I have a Know-It-All-Friend, the kind who actually knows a lot and isn’t afraid to let you know he knows it. We shoot the breeze and share recommendations on wines, beers, foods and swap samples of our latest creations. His Peanut Butter Pumpkin Pie was pretty good. My Orange Chiffon Thanksgiving Pie, would have been shared in return, except none of it survived the holiday.
Dak, (who I’ve learned to credit for his accurate opinions in all things but politics) opines and had been pushing me to try a smaller place (see dining room photo above) in town, one I had not even heard of before he mentioned it, one that was a bit of a drive and in a neighborhood not known for fine dining. In fact, the neighborhood is better known for fast food and “those kind” of dance clubs and book stores. I could tell from Dak’s discourse that the place would be good, but would there be enough “WOW” to ever here the end of it on the long drive back from “that kind” of neighborhood with Mrs. P Chef?
“WOW” (& “WOW from Mrs. P Chef too)! Dak was right (again) and we have double “WOW’s” to confirm it. To fully disclose, our “WOW’s” could have been over the bill (which was significant, $$$$$ territory) but the “WOW’s” were first and foremost over the food (local, fresh & in season), and secondarily over the total dining experience. We did not feel overcharged by an iota for the value recieved.
Atlas Bistro is a food museum of modern culinary art featuring edible masterpieces. Does that sound too strong? Does it sound like I’m being paid $10 per superlative? Well I’m not being paid for my opinion at all, not a cent. In fact, I shelled out $$$$$ for the privilege of dining at Atlas Bistro. From the plate design, (colors, pairings & presentation) to the knowledge and involvement of the team (staff grown endive, home-made mustard by one member’s mother), to the taste and pure joy of dining, Atlas Bistro, lead by Chefs Joshua Reisner and Keenan Bosworth, delivers.
And there is a bonus. Atlas Bistro is actually called Atlas Bistro B.Y.O.B. but unlike most BYOB corkage places, Atlas Bistro is adjacent to AZ Wines where Bob can advise you about his 5,000 different types of bottles and more than 20,000 bottle total inventory. Within minutes of asking we were standing in front of a perfect, moderately priced, low sulfite, low histamine, organic white from Mendoza which meant Mrs. P Chef could hand over the car keys and imbibe some herself.
So what did we eat? The menu is seasonal and varies with what looks good at local farms, including McClendon’s Farms and what is flown in fresh from around the country. The ingredients alone give Atlas Bistro a leg up but then the chefs dazzle with skilled preparation and novel pairings of ingredients, all pulled off with aplomb & panache. Chef Joshua Reisner won’t call it showing boating, though that’s what it is. In the interview below, conducted with some detachment since I had not eaten at Atlas Bistro yet, Joshua calls it 20 years of technique and experience.
When we visited there were some fine distinctive touches like heirloom Watermelon Radishes (in photo just below), Washington Matsutake mushrooms, and veal cheek woven into the menu that demonstrated culinary bona fides, attention to detail and a fully developed palette. Mrs. P Chef & I, chose the Prix – Fixe Menu @ $60 a head which included a Starter, Soup or Salad, an Entrée, and finished with a Cheese Plate or Dessert. Experienced, married team diners, Mrs P Chef & I divided and conquered the menu, knowing we’d share. And we threw in a special or two because Joshua had mentioned them and they sounded too good to pass up.
We opened with the Agnolitti (semi-circular pasta pockets) stuffed with veal cheek, enhanced with Beemster X-O cheese and served on grilled endive with Washington Matsutake mushrooms and sage from Joshua’s own home garden.
Then on to the Prix-Fixe starters: Block Island Swordfish, (flown in refrigerated daily from Rhode Island) with heirloom Watermelon radishes, Wakame sea weed, baby carrots and Ponzu (shown two pictures above) & the Gnocci Terrine with lardons, home-made sauerkraut (put up 50 LBS at a time and out of this world), Amy’s Mustard (made by our talented server, Nolan’s mother: Amy), and Montagnolo (a triple crème that is surface ripened with Roquefort). The taste and experience was akin to a Reuben Sandwich but so much different and another example where the sides make the dish. The home-made sauerkraut is the best I’ve ever had, here or in Germany.
Salads followed: The McClendon’s Romaine salad with a Rainbow Valley Farms Duck Egg, Spanish Anchovies and Parmigiano-Reggiano & A Bob’s Baby Greens salad with Gorgonzola Crumbles, Dried Fruit, Mixed Nuts, Sherry Vinaigrette for Mrs. P Chef.
Our service was tops, handled by Nolan (shown doing corkage for the BYOB thing) assisted by Natasha Sawyer, the owner, who had her own tables. With a brief interlude to digest a bit, it was on to the entrées.
Veal Osso Buco with Roasted Butternut Squash, Gremolata and Capricho Cabra con Pimentón was oh so worthy an order and worth the treck all by itself. Osso Buco is the kind of thing I’d have shied away from as a younger man, but as I continue to grow (no waistline jokes please) I am really coming to appreciate gestalt of a great Osso Buco. I remember my Dad, P Chef Sr., digging his over the years for the marrow and finally understand why. Atlas serves their Osso Buco with a small spoon for easy access and enjoyment.
Mrs. P Chef went for the Prime N.Y. Strip Steak, with Lump Crab, Purple Fingerlings, Asparagus, and Ii’tois Tarragon Aioli.
I was so wrapped up in my Osso Buco I can’t remember her take on the steak. I know she enjoyed it and felt it was high quality and a more than decent portion, especially compared to what you usually encounter at fine dining establishments these days. And then it was time to try and shoehorn in dessert or cheese.
Luckily, the wife showed wisdom and brought home some of her steak, saving room for a novel dessert: Sweet Pumpkin Pie Soup. Watch the video to get the full idea of how the Rainbow Valley Farmers’ Cheese, Marscapone Salted Ice Cream, Pepitas, Whiskey Caramel are flooded by the sweet, seasonal pumpkin.
As for me, too full to complete the Prix-fixe half-marathon, I took my Artisan Cheese Flight home in a doggy, or if you prefer for cheese, a mousey bag and extended the fun for one more day.
I feel like our visit to that litttle room next to AZ Wine was a present, and I know its weird, especially from some one who works for an online culinary school and someone who paid those $$$$$ prices. But Joshua, Keenan, their friend former Sassi (N. Scottsdale)chef Peter Deruvo who just stopped by to cook and the crew shared more than a meal with us. They shared some of themselves, their philosophy, their humor (sometimes at our expense as when a question about the spelling of the guest chef’s last name produced an autograph) and their improvisational culinary art work. It wasn’t just dinner it was an experience. I can’t wait to do 30,000 calories on the treadmill so I can go back.
As for Dak, I have to thank him for the suggestion and be prepared to wolf down a heaping helping of Humble Pie, the next time he hits the kitchen.