People say I’m a picky eater. I think it comes with the territory when you go around town critiquing your meal and then blogging about it. But I’m not so much a picky eater as one with high standards.
At POSH restaurant in ritzy Scottsdale, they encourage the picky eaters to come in because every meal is designed specifically to your dining habits.
Under the direction of Chef-Owner Joshua Hebert, the kitchen team creates meals like sous chefs competing on Iron Chef America. The website calls the dining “improvisational.” At the beginning of the meal, the diners select which ingredients of the day they do not like, and then a meal is designed around what’s left.
When my friend Ken and I were in town for spring training games, we dined on a Saturday night, circling around a bit trying to find the restaurant, which sits alone on the ground floor of what looked like a new condominium (I later found out it’s called the Optima Camelview building).
After getting settled into our table, we sat for a while without menus before our server came by to explain how things works. You start by choosing the level of the tasting menu you want (we went with six courses for $70) and then you fill out the survey form. Ken doesn’t eat red meat so he crossed out all the meat options, and was left with vegetables and seafood.
I wasn’t in the mood for red meat, so I crossed out the Wagyu beef, but I was game for any of the other options that included kangaroo and rabbit. There’s also a section for any particular dislikes, and if you’re a longtime reader of this blog you can guess what I wrote: “No deep-fried foods, onions or eggplant.”
You don’t really say what you do like, because it really depends on what the kitchen has on hand from the market. But because you don’t have a say on what you want to eat, every course that arrives at the table is a surprise.
Over the next two hours, Ken and I marveled at the beautifully plated dishes that were placed before us. I can’t say that the courses that I had showed any progression or connection as an overall tasting menu, but it was inventive and intriguing.
All my dishes offered something new, but there wasn’t a dish that really knocked my socks off. Each dish had something that I thought impeded the dish from being a success. For example, the soft-boiled duck egg with my red oak salad was a bit too cooked and cold, failing to provide a rich ooze to the salad. And a pan-fried frog leg used a breading that I didn’t like, something that created a tougher coating serving like an armor to the nicely cooked frog leg meat. But I enjoyed the white asparagus on the plate.
I tasted kangaroo for the first time, which had the gaminess of lamb and was served with a purple potato puree that was unappetizing and looked like paste. Still, the dish was brightened by the pickled red beets. And my dessert, while pretty with the spun sugar creation on top, was basically a slice of roasted pineapple with a scoop of citrus sorbet.
Wow. Maybe I am a picky eater.
Ken, I felt (and he agreed), seemed to do better with his primarily seafood and vegetable tasting menu, starting with a light and beautiful artichoke heart salad and his favorite dish of the night – a soft shell crab with roasted carrots and ginger caviar.
Ken also got to try a dish made of shad roe that’s left in the sack and pan-fried. He was wary of trying it, but it wasn’t as bad as he thought (nor was it amazing). He also had a dish made of welt snails, which taste similar to clams. For dessert, he lucked out with a wonderful plate of chocolate mousse and dark chocolate (he let me take a bite and the mousse was rich but light).
With the changing and customized menu, it can be difficult for the servers to remember every ingredient on the plate. But I give them credit for trying, and for the professional service throughout the night.
While Chef Herbert’s dishes didn’t tantalize my taste buds with every note, they were excellent starting points for our table conversation about food and ingredients, making me feel like a judge on the Iron Chef America panel.
Rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
POSH, 7167 E. Rancho Vista Drive, Suite 111, Scottsdale, Ariz. PH: 480.663.7674. Open from 5 p.m., Tues.-–Sat. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.poshscottsdale.com
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