The modest frame of Scottsdale’s second oldest home, now The House Brasserie, belies the bold experimentation in flavors that informs the restaurant’s extensive menu.
Those who have traveled foodie paths know that cuisine innovations can often go wrong—making foods too complex or discordant to enjoy.
From an extensive chef’s sampling menu we can report that The House Brasserie in Oldtown Scottsdale avoids all such missteps.
This is a destination within Scottsdale for anyone with a keen interest in nouvelle cuisine or who simply likes very good food.
Chef Matt Carter is also the driving force behind The Mission (pan-Latin cuisine) and Zinc Bistro (French) in Scottsdale.
The House Brasserie, above and beyond its disarming old homestead with expansive patio, features a menu with truly global touches—French, Peruvian, African, Italian, Japanese, and more—on many a locally sourced Sonoran Desert ingredient.
We are told that of all his restaurants, Chef Matt Carter considers The House to be his special playground.
We started our meal with a cocktail called “It’s Always Sunny in Sazerac”, which features Sazerac Rye, Aperol, Solerno, Prosecco, Grapefruit peel and local clover honey. Fruity and bubbly, it is well-named to convey its very refreshing quality.
Our first appetizer was the “House Brisket and Biscuit” with chili jam and white cheddar. This dish immediately established what The House menu items do pleasingly predictably, which is balancing sweet and savory with every bite. These two qualities seemed to bring out the beefiness taste of the brisket.
One of our favorite dishes of the evening, “Arizona Ricotta, Sicilian Pistachio Toast and Roasted Radish” treated us to a first taste of a well-roasted radish. The roasting takes away that strong taste of raw radish and brings out the vegetable’s earthiness.
Totally changing textures was the “Creekstone Steak Tartare, Roast Peppers, Avocado and Fries”. The fries were served in a paper wrap in the same way a French bistro serves pomme frites with steak, and sprinkled with celery salt. The ketchup had an interesting tang that we learned came from harissa, a Tunisian spice we have enjoyed many a time at a cheap eats Algerian restaurant in Chicago. The avocado was pureed. The steak was very finely minced, so much so that at first we thought it was ground. This dish was completed with an egg and we were told it is the chef’s recommendation to pour out the fries on top of the steak and simply mix all ingredients together. We instead took the route of dabbling a fry with meat and sauces and taking it from there, with no apparent loss in the tasting. This dish is a mix of hot and cold temperature-wise and that seems to be one key to its success. This was the most unusual and memorable Steak Tartare we had ever tasted.
Next up was a special appetizer of that evening called “Tete de Pork”, which was a breaded and fried pork dish served in a tureen with pimento and other spicing. What was particularly nice about this dish was how well it paired with the wine offered—an August Kesseler, Riesling Kabinett—which seemed to temper the richness of the pork.
That same wine paired nicely with a tasting of “Berkshire Pork Belly, Kimchee, Udon Noodle and Fried Egg”. The homemade kimchee in this dish is very fresh and redefines what kimchee is to those of us who are used to the vinegar-heavy bottled varieties of Asian groceries. The crunch of the kimchee contrasted pleasingly with the soft and doughy udon noodles. We were surprised to learn from our server that the bright red threads atop the dish were not saffron but rather fine cuts of the kimchee.
“Smoked Clam and Corn Chowder, House Tabasco and Benton Ham” paired with Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Villages, Chardonnay is bound to be a favorite for many. The predominant flavor is of corn chowder with the clams and ham as small morsel surprise tastes thrown into the mix. Prior to our meal the Manager had described The House cuisine as comfort food and of all dishes this one fits that descriptive most.
Moving on to entrees, we next had a sampling of “Wild Striped Bass, Black Eyed Peas, Kale and Dr. Pepper Ham Hock”. Other ingredients included Chile Smoked Peanut, Preserved Lemon and Pinot Pear. There were two sauces to pair the fish with—one chickpea savory and the other sweet Dr. Peppery—making it seem like two dishes in one, both equally appealing though quite distinct. Here too the chef did an excellent wine pairing of the Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having had so much food—albeit in sampling sizes—it was beginning to get difficult to taste the food put before us. That said, it was clear that the “Roasted Jidori Chicken, Italian Farro Risotto and Grilled Mushrooms” would likely be the first dish I would return to order again. Other ingredients included Crescenza, Madeira Glaze, and small pieces of roasted brussel sprouts. It was the crispness of the skin keeping the meat delectably moist that made this dish so superlative.
The “Creekstone Filet, Shishito Peppers, Roast Corn and Balsamic Glaze” was the final entrée. This certainly passed the tender meat test. It was moist and tasty.
We took tastes of two of the four desserts on the menu—“Chocolate Budino, Banana Marshmallow, Peanut, and Graham Cookie” and “Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake with Pistachio Ice Cream”.
Excellent!--and a clear sign that one could sojourn to The House simply for dessert if and when there is an occasion to do so.
Scottsdale boasts more restaurants per capita than Manhattan. That said, if you have several days in Scottsdale it is not inconceivable that you would return to The House at least once for a second meal, if not a third time just for the dessert. Having found comparably interesting restaurants in Oaxaca and Cartagena that we returned to three times during our vacations there we can heartily recommend this as one to do the same.
Simply put, this is a destination dining experience not to be missed while visiting Scottsdale.
A review of The House Brasserie of Downtown Scottsdale would not be complete without mentioning the seamless service. This is a busy restaurant, with servers juggling small soirees, large business parties and soon what one imagines will be entire baseball teams during spring training season. When we walked past The House during the weekly Thursday evening Art Walk it seemed to have an overflow crowd. That said, even with all the hubbub, there were no glitches in the service.
The service manager, Tom Bruya, is ever present on the floor, and his team works with alacrity while never skimping on time to make explanations and work with patrons on their order. If you admire good organization, this is a tightly run ship that is nice to behold.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that it is January and you are sitting outside by a fire not far from a one-time Christmas tree now defining the yard.
The House Brasserie
6936 E. Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
For reservations call 480 634 1600 or visit The House Brasserie website
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Photos: Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated