Despite triple-digit temperatures, summer is anything but slow in Phoenix. And the folks behind these six new dining and drinking establishments, where locals have been turning up with much enthusiasm, would agree. Get a respite from the heat at a fancy cocktail lounge in Old Town Scottsdale and cool off with refreshing salads at a pizzeria downtown. Or go the other extreme and embrace the fire—a new sushi and izakaya joint specializes in skewers cooked over Japanese charcoal, while a modern Indian restaurant dials up the spices on its lamb chops and seafood curries. These are Phoenix’s six best restaurants to book right now.
Feringhee Modern Indian Cuisine (East Valley)
Feringhee means “foreigner” in Hindi, but this 8,000-square-foot fine-dining spot aims to make Indian cuisine anything but unfamiliar. Just opened in Chandler, Feringhee, owned by the folks behind Scottsdale’s Pastries ’n’ Chaat and Saffron Indian Grocery ’n’ Kitchen in Scottsdale, Phoenix, and San Antonio, offers both northern and southern Indian dishes. Several plates, such as the avocado-studded chutney and fried chicken served with peanut chutney and moringa, add influences from other cultures. Himalayan lamb chops and kasundi or mustard sauce shrimp, are house specialties. A cocktail menu features drinks infused with Indian flavors like black plum, saffron, and cane sugar.
B&B Cocktail Lounge (Old Town Scottsdale)
The mid-summer rush to line up for this new June opening from the founders of the upscale Bourbon and Bones Chophouse hasn’t slowed. Shared plates and sushi are the orders of the day, and the appetizers are hearty enough to make a meal. Kiwi margaritas pair well with Mediterranean scallops, and a smoked rye manhattan—among B&B’s most popular drinks thus far—goes nice with an order of gooey cheese-and-garlic shrimp cargot and a side of steak frites. Leather and marble surfaces give this generous room an elegant feel, while the casual atmosphere and chummy bar staff lighten the fancy mood.
The Desmond (Downtown)
There’s a pleasant surprise of an appetizer at this newly opened downtown pizzeria that is especially worth returning for: Mom’s meatballs, a veal-pork-beef combo that’s slow-cooked all day in Neapolitan-style red sauce, made from locally-sourced tomatoes. Though you’re likely here for the wood-fired pies, which are slices of Napoli, spiced and garnished with produce from nearby farms and gardens. The truffle pie is piled with cremini and drizzled with garlic puree; the Desmond is crammed with spicy, imported salami and roasted bell peppers and onions. Here’s hoping the watermelon summer salad, tossed with arugula, mint, and orange zest, stays on the menu well into fall, and that the impressive list of red wines (both local and Italian) continues to impress.
Motomoto Sushi and Izakaya (Downtown)
Motomoto is, quite literally, cooking with fire. Its menu of robata dishes features pork belly, octopus, and negima (chicken with scallions) skewers, grilled over Japanese charcoal. Rooted in the tradition of izakayas, meaning “stay and drink place”, these fireside treats can be washed down with a glass from a long list of sakes or specialty cocktails. Friendly staff are eager to point out what goes best with the kombu-infused Ebisu martini—eggplant curry, as it turns out—or which Japanese whisky to try before dinner. As an added perk, the helpful menu gives each sake a meter value of “rich,” “dry,” or “sweet.”
The Wine Collective of Scottsdale (Scottsdale)
People who scoff at the notion of Arizona-made wines don’t know two things: there are 130 wineries in the state, and samples of many of them are resting in a dark, cool room in Scottsdale, waiting to be paired with tasty bites selected by experts. At The Wine Collective, learning about varietals is as important as drinking the best local reds, and staff are trained to showcase a good chenin blanc or a misunderstood, locally made tempranillo. Parties and private affairs take place in a 30-seat tasting room with its own retail space, and charcuterie, cheeses, and desserts can be paired with exclusive wines on the dog-friendly patio.
Café Balkan (North Valley)
Traditional southeastern European dishes are all the rage at this new, casual Cave Creek Road spot, which opened in June. Home-cooked dishes such as chicken noodle soup and stuffed cabbage rolls share menu space with cuisine popular in the Balkans, like lamb shank and goulash, along with lesser-known fare such as pljeskavica, a bacon-and-cheese-stuffed meat patty, and teleca corba, a cream-based soup of veal and vegetables. The brightly lit and simply decorated dining room and adjoining retail market (where one can buy excellent olive oils and spices) will accommodate larger parties, but closes early most weeknights.
Robrt Pela is an NPR affiliate correspondent whose writing has appeared in Psychology Today, The Advocate, and for 30 years in Phoenix New Times.
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