What to Order at the Hottest French Restaurants in Phoenix
Contemporary French cuisine is on the rise in metro Phoenix. And it looks nothing like the imperturbable white-tablecloth bistros of yesteryear.
Three new restaurants are leading the trend. In the bustling bar district of Roosevelt Row, Sottise cranks up the volume until you’re screaming over your skillet of cooked Camembert. In Old Town, Francine has the energy of a Miami nightclub with a sprawling dining room and flashy clientele, making it one of the hardest tables to book at Scottsdale Fashion Square. So there is Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion, which is in a league of its own.
Award-winning chef James Beard’s passion project includes an extravagant tasting menu with inside jokes and a dessert that rolls off the table. Chef Gross can serve you a classic foie gras, but it will be perched on a bright blue sculpture inspired by the hand of his partner, Jamie Hormel. In other words, it’s not your grandmother’s French dining experience.
And while France may not rule the culinary kingdom as it did a generation ago, these restaurants prove that iconic food can be as fresh and relevant as ever.
Here are three French restaurants where you should make a reservation for your next special occasion.
Housed in a beautifully restored bungalow right in the middle of downtown’s hippest neighborhood, the second restaurant in TJ Culp and Esther Noh of Restaurant Progress is a love song for Parisian cafés and the hearty dishes of the French countryside.
Part wine bar, part restaurant, part vinyl music venue that gets considerably louder as the evening progresses, it’s also a stylish place to party. There is almost nothing on the starters and most of the sharing plates are very small and very delicious.
Roasted golden beets are intoxicating. Prepare to be crushed by the mound of creamy horseradish sauce they are sitting on. Then take the snail. Preparation is simple and it’s all about the butter, which emanates from those big, bulbous snail shells. And if you’re only going to have a big plate, make it the Almond Trout. With a gorgeous seared crust sprinkled with almonds and dressed in a sumptuous brown butter sauce, this is a must-try.
Heartfelt, sleek, and just a little hipster, Sottise shows Phoenix’s food scene coming into its own.
Details: 1025 N. Second St., Phoenix. 602-254-6378, sottisephx.com.
Notice of Foolishness: The chef has turned a piece of Phoenix history into the hottest restaurant
The pride of Scottsdale Fashion Square, Francine is a beautiful restaurant filled with even more beautiful people. It’s a place where you can feast on oysters and filet mignon or nibble on a simple niçoise salad.
The menu is a collage of recipes from chef Laurent Halasz’s mother, after whom the restaurant is named, expertly concocted by executive chef Brian Archibald.
The $48 price tag might be a bit high for the portion, but I fell in love with the fruity flavor accords of Francine’s duck breast. They looked like beets and tasted like cranberry juice, but the red circular slices on the plate were actually roasted plums. The deep acidity was a perfect foil for the juicy duck, cooked to a rare and halved to show its redness.
Francine shows that French cuisine can be anything it wants to be. It can be languorous, it can be noisy. Either way, it exudes elegant confidence, both in the kitchen and in the dining room.
Details: 4710 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale. 480-690-6180, francinerestaurant.com.
Learn more about Francine: Powerhouse shows that French cuisine is always sexy, surprising
Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion
Chef Christopher Gross has been a Phoenix name for five decades, and this is his wildest, most decadent project to date. Working directly with renowned architect Wendell Burnette, Gross and his partner, Jamie Hormel, built a futuristic architectural marvel of a restaurant on the side of his Spanish colonial mansion. The restaurant features a retractable roof and floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows that overlook a lush cactus garden and the Phoenix skyline.
On the weekends, it offers an eight-course tasting menu where chocolates appear in secret table compartments and waiters ring bronze bells while you eat Oregon blue cheese.
His wagyu beef sukiyaki was one of the most nuanced and decadent bites of steak I’ve ever tasted: a block of black stone adorned with strips of sizzling wagyu beef from Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture.
My French accents Meals at Christopher’s reminded me that a chef can be a visionary, an artist who offers a taste of wonder, the strange and beauty.
Christopher’s review: I had the craziest dinner of my life here. He earned every star