Madge had a birthday this past Tuesday, and since we both worked, it was really impossible to take her out for a wonderful meal and celebrate properly. Had we gone out Tuesday night, I would have been cruel enough to Madge to take her for a quick meal at Chuck E. Cheese. I know she would have adored celebrating a birthday at Mr. Cheese's bistro. However, being the friend I am, I decided to wait until the weekend and take her someplace less, well, spirited.
I left it in Madge's hands to decided where we should dine. Within minutes, Madge had selected the Phoenix City Grille at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road in Central Phoenix. She loves this place. I had been once before and decided that this restaurant was begging to be reviewed. So, we loaded up in the Seth-mobile and headed out.
Upon arrival, we noticed that the place was still rather busy at close to 9 PM on a Saturday. The bar had plenty of patrons, but so did the dining room. The entry is nicely decorated with a few plants and the "specials" board is in plain sight before you even hit the foyer. We approached the host station and while we waited for the hostess to return from seating another couple, Madge noticed the bar was serving a Pomegranate Margarita ($7.00). Madge immediately decided that she would have one.
We were seated and handed menus. I took a hard look around the restaurant and liked the look and feel. The walls were painted a muted orange and copper sconces placed indirect lighting on the walls. The tables were of dark woods and with the votive candles on the table, this place was perfect for relaxation, a romantic dinner, or just a fine evening out, atmosphere wise.
We canvassed the menu and Madge ordered her margarita and a lemonade. I went with an Iced Tea and water. The menu can best be described as "American Bistro" for lack of a better turn. Here, old favorites were dressed up and tweaked with different touches. I like what I saw, but would have appreciated a few more entree choices. The appetizer section, however, was quite well done.
The server took our order and Madge and I decided to get two appetizers and share them. Our choices were the Baked Brie ($7.50) and the Griddle Corn Cakes ($9.00). We each ordered a salad. Madge decided that the Caesar Salad ($3.50) would be perfect and I opted for something called the Rory's Salad ($6.50). Entrees were straightforward enough. I decided that I wanted to see their take on Pot Roast, so I went with the Classic Pot Roast ($13.00) and Madge chose the Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken ($14.00).
Madge got her Pomegranate Margarita and was pleased that the server brought the large cocktail shaker and set it on the table. Even more impressive was the fact that it held two servings. Madge tasted her elixir and was in heaven. "Outstanding," she muttered. Her only complaint was that the salt on the rim of the glass was a bit too much and either a plain rim or a sugared rim would have been preferable. Still, being the Madge that she is, she enjoyed every single drop of both servings.
Our appetizers arrived and the Griddle Corn Cakes were different than I imagined. On a large, warmed serving plate, a griddle cake about 6" in diameter rested in a pool of spicy black bean puree. On top of that cake was a mixture of cubed chicken, cheese and sauteed red peppers, topped with another griddle cake. I decided to simply cut the layered item in half and serve it up. While I was surprised by the presentation, I was pleased with the taste. The mixture of the corn flavor, chicken, cheese and beans was very good - a nice combination of flavors. Madge enjoyed it but felt the chichen was bland. I encouraged her to spice it up with the bean puree, but she opted not to. It was my reasoning that this was put together the way it was as not to be too bold, ascenting to American tastes which means "very easy on the spice." Still, Madge gave it a thumbs up and I agreed.
We turned our attention to the baked brie. On another large serving plate, a nice round of brie rested in the middle of the plate surrounded by toasted almonds and sauteed red peppers (they are big on the red peppers here). Along side the cheese was served a small plate of yeasty rolls that were cut in half and then grilled until there was a small bit of char on the bread and then buttered. I cut into the brie and was very pleased to see that it was a bit runny and a bit above room temperature. It spread like butter onto the bread and I topped it with some of the almonds and the peppers. I took a first bite and then devoured what I had left in my hand. It was fantastic. What I didn't see on the plate, but did taste, was a light, tamarind-flavored sauce that gave a hint of sweetness to the dish. This was executed well and the flavors were great. Madge was in love with the dish.
Our salads were brought just as we polished off the brie and cakes. Madge said the Caesar Salad was excellent because the cheese was sharp and the salad exceptionally fresh. My Rory's Salad was a mix of field greens, bacon pieces, thinly-sliced red onion, blue cheese crumbles. It was dressed in a semi-sweet vinaigrette. It was very good. The greens were fresh and the mixture of tastes was well done. There were two things I took exception to, however. First, the menu said that candied pecans were also in the salad, but clearly these had been overlooked in the preparation. Second, the temperature of the greens varied. The ones on top were room temperature and the ones on the bottom were ice cold. Very odd.
Our entrees arrived and the scent from both of them made my mouth water instantly. Madge's plate was a near work of art. In the middle of a large serving plate, a mound of Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes rested atop a layer of a savory fruit sauce with currants and Moroccan spices. A chicken breast coated in crushed macadamia nuts and breading was cut into four strips and placed in a four spoke pattern on the potatoes. It was very appealing to our eyes. Madge took one bite and insisted I try some. The chicken was tender and juicy and the coating had a bona fide crunch to it. The potatoes were excellent and the sauce was wonderful. This dish was simply outstanding.
I turned to my pot roast. I know it was "pot roast" and at $13.00 it had better be pretty grand. Well, it was. I thoroughly enjoyed my dish. A very large portion of pot roast sat on a mound of the Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes. It was then drizzled with a good amount of a brown boubon gravy. On top of this were strips of deep fried parsnips. The dish was very well thought out. The meat was super tender and the sauce had a nice edge to it. The potatoes added a salty component and the parsnips had a sweetness to them. One bite and I had a smile on my face. Madge said she thought the dish was very good.
There wasn't anything left on our plates when the server suggested dessert. I declined, but Madge went for the Croissant Bread Pudding in Vanilla Creme Bourbon Sauce ($5.00). Obviously they enjoy their bourbon as much as they enjoy the red peppers.
The dessert was outstanding. Truly outstanding. The dense bread pudding was warm and mildly sweet, but exceptionally rich. The vanilla creme was a perfect compliment to the pudding. It was also studded with some raspberries which Madge loved, but I thought added nothing to the dish. Two big thumbs up on this dessert, though.
We finished up with rounds of fresh waters and I was presented the bill. The total for our extravaganza was $68.65. Madge and I agreed that the meal was an exceptional value. Service was attentive without being overbearing and the meal was nearly perfect.
Phoenix City Grille has been here for a while and I can see why it still is busy even at 9 PM.
One last bit about our visit. Prior to dessert, I had told our server it was Madge's birthday, so the pudding arrived with a candle and was comped. Madge, having made it clear she hates having any surprises on her birthday, leaned over and said, "You are so dead." Ah, my crazy friend Madge.
Next year, Chuck E. Cheese for you, sweetheart!
Phoenix City Grille
5816 North 16th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Dress: Casual to Business Casual