4122 E Speedway
Tucson, AZ 85712
Date of Visit: Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Time: Dinner - 7:30 PM
Waitress: Lydia R.
Number of Diners: 1
Food Quality: 9
What I had with menu descriptions...
Mixed Green Salad with Creamy Roasted Shallot Dressing. $3.75
Lovely mix of fresh, sweet, and bitter greens with delicious dressing.
Riesling Chicken $15.25 - Riesling-braised breast of chicken with Crimini mushrooms and pancetta, accompanied by garlic-roasted fingerling potatoes and sauteed asparagus.
Ice Cream We Made Here - Passion Fruit $5.00
Numi Gunpowder Green Tea (hot) $2.50
2003 Nicolas Joly 'Les Clos Sacrés' Savennières Chenin Blanc
Wine by the Glass special of the day (white) - $38.00 bottle, $9.00 glass (I had two glasses)
The restaurant is medium small, maybe 30 small tables (for 2 or 4), which could be bunched for larger parties (all but 2 occupied), and a bar with seats for 6 or 8 (all empty). There was a birthday group there, and they were having a great time. Parking was at a premium. Like most places, it was a little too noisy with poor acoustics. Tables were spartan, clean and perfectly adequate. A friendly hostess seated me at a window table for two inn the corner. I sat with my back to the room until after the pretty but blinding sunset, and then switched to the other chair to see the whole room. The space was tidy, crowded but not cramped, minimally decorated, and functional. The bus-person quickly poured water, and shortly after the waitress dropped off a very large wine list and a very small menu.
Having done some research on Zagat, I was ready for both. There were at least a dozen reds and another dozen whites available by the glass - all decent and reasonably priced. And there was an encouragement to ask your server about the glass wine special of the day. The appetizers, salads, and entrees were all described in detail. There were several vegetarian choices, and most things could be prepared gluten-free. I love a good garden salad, and went with that for my fiber needs. Dinner choices were lamb, beef, chicken, salmon, beet, and a few others. The choices were few, and one could see from the descriptions the care taken to prepare them well.
The waitress was young, petite, dark-haired, fair skinned, and freckled. She was polite and efficient, though not overly friendly. She never disclosed her name, but it was on the check. I commented that the menu was impressive, and she informed me about the special (shrimp in a burre blanc sauce) and the soup (lentil). I said the chicken was calling to me, and she affirmed it as a great choice. I asked about the special wine by the glass. "Red or white?" I answered "White," and she looked over her shoulder. "Um, not sure the name of it, but it's a French Chenin Blanc and it's $7." I was contemplating a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at $7.50, so that seemed like a better deal. It was delicious and amazing. Cool, crisp, dry, delicate - with a slight dusty gravel flavor that reeked of its terrior. In a GOOD way. When I got the bill I found that it was $9 and not $7, but it was so good that I uncharacteristically didn't complain.
Wine and salad came promptly. I finished the salad and lingered over the wine. Entree was maybe 20 minutes later, a couple of minutes after I finished my first wine glass. No bread was served - to me or anyone else. Second glass arrived a few minutes after I started my entree. The waitress was giving me only the minimum attention to barely get the job done, which sadly is the norm for chubby, balding men who dine alone. The chicken, mushrooms, pancetta, and wine sauce all came together in a concert of complementary flavor. Outstanding. The asparagus was perfectly prepared, and the potatoes were sliced into disks, which were easily mashed to soak up the phenomenal white wine sauce. It was like the best chicken pot pie you ever had, sans carrots and crust.
I noticed that the chef/owner came frequently into the dining room, chatting to regulars and eagerly seeking feedback on their meals. He also bussed dirty dishes, refilled water, and rearranged chairs whenever he saw a need. It was a pleasure to see a head chef concerned more with the perfection of the customer experience than the propriety of his position. Conversations were natural, and not "movie star."
Dessert options were interesting, and I followed the lead of a neighboring table and ordered the homemade passion fruit ice cream. Coffee would overwhelm the flavor, so I went with hot green tea. The ice cream was delightful and the tea pairing was genius, if I do say so myself!
Bill came fairly promptly and included a detailed description of an upcoming special wine dinner for May 5. Looked interesting except for the licorice meatballs. For minimal service I generally tip 12-15%, but I allowed an extra 5% for being a single.
Highs: Fresh ingredients carefully prepared with innovative combinations, good wines available, all reasonably priced
Lows: Time gap between salad and entree, slow refills on wine & water, no bread, service minimal and not friendly, error on glass wine price
Bon Appétit! - W. Ego