Dinner @ an Iron Chef Victor’s

April 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Restaurant Review | Leave a comment
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Mark Tarbell is a legend around the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. He has been for a long time. For the last couple of years, that legend has grown since he stomped Cat Cora on Iron Chef America.

I haven’t been in his place, Tarbell’s in quite some time…perhaps 7 years. Two events made me decide to head back out there and see what was up nowadays. The first one was the fact that my girlfriend and best friends were itching to head on down and battle the crowd at Pizza Bianco to see if it deserved the accolades it was receiving. The second was a Twitter message announcing a replay of that famed Iron Chef episode on the Food Network. I figured, we better strike before the iron gets too hot again with a bunch of FN groupies heading down there. (Those two things plus the fact that 1/2 the reviews from people on Citysearch said bad things about the staff and management at Pizza Bianco were enough for me to singly swing the tide and put Pizza Bianco off until another day).

So…we ventured to the Biltmore area…and a look of despair fell across the faces of my cohorts as I had them pull into a strip mall. The fact that Sportsman’s Fine Wines was in that strip mall didn’t seem to offer them too much hope…

As we entered the beautifully appointed room with the maple surroundings, I could feel the tension melt just a bit in my cohorts as they must’ve realized we’ve been dining together way too long for me to lead them too far astray from our established norms. Well, at least I wouldn’t do that to them on a Friday night…

As our hostess seated us, and presented the short and succinct menu atop the wonderfully put together wine list…I think they realized we were going to be okay. Only at that point, did I mention that Mark has won, or at least been nominated for) just about anything worth winning or being nom’ed for in the food world. He is also a wine judge for the International Wine Comp, and is the wine editor for our local paper (which none of us read – so they would never know).

We started with cocktails and tossed about some banter on the wines we could order, if any of us had hit the lottery last week.  My friends perused the menu, and the Farm to Table Prix Fixe menu while I was left to select a bottle of wine for four food snobs who were headed off on different culinary adventures.

Of course, one went beef, scotch beef to be precise. Two went tasting menu, consisting mostly of fish both raw and cooked. I was headed into the land of pork chops. So, the obvious choice in this case is to drop a notch from our normal big-fat-tannics wines into the subleties of the pinot noir world. I figured a nice Willamette Valley (Torii Mor 2006) would pair about as nicely as anything . When our server brought it over, it was a tad colder than expected, which I like as I keep my reds pretty cool too. So, it poured very crisp and perfumey. Great for our appetizer courses of tomatoes, mozzarella, calamari and raw fishes. It warmed to room temp about as fast as we went through those, and continued to drink well as we moved on to our entrees.

The consensus was that the ahi was good texturally, but somewhat bland. The beef and pork were outstanding, and some of the accompanying greens while fresh were just a tad too heavy on the seasonings of choice.

As dessert time rolled around, everyone diverged again. Chocolate mousse (very heavy for a mousse) to accompany a nice Armagnac was my choice. One tried the farm-fresh strawberry shortcake (more like shortbread than shortcake and some large yet not-quite ready-for-primetime berries). The other two desserts got paired with coffee and/or dessert wines – I don’t recall what they were, as I was then busy enjoying the delight that is chocolate and armagnac – which everyone tells me must be an acquired taste. Apparently, over the years I have acquired it.

As the bill came, it wasn’t as brutal as some of our outings are, to be sure. But, if you are going into this place with more on your mind than a glass of wine and some apps at the bar – you have to be ready to splurge a bit. It won’t set you back as much as a night at Morton’s or the Capital Grille probably will, but it’s definitely not cheap.

All in all, the service was good, attentive and knowledgeable. The food was good, just not as great as you might expect fromsomeone who took Cat Cora to school on ICA. The wine list is well-rounded and offers a great selection, at almost any price point. I know we’ll head back probably this summer, when the menu changes as it does every season…but in the meantime, expect to see my review on Pizza Bianco…

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