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Citizen Public House

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.

Citizen Public House, The Original Chopped Salad

Chef Kantak Of Citizen Public House Dishes About His Salad Favorites

When your salad has its own Facebook page, that’s when you know you’ve made a culinary Citizen Public House, Chef Bernie Kantakimpact; and Chef Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House in Old Scottsdale is living proof of it.

After years of chefs — both locally and nationally — replicating and recreating his Original Chopped Salad, Kantak jokingly created a Facebook page for it, immediately following a chat with a friend, on Facebook. Since then, Citizen Public House no longer lists the ingredients of the salad on the menu; instead, the restaurant displays the web address for the salad’s Facebook page.

The Original Chopped Salad is considered just that, original and unique. When Peter Kasperski, the owner of Cowboy Ciao, decided the salad needed a fresh look and taste, Kantak took on the challenge. Inspired by a fennel soup with sweet dried corn and salmon, Kantak “liked the combination and herbatiousness of the soup,” and redeveloped it into the salad it is today.

After just two weeks on the menu, Cowbow Ciao sold more than 100 salads a day, and it continues to be the top seller at Citizen Public House.

The Original Chopped Salad has a seemingly abnormal combination of ingredients, including corn, salmon, couscous, asiago, pepitas, tomatoes, currants and arugula. Patrons can then drizzle the salad with buttermilk pesto dressing.

“When you first tell people what’s in it, it doesn’t really sound very good,” Kantak says. “But once they have it, it becomes magical to people. People go bananas for it.”

Kantak says it’s the combination of flavor and texture that keeps diners coming back for more, or intrigued enough to try it for the first time.

The Original Chopped Salad, Chef Kantak“I think it’s the combination of how everything is so different,” Kantak says, “but it comes together really beautifully, especially with the colors.”

This is why Kantak advises for your next salad to be adventurous and try different things. For instance, instead of croutons, Kantak substitutes potato chips.

“You can have a salad with two ingredients in it, and it can taste great; and then there’s the Original Chopped Salad that has a lot of elements into it,” Kantak says. “I think it’s the way things harmonize with one another. Don’t be afraid to try everything, and just think outside the box.”

For those looking to whip up a simple salad for lunch or a pre-dinner treat, Kantak recommends combining tomatoes, a little bit of red onion, basil, balsamic extra virgin olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.

But what makes a great salad are fresh ingredients, Kantak says, which can be found at various farmer’s markets around the Valley.

“Definitely the Scottsdale Farmer’s Market and the farmer’s market downtown,” Kantak says. “I really like to go to the market at the Chinese Cultural Center; they have stuff you just aren’t going to find in a grocery store.”

Kantak’s favorite salad? His own Mirliton Chopped Salad, which combines chayote, snow pea greens, grape tomato, cucumber-onion salad, heirloom popcorn, grilled halloumi cheese and parsley-garlic dressing.

“People are surprised by the heirloom popcorn,” Kantak says. “The Greek grilled cheese is grilled and has a nice smokiness; and the cucumbers are light, refreshing and summery.”

Try the Original Chopped Salad or The Mirliton Chopped Salad, both found on the Citizen Public House menu.

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If You Go: Citizen Public House

7111 E. 5th Ave, Ste. E, Scottsdale
(480) 398-4208