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Dining: Crudo makes a statement in Phoenix

Posted by on Jun 29, 2013

Dining: Crudo makes a statement in Phoenix

Crudo, Phoenix

Crudo on Urbanspoon

Important Note: Crudo will be temporarily closed between July 1 – July 22. Restaurant reopens on July 23.

I’ve seen mixed reviews about Crudo so I had to see for myself what this restaurant had to offer. Crudo is located at the intersection of Camelback and N. 36th St. in the Gaslight Square Shopping Center. This new gem just celebrated it’s one year anniversary in April 2013 and has been gaining recognition in the press. Crudo was named one of the “Top New Restaurants in Phoenix” by Phoenix Magazine and earned a 4.5 star review from the Arizona Republic. Clearly, something good is happening at Crudo. Chef and owner Cullen Campbell has also been named “Best Chef” of 2013 by the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame. This place is busy getting some serious awards.

On the night I chose to visit, I drove around for about ten minutes looking for the place and I thought I had the wrong address. I double-checked a couple of sources, drove around the block and finally, my husband decided to drive around the back of the shopping center and behold… Crudo! Once we finally found it, we discovered a charming entrance reminiscent of a cottage you might see in Europe as opposed to Phoenix. The parking was convenient and being in the back of the shopping center, there’s no road noise or traffic passing by. Additional bonuses! I thought so far so good.

Before I walked in, I had read some negative comments on Yelp about the décor yet I found the décor to be thoughtful and aligned with the simplicity yet beauty that well prepared Italian crudo is intended to be. Crudo means raw in Italian and can describe different types of Italian foods. For example pesce crudo means raw fish in Italian. The decor created the feeling of being in a San Francisco or New York City loft. As you enter, there are two large columns that frame the hostess stations. Ceilings are high and open and tables are set for apart in what felt like a vast open space. There are also two alcoves with bay windows and large rustic tables with chandeliers that seat 6-8 people. These alcoves offer a semi-private dining experience. What’s not to like about the décor? It’s open, airy and modern. It’s really just boils down to a matter of taste but if you consider the décor, it’s relative to what this restaurant specializes in serving, Italian crudo. The décor makes a statement while remaining simple and leveraging architectural accents, such as the columns and open space that make it stand out as something different and contemporary.

Bay window dining area

Bay window dining area

The menu at Crudo is unlike the typical restaurant menus you see around Phoenix.  Guests choose from a three ($35), four ($45), or five ($55) course menu.  The menu is divided into four sections with selections of raw foods, cooked foods, cheeses, and grilled options.  The raw section is what Crudo truly excels in.  They offer beautiful raw fish dishes (it’s not sashimi, but let’s say it’s like sashimi – only the Italian version of it).  That doesn’t mean the other menu offerings aren’t fantastic, the raw section just happens to be exceptional and definitely something you don’t want to pass up if raw fish is something you enjoy.   Howard Seftel commented on some of Crudo’s raw options and described them as “mastery by Crudo’s”.  What we liked about the way the menu was set up was you could choose as many options you wanted from any category.  So, if you wanted the five course meal, you could select all your options from the raw menu or the grilled menu and everyone at the table can choose a different number of courses.  This gives you a lot of opportunities to explore Chef Cullen Campbell’s creations especially if you decide to share the different plates.

The options on the cheese menu all looked interesting but I’d highly recommend the fresh ricotta.  It was served on a big slice of toasted baguette with a heap of homemade ricotta.  The cheese was drizzled with locally produced honey and garnished with rosemary.  It was soft and light and the rosemary with the honey introduced an aroma that you could almost taste by inhaling what was laid before you.    The grilled mozzarella with tomatoes, dates and balsamic was also wonderful with a touch of sweetness.   The cooked menu offered options such as mushroom gratin with fresh mozzarella, egg, and truffle oil and butternut squash dumplings with pork and parmesan.   It’s hard to not opt for the four or five course option after seeing what you can choose from.  One of the most popular items on the cooked menu is the squid ink risotto.  While it wasn’t as pretty as the cheese plates, it was a perfectly cooked and creamy risotto with a deep black color.  The flavor reminded me a little bit of black beans.  It was a creamy yet earthy risotto and I’d definitely order it again.  We ordered two grilled options:  veal breast with controne beans, pancetta and salsa verde and the short rib with crispy potato, truffle vinaigrette and truffle oil.  Again, perfectly prepared, rich with flavors, and soaked in prepared sauces that complimented the meats.  The sauces were not droplets that were gone after the first few bites either.  The meats were surrounding by the sauce and you could enjoy it with every bite.  Portions were surprisingly large.

We did not have dessert the night we visited, however, there a few dessert selections to choose from at $10 each.  Desserts are provided by Tracey Dempsey Originals, a member of Local First Arizona, who supplies several high end restaurants in Phoenix with creative, seasonal desserts.   Dempsey was the pastry chef for Cowboy Ciao up until 1999 when she launched her local dessert program and began servicing numerous local valley restaurants with her sweet and savory creations.

The service was at Crudo was also impeccable.  Servers were knowledgeable about the dishes offered on the menu and enthusiastic about explaining the menu and different food presentations.  Our water glasses were never less than half full.  The restaurant also offers a very intriguing list of cocktails and is known for having a highly experienced mixologist, Micah Olson.  One thing I would cautious is the cocktails are not light on the alcohol.  My husband referred to the cocktails as “high octane”.   I thought that was a cute description.  They are creative cocktails and there’s an extensive list to choose from built upon classic base alcohols.  If you like your drinks on the stronger side, and cocktails made with bourbon, scotch, whiskey, brandy, and some of the other classics than Bar Crudo is worth the trip even if you don’t plan on having dinner.  Their cocktail menu offers a huge variety so if you prefer something fruity and sweet, they have you covered but the cocktails are predominantly modern twists on classic cocktails.

Overall, Crudo was a delightful experience and a restaurant I’d recommend to anyone especially since there are so many options to choose from.  If you are looking for an upscale dinner but on a tight budget, you can opt for the three course option and if you want to spend more money and time and experience more food and flavors, the five course option is perfect.   Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed and the restaurant will likely be on your visit again list just as it is for me.

RicottaToast

Squid ink black risotto

Squid ink black risotto

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

Veal with salsa verde and controne beans

Veal with salsa verde and controne beans

Short rib with truffle oil

Short rib with truffle oil

Crudo Entrance

Crudo Entrance

 

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