Chef Bernie Kantak blends perfection at Citizen Public House

If dining was baseball, Chef Bernie Kantak has pitched a perfect game with Citizen Public House.

For years, Kantak’s devotees have praised former Cowboy Ciao mastermind’s culinary genius. But with Citizen Public House, which is located in a relaxed and stylish renovated building in Old Town Scottsdale’s Fifth Avenue Shops, Kantak has exceeded the expectations of even his biggest fans. The atmosphere — steel-topped bar, polished concrete floor, large wooden rafters supporting a high ceiling — is wonderful. The service — our waiter, Sam, may be the most accommodating, knowledgeable server in the Valley— is exceptional. And the food is that from which dreams are made. At Citizen Public House, Kantak has taken standard American favorites and reinvented them with a boldness and creativity that is without parallel.

When we go to review a restaurant, we order a variety of appetizers, entrées and desserts to get a overall sense of the menu. There are always a couple clunkers that miss the mark. But at Citizen Public House, every dish was superb. Every dish was a mouth-watering masterpiece. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Even the most critical foodies should know they are in for a treat when a restaurant’s specialty salad has its own Facebook page.

While Citizen Public House’s menu is a single page, it comes with the knowledge that ever appetizer, every entrée and every dessert is well thought out and defines perfection. Diners can blindfold themselves and point to the menu and know they will have the best meal of their lives.

That said, if you feel compelled to have some direction before you dine at Citizen Public House, these dishes all came highly recommended from Sam and anyone who has ever tried them will vouch for their deliciousness.

The Pork Belly Pastrami ($13) — which Sam described as a deconstructed Reuben sandwich — features pork belly, rye spaetzle, Brussels sprout sauerkraut and mustard jus has become somewhat of a legendary appetizer. One bite will tell you why.

The Chia Seared Tuna ($16) — came highly recommended by Sam. It is served on a bed of Thai purple sticky rice, asparagus puree, fried leek and micro green salad. It is perfectly seared. The chia seeds give it an amazing crunch. Combined with the spicy puree and rice and the dish is a burst of flavors in your mouth.

The Original Chopped Salad ($12) which is so popular that it has it’s own Facebook page — hands down the best salad you will ever eat. The salad features perfect rows dried corn, couscous, smoked salmon, Asiago cheese, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, arugula and currants that are tossed together at the table with a tasty buttermilk pesto. One word of advice: Order your own. You won’t want to share.

The Pan Seared Scallops ($28)  are presented so perfectly that it looks like you’re about to bite into the pages of a fine dining magazine. The scallops were served with tender Belly Hampshire bacon, roasted corn grits, wilted snow pea greens and cola gastrique. If you can imagine biting into a tab of scallop-flavored butter, that’s kind of how the perfectly prepared scallops melt in your mouth.

The Venison Strip Loin ($38)  is served with a beet crust, celery root purée, snap peas, fennel oil, pomegranate seeds and burnt honey jus. The taste is amazing and will quickly make your short list of favorites.

Beyond the amazing food, Citizen Public House also excels with libations that perfectly complement the menu items.

As we were leaving Citizen Public House’s parking lot, we were already planning our next visit. One bite of any of the restaurant’s amazing dishes and you will do the same.

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About Michael Gossie

Michael Gossie is an award-winning journalist who has earned more than 50 awards for writing, editing and design. He studied economics at Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y., and put his entrepreneurial spirit to work in 2007, using a 200-year-old family recipe to launch an Italian sauce company. He is a competitive marathon runner, Ironman triathlete and is most proud of being the founding president of the Steuben Arc Foundation in Upstate New York, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities, including his sister.