By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Jason Plummer
You’re out to dinner, and the server sets down an appealing dish or a lovely cocktail. Just as you’re about to dive in, someone at your table yells, “Wait! Don’t touch it! I have to Instagram it!”
Welcome to the new world of dining, where you haven’t enjoyed a beautiful meal unless you’ve posted it on social media. But you can’t just post anything. Food and drinks have to be photogenic, as well as delicious.
You’ll find many dishes at Greater Phoenix restaurants that are worthy of a “share.” Here are seven of our favorites.
SHRIMP, CRAB, AVOCADO & MANGO STACK
Chart House, a venerable seafood restaurant, has a primo waterfront locale—right on the shores of Camelback Lake at McCormick Ranch—so ordering this look-at-me, tower-like appetizer seems appropriate. Big enough to share (in person and on Instagram), the dish starts with a base of creamy avocado chunks topped with cilantro-flecked mango salsa. The crowning glory is a layer of shrimp and crab remoulade, garnished with a basil oil drizzle. “It’s one of our most popular appetizers,” says chef Devin Livziey. “When it comes out of the kitchen, guests stop the server to ask what it is.”
Sticky buns—soft rolls topped in a caramelized, brown sugar glaze—have been on the menu at El Chorro since this iconic restaurant opened in 1937. The buns come complimentary with dinner, but most guests save them for dessert. “We serve about 1,000 buns a day,” says chef Christophe Mihy. “We have someone in the kitchen whose only job is to make sticky buns seven days a week.” Has he ever thought of taking them off the menu? “No!” Mihy exclaims. “It’s part of history. I’d have a revolt on my hands.” Snapping a pic of the warm, gooey, perfectly sweet buns is a must. For the historic record, of course.
Walk into the upscale Indian restaurant Marigold Maison, and you’ll find the air is redolent with exotic spices. Ditto for the chicken tikka, a north Indian classic. Chunks of chicken breast are marinated overnight in yogurt spiced with garam masala, garlic, lemon juice, and other flavorings, then cooked in a clay tandoor oven. Served on a sizzling platter over peppers and onions, the dish can be fine-tuned with mint and coriander, or tamarind sauces, or garnished with a dollop of raita, a cooling yogurt-cucumber-cilantro sauce. Definitely a no-filter-needed snap.
Yes, you can get this decadent dish for breakfast any day of the week at Artizen, The Camby hotel’s chic, modern restaurant. But guests order it more during weekend brunch, says the hotel’s director of culinary experiences (read: executive chef), Dushyant Singh. “People let loose more on the weekends,” Singh speculates. With bacon and blackberries mixed into the batter, and blackberries used as garnish, the dish mixes sweet and salty, with dollops of cream and bourbon-infused maple syrup. As yummy as it is pretty, consider making this dish your screen saver.
THE OMFG SALAD
Previously known as The Original Chopped Salad, the OMFG Salad is still the same salty-sweet-crunchy combo Greater Phoenix knows and loves. Chef Bernie Kantak invented this culinary sensation in the 1990s and took it with him when he opened Citizen Public House, in Scottsdale, in 2011. (You can also find it on the menu of his newer restaurant, The Gladly, in Phoenix.) A rainbow of smoked salmon, Israeli couscous, arugula, pepitas, tomatoes, currants, corn, and Asiago cheese, it’s mixed tableside with basil buttermilk dressing. Kantak estimates he sold 75,000 salads in 2016 and constantly sees guests documenting it with cell phones. “The salad,” he says, “has more friends on Facebook than I do.”
SOUR TIMES COCKTAIL
Known for its modern spin on Asian cuisine, Clever Koi has an equally strong craft cocktail program. One of its most popular adult beverages? The Sour Times, a frothy mix of floral gin, lavender honey, lemon and lime juices, macerated blackberries, and sage, garnished with fresh herbs. “It’s aromatic and colorful,” says co-owner and master mixologist Joshua James. The name comes from a 1990s song by English band Portishead. “It’s a variation of a gin sour, so it’s a play on words,” he says, “not necessarily political or social commentary.”
If you think of quiche Lorraine as a quaint side dish served at your grandmother’s bridge game, think again. At Amuse Bouche, quiche Lorraine gets the royal treatment. “It’s a classic French dish that takes three days to do right,” says Snir Mor. He and his wife, Kierstin, are Paris-trained chefs, as well as the owners of Amuse Bouche. “You have to rest the butter shortcrust overnight, then blind bake it. The filling is a custard made with heavy cream and eggs and, of course, Swiss cheese and applewood-smoked bacon.” The result? A thick, luscious, elegant slice of heaven that’s one of the bistro’s bestsellers.