was also quite distinctive from the sauce served with the meatball which was a pleasant surprise. All in all, this was a great dish.
My Crispy Skin Duck was delicious. A juicy duck breast had been sliced into large chunks and served with a lingonberry sauce. A potato gratin and boiled baby turnips accompanied the meat. I found the duck to be exceptional. Moist, tender and very flavorful, the meat was excellent with the lingonberries and the skin was truly crispy. J. thought it was wonderful. I also like the potato gratin with its mellow flavors and salty overtone. Unfortunately, the turnips were undercooked and only the outside sections of the flesh were even close to being tender. Still, the duck more than made up for everything. I loved this dish.
After dinner, we debated about dessert and we asked for the dessert menu. After spending a few minutes reviewing the options, we declined. We just didn’t really see anything on the menu that grabbed our attention. However, J. was chomping at the bit to try the Lucid Absinthe, so we ordered one glass ($8.00) to share.
A few minutes after ordering, our server appeared with what appeared to be a lamp. Instead, it was a tall receptacle holding ice water with four spigots at the base. Our server gave us a brief history of Absinthe as he set up the glass of Absinthe, the spoon and the sugar cube under one of the spigots. The aroma of the anise drink overwhelmed the table and he allowed the ice water to drop very slowly until the sugar cube had dissolved into the Absinthe. He then added a bit more water and stirred. Leaving us the finished product, J. took a sip.
“Interesting, but I am not sure I would order it again.” I took a sip and my feeling was mutual. If I was a big anise fan, I guess I would have been overjoyed with the drink but I just thought it more novelty than anything else. I found the drink rather strong and could only imagine how jarring it would have been if it hadn’t been diluted. Still, it was fun to try it and J. and I did not have some strange desires to fly or cut off body parts or do other things that people supposedly did while drinking the concoction.
We requested our bill and the total was $95.00 which we thought was a decent value. We found the food to be very good and very creative and decided that we would return to try other things on the menu. Service was prompt and professional and we had no complaints. We did, however, wish they would do something to muffle some of the noise and fix the lighting which still was uncomfortable even though we had grown accustomed to it.
All in all, it was a very good meal. J. and I were ready to head home, relax and spend time catching up.
7114 East Stetson Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dress: Smart Casual
Hours: Sunday through Saturday - 11 AM to Midnight.
Notes: Valet, street and public lot parking available. Reservations can be made through OpenTable.com.
Alcohol: Full bar and Absinthe
Additional photos can be found at www.feastinginphoenix.com.
7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85351