I have finally found a restaurant in Arizona that leaves me thinking–even dreaming about what I ate and drank weeks after having a meal there. I am not suggesting that there aren’t others out there but in the 10 years that I’ve returned to live in Phoenix / Scottsdale area, Crudo— chef / owner Cullen Campbell‘s creation– is the first I can say…”Don’t talk to me while I’m eating this because it is so good that I have to savor every single second of this bite.” Hint* squid ink risotto– see below.
From the moment you approach Crudo you get hit with the aroma of the wood buring grill…that warmth and comforting smell that immediately hits your senses and opens your appetite for the gifts you are about to receive. As you walk up the few steps to the foyer you get transended to a place resembling a restaurant on one of the small side streets in Venice, California–an open, clean, airy feeling that is soothing and refreshing.
To the left is the entrance to Bar Crudo owned by Micah Olson where the magic begins with the perfect concoctions of various libations reinvented and newly created by serious mixologists. Watching them make your drink whether it be from their drink menu or a new concoction made just for you it’s like watching a live performance of a great chef preparing a special treat– brings back a time when making drinks was an art not just a job. These guys know their stuff and just wait until you taste what’s been created for you. In our case it was the perfect start to ‘a foodie’ experience…
The Crudo dinner menu is comprised of small to medium portioned food creations broken down in to four main categories- Crudo/Raw, Mozza/Mozzarella, Cotto/Cooked, Griglia/Grilled in addition there is also Lati/Sides and Dolce/Desserts. Chef Cullen Campbell also offers a Corso option which allows the patron to choose from 3, 4 or 5 courses from the menu at a prix-fixe for each of the three options. The wine list is not too big but the selections are very nice. Since we were not familiar with some of the wines on the list we asked for recommendations which were excellent choices each time and paired very well with our meal. We especially liked the ‘wine-on-tap’ concept served in a carafe type vessel. On to the food…
Although I enjoyed all the menu items we ordered, below were my favorites:
Any of the Crudo’s – Delicate ‘Italian Style’ sashimi so cleverly put together with an array of quality condiments. Whether it be black garlic, smoked olives or a hint of truffle oil they are spectacular. Albacore – Ultra-fresh thin slices of albacore with julienned apples, small pieces of black garlic all drizzled with truffle oil.
Butterfish- Thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth butterfish with plumped up oven dried tomato pieces (a real treat), lardo andmicro arugula which adds just the right amount of bite– seasoned just right.
Ricotta- Fresh ricotta with the oh-so yum plumped up dried tomato (plump, moist, tangy, naturally sweet yet savory, rich tomato morsels) dressed perfectly with a nice olive oil, a chiffonade of basil and gracefully seasoned with salt and pepper and a few slices of wood-fired grilled crusty bread. This mozza is so delicate, light and creamy and all the embellishments to the dish don’t in any way detract from the star of the show…the Ricotta they merely act as an enhancement.
Burrata –This burrata is decadent in it;s own right and dressed with a pancetta vinaigrette that cut the richness factor in a way that makes it melt away in your mouth leaving you craving the next bite and just the right amount of arugula to cleanse the palette. Also accompanied with slices of the wood-fired bread. Serious good eats.
Mushroom – An assortment of in-season mushrooms made in a ‘gratin style’ with mozzarella and topped with a sunny-side up egg and drizzled with truffle oil. I always say if you can add an egg to a dish unexpectedly and make it work well– that’s what separates the men from the boys so to speak. Mission accomplished!
For me the pièce de résistance was the Squid ink Risotto. Tender creamy squid ink risotto with pieces of “almost like” tuna confit , roasted tomatoes and pickled chilis that gives it a nice spicy kick. This one is like pure heaven. Just close your eyes, stop talking and just savor every single bite.
As for the Desserts they are generally made by Tracey Demsey Originals and the tarte I had on the first visit was very good. On my next visit chef Campbell made a breading pudding and panne cotta combination that was fabulous.
In closing my husband said that my review might sound too subjective and that everything I wrote was favorable. My response was “why shouldn’t I sing its’ praises if I have nothing bad to say?” Crudo is a must-go-to restaurant from the first moment you walk in you will have an evening to remember at this backstreet gem.