The Hotel Valley Ho reopened many months ago, and we finally got around to checking it out and dining at Trader Vic's. We'll be back for cocktails, but probably not for dinner.
We arrived around 7:15 and sat in the half full lobby bar in the hotel itself. I liked the mix of new/trendy with the old school stuff they kept from the old hotel. Very well done, and much better than the James/Mondarin down the street.
The martinis ($7-10)arrived in their own little shakers and the waitress emptied them into our ice cold glasses. Excellent martinis, and my wife enjoyed a very nice glass of the Ferrari-Carano fume blanc ($8 I think). The waitress was very pleasant, and we sat there with cocktails for over an hour.
We then walked across the grounds to Trader Vic's. It is housed in a separate building on the corner of the grounds. We were on time for our reservation, but the hostess said it would be about 10 more minutes. Fine with us, we headed to the lounge for another drink. The small bar area is done up in the polynesian theme, like the rest of the restaurant, although it's not over the top. I caught a glimpse of a good size patio that must be nice with cooler weather. No one came by for several minutes. We finally flagged down a cocktail waitress who brought us a drinks menu and said she would be right back. Scores of exotic sounding drinks looked interesting, but unfortunately, no one stopped back to see if we wanted a drink, even though we obviously did. Not a great start. 10 minutes went by, and the hostess came back to get us, all without anyone taking our drink order in the bar.
We were taken to a table on the other side of the restaurant, past a glassed in room in front of the kitchen that I gather houses the wood burning oven. The room is very sleek and cool looking, with Trader Vic-type polynesian touches around the room. Again, not over the top at all.
The menu is huge. The first page alone has about 18 "tidbits" and starters. We were all quite hungry, so we gave our drink orders to the waiter (more on him later), and perused the menu. The waiter recommended the bbq pork ribs ($10 for 5 ribs) and the cha siu pork ($7 - 10 slices of pork from the chinese wood burning oven). We also ordered the tartare of scallop opihi, ahi poke and salmon lomi lomi ($18). The tartare was awesome, very fresh and high quality. Delicious. The ribs were very meaty, more than you would expect, but not great. The pork was good, but less flavorful than salty. There was also a bread basket and ginger butter. The rolls and wafers seemed store bought.
We ordered entrees after the appetizers, and again asked the waiter for recommendations from the huge menu. There are 31 entrees, including curries, wood burning oven, pake and wok dishes, and the plainly titled "entrees." I had read that the wood burning oven dishes were the way to go. My wife ordered the filet of Alaskan halibut with soy wasabi beurre blanc & lemongrass rice cakes ($25). I ordered the Indonesian rack of lamb with curry rice noodles and peanut sauce ($29). The waiter said the chef recommended the lamb medium, so I agreed. Our friends ordered the lamb as well, and another dish I just can't remember.
The lamb was thick and meaty with 4 bones. Unfortunately, it looked more rare than medium and it was chewy. Certainly not close to the best I've had. The halibut was good, but not great, and bit dry. The rice noodles were tasty, but the peanut sauce with my lamb was cool and congealed. Our side artichoke bottom with creamed spinach was rich, not bad.
We decided against dessert. The consensus was that everything was fine, but not great. All of us said pretty much the same thing...glad we tried it, but we won't be back. The bill for 4 entrees, three starters, one side and a few cocktails/glasses of wine was $296 before tip. You can have a much better meal for 4 at many great restaurants in Phoenix for that amount of money.
One other thing...the service was ok in the restaurant (certainly better than the restaurant lounge), but our waiter, while well meaning I'm sure, was a bit odd. Maybe he was new at this level of restaurant, but he repeatedly said things out loud that he should have kept to himself. Nothing rude, just weird. Saying he should "say it not spray it." Or telling us the restaurant policy of not putting the check down until we ask for it. Just his overall demeanor was strange, and we all noticed it. Frankly, it was a somewhat uncomfortable. He seemed to enjoy what he was doing, but he could use a little more polish or something.
We went back to the hotel to retrieve our cars, and the lobby bar was packed with a young clientele. Even the outdoor patio was half full. We'll try Cafe ZuZu next which is next to the lobby bar in the hotel itself.