Tag Archives: The Clever Koi

The gastronomical guide to Arizona Restaurant Week

Some people think this is the loveliest time of the year in Arizona until monsoon season chills our blistering summers for fall. As far as we’re concerned, the most beautiful thing about spring, between the Cactus League and April pool parties, is Arizona Restaurant Week (May 17 to 26). You get 10 glorious gluttonous days to try three-course, prix-fixe dinners at the state’s best restaurants for what’s generally discounted prices of $30 to $40 per person.

Though we wish we could have taste-tested all the participating restaurants’ special menus for you, dear reader, we also know that half the fun of trying something new is the surprise! Luckily, you probably won’t find too many disappointing spoonfuls while on your gastronomical journey.

To get your saliva glands going, we took a bite (or two) out the restaurant week menus at three central Phoenix restaurants.

Here’s the scoop!

Confit pork from Bink’s Midtown.

Confit pork from Bink’s Midtown.

1. Bink’s Midtown
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix
All of Bink’s Midtown has an open-air feel. When you arrive, you have the option of sitting outside on its romantically lit patio, inside at its cozy bar or at a table or in its white-walled “sun rooms.” There’s no bad seat in the house, in so many words. Bink’s Restaurant Week menu is modern American cuisine with a range of healthy and indulgent options in each course.
First Course
The first course leads with crispy spring vegetable fritters served in a romesco sauce prepared with young garlic. The kale and salanova salad is a tart little treat, though it’s a little overshadowed by the crispy fritters. The third option will have you fork-fighting over the last chicken karaage — think less “Lady and the Tramp” and more Joey from “Friends.”
Second Course
The second course hands-down must be the “no knife necessary” confit pork. The pork is marinated for four to five days in its own fat and is so, so buttery smooth and tender. The spicy broccolini bring you back to earth, so save those and the white bean ragout for last — to keep you grounded.
Other second-course options include corn pasta with veggies and grilled rainbow trout.
Third Course
The third course is intriguing. It includes a vanilla yogurt semifreddo, hibiscus sorbet and flourless chocolate cake.

Tomato and melon salad and steak cobb salad from The Clever Koi.

Tomato and melon salad and steak cobb salad from The Clever Koi.

2. The Clever Koi
4236 N. Central Ave., #100, Phoenix
Jared Porter and Joe Absolor’s brainchild is a modern American-Asian fusion menu that has a lot to offer the adventurous eater. The vibe is dim diner chic with an open kitchen grill and a cocktail menu to literally flip over. Clever Koi also brews its own fernet, which is serves on tap, as a digestive aid. One patron was overheard saying it tasted like “the war,” so prep your gut! The Clever Koi’s Restaurant Week menu offers three vegetarian and four gluten-free choices.
First Course
The vegetarian tomato and melon salad is served with tempura avocado and a bit of sass (lemongrass vinaigrette). Other options include the delicious-sounding gluten-free and vegetarian edamame fritters and gluten-free Sriracha roasted pork ribs. Choosing between these really depend on the diner’s mood, but, really, who is going to eat a salad during Restaurant Week? Go for the fritters or ribs!
Second Course
For a main course, Clever Koi is serving a gluten-free steak “cobb” bibimbap (grilled Bulgogi flat iron, bacon, tomato, scallion, tempura avocado and a soft egg). The combination of ingredients was underwhelming, though it looked very pretty propped up on a scoop of dry, bland rice. However, the steak was delicious! The spicy seafood hot pot sounds really intriguing with its wood-grilled octopus, catfish and shrimp with cilantro. The entree options wouldn’t be complete without some gourmet ramen. The vegetarian summer corn ramen wish is served in corn broth with summer squash, chilis, asparagus and miso butter. The soups really win here. Bottoms up!
Third Course
The Clever Koi is only giving you two options for dessert: roasted banana fritters and gluten-free “Almond Joy” rice pudding. We didn’t get a chance to try either, but we trust your sweet tooth won’t steer you wrong after two courses of spicy and salty fare.

An array of Sierra Bonita Grill’s Arizona Restaurant Week menu.

An array of Sierra Bonita Grill’s Arizona Restaurant Week menu.

3. Sierra Bonita Grill
6933 N. 7th St., Phoenix
Sierra Bonita Grill is a romantic, rustic place inspired by its namesake, which is a historic ranch in southeastern Arizona. It is one of two restaurants in the Valley with a subterranean wine cellar and has more than 100 Western paintings, photos and sculptures near and dear to owner Nate Hopper. If you want to impress your date, we recommend asking someone if you can tour the wine cellar (they may escort you if there isn’t already a private party!).
First Course
Sierra Bonita Grill serves up delicious Mexican fare so for tradition’s sake one of the appetizer options is guacamole and salsa. There are also more unique options of ceviche and Hopper’s Poppers, which are halved jalapeños stuffed with a blend of four cheese.
Second Course
This is where Sierra Bonita shines. Its carne asada, buttermilk chicken, smoked red or green chile pork roast and pan-seared trout are going to be a tough pick and we don’t envy you. If you need a tie-breaker, go with the smoked red chile pork roast. It’ll knock your tastebuds right into Tucson.
Third Course
And now this: peach cobbler, buttermilk pie and croissant bread pudding. The bread pudding is ah-mazing, served with Jack Daniel’s whiskey-lime-and-caramel sauce. However, we’re pretty certain we would have flipped for the cobbler and pie, too.

For more restaurants, visit the Arizona Restaurant Week website: http://www.arizonarestaurantweek.com/restaurants.

NFL Legend Ditka to Appear at Taste In Tempe

Mike Ditka, NFL Hall of Famer and former NFL coach of the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, will make an exclusive appearance at the first ever Taste In Tempe, Sun., Feb. 9.

Presented by CBS Radio (KMLE @ 107.9, 94.5 KOOL FM and LIVE 101.5), Tempe Center for the Arts and R Entertainment Company, Taste In Tempe occurs at the beautiful Tempe Center for the Arts Amphitheater, and will capitalize on the panoramic views offered to create an unforgettable pre-Valentine’s Day culinary event.

Beyond his reputation as an NFL star and coaching legend, Ditka has earned a reputable place in the restaurant world as well. The aptly named quality dining spot opened its first location in Chicago and recently made way to metro Phoenix, inside the new Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino.  USA Today noted Ditka’s among the top 10 celebrity owned restaurants in the country.

Taste In Tempe will dish out some of the Ditka’s classics, as prepared by Ditka’s Chef Andy Moy, as guests and Da Coach himself stroll the lakefront, sampling an eclectic variety of more than 30 Arizona restaurants.

In addition to delicious crowd-pleasing favorites and celebrity guests, Taste In Tempe offers an afternoon of food, music and celebration with a romantic twist. The event delivers a “love and romance” themed shopping experience with jewelry, luxury goods, flowers, chocolates, pastries and more, perfect for a Valentine’s Day preview, not to mention an unforgettable date experience.

Taste In Tempe showcases wines from around the world accompanied by expert-led seminars, and exclusive craft breweries sampling flavorful beverages.  In addition, the Arizona Pork Council and Crooked Sky Farms are featured contributors of pork and farm fresh vegetables, respectively, for some of the cuisine served at Taste in Tempe.

CBS Radio stations KMLE Country @ 107.9, LIVE 101.5, and KOOL FM deliver LIVE music and entertainment as local celebrity chefs offer an insider’s knowledge on the chef demonstration stage.

Throughout the month of January and leading up to Taste In Tempe, KMLE Country @ 107.9, LIVE 101.5 and KOOL FM will give listeners the chance to win a taste of the good life in the Taste In Tempe $20K Giveaway with a Grand Prize of $20,000!

TICKETS. Taste In Tempe tickets include food, wine and craft beer sampling, wine seminars, cooking demonstrations, parking, entertainment and a chance to win the $20K Giveaway (enter before 2:30 pm). Tickets are available at www.kmle1079.com, www.KOOLRadio.com or www.LIVE1015phoenix.com. Tickets are $59 in advance; or $69 at the door.

FOOD Participants.  Thirty restaurants, 30 wineries and 30 craft breweries are anticipated at Taste In Tempe, with participants to date:

·         24 Carrots!
·         Alasta
·         Arizona Catering Company
·         Aside of Heart
·         Ben and Jacks Steakhouse
·         Bombay Spice Indian Grill
·         Braggs Factory Diner
·         CHoP
·         Ditka’s
·         Elizabeth’s Moment of Joy
·         Four Peaks Brewing Company
·         Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
·         Gigi’s Cupcakes
·         Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
·         Guedo’s Cantina Grill
·         Hummus Xpress
·         La Bocca urban pizzeria + wine bar
·         Mellow Mushroom
·         Nothing Bundt Cakes
·         NutWhats
·         RA Sushi Bar Restaurant
·         Salut Kitchen Bar
·         SanTan Brewing Company
·         Shelley’s Specialty Desserts
·         Spokes on Southern
·         The Clever Koi
·         The Handlebar Tempe
·         The Lodge
·         The Melting Pot
·         Uncle Bear’s Bar and Grill