Kirk is on a special adventure, Cathy is really busy, so Ed (from Yuma) talks about two restaurants in Phoenix today.
As we were looking over the menu, we ordered a glass of white wine to share and were very pleased that our helpful young server brought it out in two glasses: In fact, we were thoroughly happy with the service at Buck & Rider even though our waitress confessed it was her first day on the job. She smiled a lot, worked hard to do well, and kept our water glasses filled.
This was good. The tender rings of baby squid were nicely crunchy and went well with the sauce. A pleasant amount of chili heat. At first I thought that came from the dipping sauce, but as we worked our way down to the bottom, we discovered a bunch of deep-fried jalapeno slices:
There is a lot to like here. Look at the thick dark roux, which was redolent with the flavor of filé. The sausage was excellent. In fact there was really only one shortcoming – a couple of my shrimp tasted off. They weren't terrible, and Tina said hers were okay, but still . . .
Good stuff. The trout was nice and smoky, the lettuce fresh and crisp, and the avocado sweet and creamy. Pieces of olives and fennel added some complexity to the excellent preserved lemon vinaigrette. Tart enough, but not acidic. A good lunch overall.
After lunch, we were reminded that we were in the big city. We had parked adjacent to an area that said "FREE CHARGE." It took me a few seconds of puzzlement (if you're charged, how can it be free?) before I figured out what that meant. Anyway, when we came out, we found our RAV4 parked next to 2 Teslas on one side and a Bentley on the other. "Toto I don't think we're in Yuma anymore."
Buck & Rider, 4225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85018, (602) 346-0110.
Upbeat 60s, 70s, and 80s soul tunes played in the background adding to the ambience. Tina and I chuckled because Buck & Rider had virtually identical music. Pleasant and friendly.
Our server, likewise, was pleasant and friendly as well as extremely competent and helpful. She brought us glasses of ice water, which were kept filled throughout the dinner, and Tina and I split a glass of vermentino while we looked over the menu:
The entrée items are divided into four categories, crudo (raw), mozzo (cheese), cotto (cooked), and griglia (grilled). While you could just order one or two entrées by themselves, any three choices per person were available for $35, four for $45, and five for $55. And it made no difference which categories.
And what a good start it was. Closest to the camera was a mild chicken liver mousse topped with the dice of pickled vegetables. Smooth and crunchy with a nice balance. On the right side of the plate, pork rillettes lay on apple marmalade. Again a pleasant combination. On the left, rustic pork pâté was covered with mustard sauce. A garlic aïoli and pickled peppercini slices sat on either side. Very tasty and enjoyable. The sauces complexified but did not overwhelm. Of course, the crunchy toasted slices of Italian bread went well with everything.
Luisa from the Friuli region of northeastern Italy is made with the rare ribolla gialla varietal native to the region. It tasted smooth and fresh, its fruit flavors and minerality going with the entire dinner.
The tomato, cucumber, citrus and olive oil topping highlighted the freshness of the fish.
After eating sushi and sashimi for over 30 years, these presentations were delightful.
The dish had a good spicy seafood flavor, chunks of tuna adding taste and texture to the slightly al dente rice.
Another unusual preparation that worked.
The dumplings themselves were like little soft pillows, and the main flavors came from the topping of braised lamb neck and nectarine. Again an unusual flavor combination that enchanted my palate.
Another amazing plate. The richness of the polenta and pork contrasted with the sour/sweet spicy agrodolce that reminded both Tina and I – with our German backgrounds – of well prepared blaukraut.
Crudo, 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Suite B, Phoenix AZ 85018, (602) 358-8666.