I am feeling horribly guilty, as I type this, as I have a long backlog of reviews, that have been promised. Personal events, a heavy workload and tax season, have all impacted my reviews lately. Still, we had the pleasure of dining at Vincent’s On Camelback, on Sat., just before Easter Sunday. As many of you know, we are fortunate to dine there about once per month. Many of these dinners are around “events,” so they do not count full credit. This was just a dinner with two friends, neither of whom had ever dined there. Given the choice, they chose Vincent’s because they knew that we loved it, and they wanted to try it.
We arrived a few minutes before the reservations and the poor valet was working overtime. We had time to gather our blazer, wife’s purse and wrap, before he ran up. Luckily, my wife drives a nice car, as it was placed just behind the Bentley at the curb. Like it, when that happens.
Our guests had already arrived, and were seated. I took a moment to whisper to the hostess that there had been some less than stellar reviews here recently. I had e-mailed her, but wanted her to look into the situation, and reiterated that these critiques came from people who know dining, and not some disgruntled traveler, looking for a comp’ed meal. She took down the URL, and promised that she’d read the SW Board very, very closely. Good sign. Just because we love a place does not make it the ideal. All things considered, Vincent’s *should* be the ideal place for what they offer. Do not know what might sort out, but they have now been alerted twice of a potential problem, especially with service, which I have always found to be exemplary.
We started with a Chassagne-Montrachet (sorry no notes and memory is not what it once was) and were presented with an amuse bouche of the salmon quesadilla. It was very good, though could have been a bit warmer. The tortilla was just a bit dried out. Nit, dutifully picked. Had I known what the amuse bouche was going to be, I might have started with a Pinot Grigio, or maybe a Meursault. Still, very welcome.
The diners moved on to: Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads with Bell Peppers and Port Wine Sauce; Sautéed Duck Foie Gras with Lentils and Bacon; Belgian Endive & Watercress Salad with a Mustard Dressing; Pear Salad with Spicy Pecan, Blue Cheese and Garlic Parmesan Crisps. All of these were from the Nouveau Menu. I also asked for an order of the Duck Tamales with Anaheim Chile and Raisins for the table. I offered to pay for a double-order, as there were four of us, but the bill only showed a single order.
Looking around the table, everyone enjoyed their appetizer, as every mosel was eaten. I had opted for the Duck Foie Gras, as I am just a glutton. I was able to also get a glass of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise to accompany it. This, to me, is a very nice touch. Too many restaurants offer a Foie Gras, and not b-t-g wines to go with it. The thought of buying a ½ btl. of Sauternes, or TBA, just for one dish is against my sensibilities.
During this time, bread was presented, and described. Wife was a bit disappointed that there was no Jalapeño Cornbread, but what we got was wonderful and devoured quickly. Water glasses were constantly full, and the bread was quickly replaced, before it could cool too much. All silverware was instantly cleared and replaced, as was necessary. Other than having a 4-top in a corner, requiring the servers to reach to my wife, everything was excellent.
Entrées were: two Salmon dishes; Braised Beef Short-ribs with Figs & Raisins and the Beef Tenderloin with Pinot Noir Reduction. We added a bottle of the Sea Smoke Southing ‘05 PN (Central Coast, CA) and a glass of the Whitehall Lane ‘05 Merlot (wife) and the Eberle ‘05 Cab. I wish that they had offered a Zin in the b-t-g selection for my wife. As it turned out, the Sea Smoke was rich enough to stand up to both the Tenderloin and the Short-ribs. I had experienced the ‘03 & ‘04, so I should have known.
The salmon dishes were cleaned with a lot of compliments from our guests. The Short-ribs were a bit different, than normal. They were a new recipe, with less sweetness. Wife noted the difference. They were slightly dry, compared to this dish, as it normally comes out of Chef Vincent’s kitchen. My Tenderloin was excellent, as always. I forced myself to eat every bite.
I ordered the Cheese Course for two (though we were four) and it was excellent. I had admonished one of our guests (the wine-drinker) to save some of the Montrachet, and we had several wines to accompany the cheeses. I had pointed out what we had, and our server tailored the selections to suit our remaining wines. I wish that I had taken notes, on all of the cheeses.
I probably should have chosen a ½ btl. of a more up-scale Cab, or Merlot, or asked Howie if they had any “special” wine b-t-g, but was busy in conversation with our guests. Still, not bad.
We warned the guests about Chef Vincent’s penchant for adding desserts, but they ordered some sorbets, anyway. Well, the desserts came for maybe fifteen minuets. I finished about ½ of my flourless chocolate cake. Wish that I had had a glass of Zin for that. I think that we left several chocolate truffles on the plate.
In all, the meal was a great success. It was not perfect, but so very nearly so. I often feel compromised, when we dine there, and I review the restaurant, as most reservations are made from my wife’s office, and I know that she books many large events there. This was handled personally by my wife, so I think that we were treated as “normal” diners.
When we left, the restaurant, wife’s car was still parked behind the Bentley. During the meal, we realized that Alfredo & Lisa Molina were at the adjacent table, entertaining several guests. It was his Bentley, that we were parked behind.
We were thrilled with the meal, and I was heartened that we had snuck into Vincent’s without any warning. I say this, because of some of the stated service issues on this board. This is what I anticipate on each visit, and feel that all others should expect the same. We were very pleased, and the response, considering some negative CH reviews really made a point, made it a great evening. Once more, I stand by my recs. and hope that others receive the same service and food. A real good dining experience.
Vincent On Camelback
3930 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018