Saturday, April 7, 2012

A is for: Arizona, Part Deux {Restaurant Review}

Once again, I find myself in Arizona. This is my third trip here in the last six weeks. I swear I've spent more time here than I have in San Francisco recently.

Anyways, you might remember the first time I was here for two weeks, I diligently documented my daily restaurant adventures in Scottsdale. Since it's appropriately "A week" while I'm here, I'm doing a second list of Arizona restaurants...this time in the Phoenix area. I'll probably add a couple more over the next few days, but wanted to get this out there before the calendar changes to "B."

I'm extremely excited to tell you about Pizzeria Bianco, which Andrew Baggarly suggested during my first trip here. It's a well known pizza spot, and they don't take reservations, so it gets SUPER busy. In fact, I called Friday night around 9PM to see what the wait was, and the lady told me 2 hours. Sorry, I don't care how good the pizza is, I wasn't about to wait two hours.


Fortunately, it was a FOX game Saturday, so we had a little extra time before the game that we normally wouldn't have. Since Pizzeria Bianco is only a couple of short blocks from the stadium, we figured it was the perfect time to check it out. We walked up around 11:45 and got a table almost immediately. So this is the trick! Little to no wait if you go early enough during the day.

The verdict? Man oh man. I can see why people wait so long for this pizza. It's so light and crispy thanks to their big wood oven in the corner of the restaurant. We got the Sonny Boy pizza, which comes with Greek olives, fresh mozzarella cheese, salami and the most perfect and simple pizza sauce I've ever tasted. We added wood roasted mushrooms, and I was dying over how tasty they were. The Farmer's Market salad and crusty french bread were equally delicious. You know the food is good when all conversation completely stops while you devour everything in front of you. Definitely recommend before or after a Diamondbacks game!


Just across the courtyard from Pizzeria Bianco in Heritage Square is a small, unassuming Japanese place called Nobuo at Teeter House. It's named after its James Beard Award winning chef, and the accolades are well deserved. Put simply, this place is out of this world. You have to go. It's Japanese small plates, and everything is done expertly. The bill definitely adds up, but I promise it's worth it. (Even my co-worker J.C. liked it, and it takes a lot for him to give thumbs-up to a tapas plate).

We got: 1.) Grapefruit and Hamachi: my favorite "bite" of the meal. 2.) Tofu chocolate mousse with candied orange peel and green tea ice cream. Chocolate and orange: a winning combo. 3.) "Teeter Tots"...panko fried tofu. 4.) Fried octupus: probably our least favorite dish of the night, but still good. 5.) Warm duck salad: second favorite dish behind the hamachi. Was obsessed with the grilled greens. 6.) Seared ahi with roasted beet puree: probably one of the prettiest dishes I've ever eaten. 7.) Shiromi Carpaccio, finished tableside with hot sesame oil and served with mini foccacia bread to soak it all up. 8.) Seabass and mushroom steamed in parchment paper with garlic butter. MMM. MMM. MMM. 9.) Pork Belly wrapped in banana leaf...our "Easter Ham."


For lunch Friday, we decided to check out Seasons 52, which is located across the street from our hotel. It's a chain, which I'm usually not a huge fan of, but this one is a little different. First of all, nothing on the menu exceeds 475 calories, so it's nice to know you can get a yummy and healthy meal. They also switch the menu four times a year (with the seasons), and add weekly additions as well (hence the "52").

We got: 1.) Grilled Steelhead Trout with arugula, garbanzo beans, and Israeli cous cous. (from the weekly menu) 2.) One of their signature grilled flatbreads that had artichokes, spinach, balsamic onions and goat cheese (also from the weekly menu) 3.) Key Lime Pie (only 250 calories!) and 4.) Lemongrass salmon salad with micro greens, tomatoes, edamame and balsamic vinaigrette. Everything was fresh and flavorful, and the best part: everything under 475 calories!


Friday dinner was later, as we didn't get done with work until 9PM. I found Noca by doing a quick Yelp search. It was very good, though probably not my favorite restaurant I've tried here. I did like that they featured a small menu that changes daily, so it reminded me of a San Francisco restaurant in that regard.

They start you out with an amuse bouche, which is always a nice touch. The served us a little cup of mushroom soup (#5), which was really delicious and a delightful way to start off the meal. My co-worker JC wasn't too hungry, so he got the clam chowder (#1). But it wasn't your normal clam chowder. The clams are actually fried and served on top of the creamy soup, along with crispy potatoes and celery leaves. Very good. We also tried a variety of cocktails, (#2, 3, 4) including a dessert milk chocolate martini (#2). For my entree, I ordered the Amberjack (#6), which was served atop farro and a foie gras reduction sauce, which made it very rich and flavorful. It was topped with red ribbon sorrel leaves and a shallot marmalade. Really enjoyed this dish a lot. We didn't get dessert, but they bring every table a plate of cotton candy (#7) while you finish up your drinks. Again, a nice touch, but a little weird in my opinion. For such a nice place, I would've expected them to create some sort of interesting flavor of cotton candy. It was literally the exact type of spun sugar you would get at an amusement park.

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