Sunday, March 30, 2014

Restaurant Review - Nosh Arizona

I hate to use trite phrases, but Nosh Arizona is truly a hidden neighborhood gem. The intimate space located just north of Ray Road on McClintock in Chandler,  is owned by husband and wife team Stacey and Mark Carson. Stacey, a 17 year restaurant industry veteran (she started out as a dishwasher and worked her way up) and certified chef, always dreamed of opening her own restaurant. Her dream was about to come true when the economy took it's plunge in 2008. She wisely decided the time was not right to open a restaurant. Instead of giving up on her dream, she enrolled in culinary school to gain even more valuable experience before opening the doors to Nosh in New Year's Eve 2012.

Stacey is a chef who demands quality in ingredients and presentations for all of the dishes at Nosh. The magic happens with her incredible culinary team. Chef Robert Perry, who developed his culinary chops at BLT Steakhouse, heads up the kitchen with a calm confidence. He and his crew: Jim, Ramon and Riley cook together like a well oiled machine. This can be challenging enough for a relatively new team, but they also have to perform in an open kitchen.

Which brings me to one of my favorite features of Nosh's space: the seating in front of the display kitchen. I love the option to watch the magic happen in the kitchen. The first time we sat there, I was truly impressed by the professionalism of the kitchen staff. Equally impressive is the cleanliness of the kitchen. The high back chairs in the front seating area are cozy, making you feel relaxed and calm. The brick walls lend a welcome rustic feel to the room.

I have been here several times with friends and with my honey. Each time we have been here, the service has been friendly, attentive and efficient. We are always welcomed by at least one employee as we walk through the door, even on busy nights. The servers we have had have been very knowledgable about the menu. If there is something they don't know, they will find a way to get you an answer.

Ah the menu and the food. This is my true love as you well know. The menu is relatively small, but there are some very tantalizing options for vegans and carnivores alike. To keep things interesting they change the menu about every three months.

It can be very challenging to find "foodie" grade vegan eats in the East Valley. I am thrilled to report that they do exist. While there are only a few items on the menu are inherently vegan (Side of Bread and Warm Olives), the chefs willingly and easily can "veganize" many of the dishes.

I have to stop for a minute and tell you that the bread and the pizza crust (both vegan) alone are worth the trip. The breads are Chef Stacey's original recipes. The are made fresh on site every day. They are probably one of the best (maybe even THE best) I have experienced. The toasted french bread is perfectly chewy on the outside and light on the inside. The pizza crust has the perfect amount of crunch and stays crispy even with the generous amount of toppings on the pizzettes.

Side of Bread may not sound like anything special, but when it is Nosh's bread, take notice. It comes with garlic and fresh herb infused olive oil dipping sauce. The fresh herbs make the difference. The infusion gives the olive oil incredible flavor. The simplicity and deliciousness of the dish took me back to some of my favorite gastronomical experiences in Spain.

The Bruschetta on the menu is not inherently vegan, but with a few tweaks by the chefs, we were able to enjoy the Bruschetta Trio. The version we had on our most recent visit was vegan AND gluten free by substituting the french bread with polenta triangles. The polenta had the firm texture to hold up to the toppings, but it did not have much flavor. It needed a little salt and pepper, maybe some garlic. I'm not sure, but it is certainly something that can be easily remedied. What I did love about their bruschetta is the toppings are piled high with delicious options. Our trio selections are described below:

  • Cauliflower and Sun Dried Tomato - I never used to be a huge fan of cauliflower, but I adore it roasted as it was for this topping. Sun dried tomatoes lend such a wonderful depth of flavor and I would have welcomed even more of them. 
  • Olive Tepanade with Capers - I'm a huge fan of olives and capers. I loved the piquant and salty tepanade with the mild polenta. 
  • Garlic with Yellow and Green Squash - The squash was bright, fresh and beautiful. The first bite I took of this selection seemed to lack flavor (a little more salt would have done the trick for bite number 1). However, the next bite included rich roasted garlic that turned it into something special. 

Word or warning: if you get the gluten free version on polenta, it may be tricky to pick it up with your hands. Forks may be required (small price to pay for delicious gluten free fare).

The Baked Pear Salad over Arugula normally comes with gorgonzola cheese. The vegan option obviously does not include this creamy component. Mixed field greens can be requested and I recommend this option for the vegan version. I love arugula, but in this case the chef's suggestion to substitute was right on. The acidic notes in the champagne vinaigrette were a perfect complement to the crunchy candied pecans and sweet creamy pear. I could have eaten a bowl of the pecans all by themselves, they were that good.

We couldn't go without having one of Nosh's "pizzettes". It is their answer to the popular flatbread craze. We were not disappointed! We had the Vegetarian, hold the cheese. They use grilled seasonal vegetables on top of a tomatoey pizza sauce all served up on the incredible pizza dough. The pizza is presented on a wooden cutting board. I particularly loved the portobello mushrooms. The marinade made their flavor pop. The veggies were so plentiful, it was hard to keep them on the pizza. So often when we order pizza with a lot of veggie toppings, the crust turns into a white hot mushy mess. Not so with this one. We were chatting it up with the chefs, so the last couple of pieces actually sat there for quite a while before we finally ate them.  The crust was crisply until the end. 

The new menu just came out this month. They offer a Taro Taco Trio. The Chimi Vegetable taco is vegan! We didn't get to try it, but plan to in the near future. 

I do want to mention the portion sizes. So many restaurants deliver monster sized portions of mediocre food and processed foods. They don't call our way of eating the SAD (standard American diet) for nothing. Nosh's portions are not gigantic. I found them to be just right in size. Their prices are in line with the quality and similar establishments (wine bars and upscale pubs). 

I'm sad to report that at the current time there are no vegan dessert offerings. The good news is, Mark makes all of their ice creams and he is looking into developing some vegan options. Yay! We honestly couldn't have fit one in on our most recent visit anyway as we had so many courses. 

Speaking of Mark, he is the creative force behind the bar. Mark crafts a crazy array of specialty cocktails. He is also a winemaker. The restaurant features two of his hand crafted wines on the menu. Look for the Hugo name on the list and you will find his creations. He makes one white and one red each year (somewhere between 120 and 150 gallons). Most of the grapes he uses in his wines are from the Napa Valley region of California. He started making wine about 10 years ago from kits he purchased online. Over the years he has learned a lot about the art from other wine makers. We didn't have room or time to imbibe in any adult beverages this trip, but we intend to make a point of leaving room on our next visit. The wine list is not huge, but there is a good variety. They also serve over 25 craft beers and the selections change periodically, so you can try all sorts of different styles.

Nosh is a breath of fresh air in the corporate chain and sports bar saturated Chandler/Tempe area. It is so great to have a cute, independently owned hang out in the neighborhood. It is even better that the food is so delicious. Make sure you stop by and get a seat by the kitchen! 

Nosh Arizona
4080 W Ray Rd #26
Chandler AZ 85226
(480) 838-NOSH or (480) 838-6674
Monday            Closed
Tuesday           4pm to 10pm - Special 1/2 price beer
Wednesday     4pm to 10pm - Special 1/2 price wine bottles and Sangria
Thursday        4pm to 10pm - Special Free Glass Nosh Select Wine w/Entree
Friday (Lunch/Dinner) 11am to 11pm - 1/2 price dessert after 9pm
Saturday          4pm to 11pm - 1/2 price dessert after 9pm 
Sunday (Brunch) 9am to 2pm - Featuring $2.00 Mimosas and Bloody Mary bar. 

No comments:

Post a Comment