The welcoming atmosphere of Hotel Valley Ho’s Café ZuZu is more than complemented by its menu.
Hotel Valley Ho lured Chef Charles Wiley from the San Francisco Bay Area when the hotel reopened in 2005. It gets its name “ZuZu” from the wife of the original owner’s nickname. The menu too is homage to her style. It’s comfort food that takes into account what healthier and more cosmopolitan travelers consider comfort food is not the mac n’cheese of days gone by. Menu items include things like “Roasted Brussels and Spinach Salad” and “Cornish Hen”.
Consider too that much of Café ZuZu’s clientele are local foodies who have put Café ZuZu on their map. Interestingly, one of the ways this local clientele was acquired was in creating a Girl’s Night Out destination for football widows. Vineyards come to monthly dinners as guests of honor and the menu is advertised well ahead of time. There might be a theme of soft shell crabs one month and steak dishes the next. You can check their website ahead of time to see if a special dinner coincides with your Scottsdale travel plans.
From a diverse sampling menu here is what we can report—
We started with a half portion that was still quite healthy sized of “Orange and Ginger Seared Ahi”. The soy mustard vinaigrette was flavorful without being overpowering. The Asian slaw gave it a welcome crunch.
(Note: Most pictures in this article show a 1/3 sized portion.)
The chef whipped up a second course of yellow and red beet salad with baby arugula, candied pecans, a touch of goat cheese and a light touch of balsamic vinaigrette. We especially liked the texture of the cheese and the way flavors were augmented by being barely cooler than room temperature.
The “Sage and Mustard Salmon” that is a menu feature item also had the oomph of lightly cooked vegetables. It comes with brown rice on the side, distinct from other restaurants that tend to serve fish on the side of rice.
Spaghetti squash a favorite? Yes. This dish would make a totally satisfying vegetarian meal and is something carnivores will probably savor too. It has a tartness from braised greens and an earthiness from pine nuts. Whatever you order, it’s highly recommended to make this dish part of your meal.
The “Braised Beef Short Rib” with mushroom reduction featured a tender beef that we could and did cut with a fork. The sweetness of the creamy grits and crisp string beans offset the beefiness of the dish.
Even at 1/3-size portions this was quite the large meal.
You probably won’t have room for dessert but you’d be well advised to make some space for the “Classic Lemon Tart”. It is one of sixteen regular and liquid dessert items on the menu.
Café ZuZu is not to be thought of as an experimental restaurant. Yes, they do experiment in getting it just right. Chef Wiley said that it took six iterations to get the Parker Rolls to ZuZu standards. However, the menu choices don’t require you to do a gymnastic workout to take in the flavors.
Its straightforward food, mostly locally sourced, cooked with sensitivity to how to bring out the best in each ingredient and their combinations. This is a recommended spot for any Scottsdale sojourn.
For reservations call 480.421.7997 or visit the Café ZuZu website.
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 East Main Street
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Photos: Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated