Restau-RANT! Our disappointment of the Arizona Restaurant Week – POSH Improvisational Cuisine

Did you see my witty pun there? Yes, this will be a rant, and if I am ranting about a restaurant (remember, eating is my biggest hobby) you know it was [insert preferred curse word here]

Let me start at the beginning: it is Arizona Restaurant Week which means from September 16th to the 25th 2016 over 100 local restaurants offer a special menu for  $33 or $44, what gives you a great opportunity to try out that fancy place you always wanted to go to. For us, this place was Posh, an improvisational cuisine restaurant in Scottsdale.

Posh promises, I quote from their website,  “improvisational cuisine thoughtfully composed of modern and seasonal ingredients. It’s the only fine dining establishment where you get to choose your own adventure. It’s an experience as interactive, private, adventuresome and individual as you wish – the choice is yours.” That sounds very elaborate and exciting. A bit more research showed us that you can tell the chef what you like and don’t like and he creates a special and unique experience around your preferences and dislikes.

Well, you wish

We reserved a table a few days prior. The hostess greeted us and brought us to our table, along with three different wine menus – apparently the wines are a necessity to try there, but we ole peasants don’t like wine and never acquired the skill of tasting the fine nuances of ox leather, greenspan or hand picked half-ripe mulberry that sommeliers tell you you’re supposed to taste. 

The first impression of the place is “oh, slick interior!” Open structure, pretty color concept, some artwork on the walls, very modern.

Then you see that what looked like the bar is the kitchen, in the middle of the restaurant, for everyone to look at. 

Now that can work if the kitchen is set up in a very tidy manner, like a show kitchen. But having big containers of oils and lots of cardboard boxes in plain sight very much clashes with the upscale look of the dining hall. Also: it makes the whole restaurant smell like your average Asian fast food kitchen because the steam of every single dish combined lingers over the whole place. Again, this does not match the upscale atmosphere Posh tries to achieve.

After we were sat our waiter explained the concept and how we can order. 

We each got a brochure that explained the concept again along with some “what diet am I eating” information  (Omnivore: you eat everything. Vegetarian: you don’t eat meat. And so on. Just in case you don’t know already….). The orange paper gives you the option to cross off or circle some things you do not want, you do want, and leaves some space where you can write what you really don’t want, or are allergic to. 

In my wonderful handwriting (kidding, the waiter actually had to ask what I wrote there) I added my enemies, the eggplant (Satan’s curse of the vegetable world), liver and kidney (the sewage systems of the body), lentils and chickpeas  (little globs of mealy horror). I also crossed off the escargots, I really liked them as a kid but don’t fancy them anymore. Additional to your courses you can request über fancy stuff like foie gras (which I wouldn’t eat if you paid me, if you ever saw how it’s made you know why), wagyu and a cheese plate that our waiter couldn’t tell us what it featured. You could also choose how many courses you want, and we went for the 6 course, still expecting a miraculous menu. Not our brightest moment, eh?

The waiter took our brochures and not much later we got an amuse bouche, which was a popcorn soup. Sweet corn broth and popcorn puree with, you guessed it, popcorn, served in tiny cups. 

It very much tasted like popcorn. It wasn’t an “oh wow, hell yeah!” soup, but it was tasty.

Then we got our appetizer and I just knew then right away that pretentious was the topic of the whole menu. Please see for yourself….

Four tiny pieces of tomato, four tiny pieces of watermelon, some crumbles of cheese, and a tangerine chili vinaigrette that tasted like not much. Excusez moi, but the watermelon feta combo is an old hat now, anyone can make that at home, and spreading it out like that on a ginormous plate is nothing short of ridiculous. I may sound like a bratty food critic here but if you are promised “thoughtfully composed adventuresome improvisational cuisine” and you get this, you definitely scratch your head in disbelief. 

My husband was a bit more lucky.

 Haricot verts wrapped in prosciutto with romaine lettuce, apples, fried garlic and aged balsamic vinaigrette. Again way below what we expected to be “improvisational cuisine” but he said it tasted decent.

As part of the first course we also got fennel rolls with orange cardamom butter.

I can already tell you now that this was the tastiest part of the menu. Yes, bread and butter was the highlight. Go figure.

The second course came quick and was a tad more creative.

Smoked trout rilette topped with clarified butter and caviar, toast with onion relish, and an onion ring with a chive sour cream sauce.

I liked the trout rilette because it was fatty deliciousness, and you can’t do anything wrong by giving me caviar. Together with the toast and the onion relish it tasted really good, but the ratio of bread and rilette was off, and eating spoons of rilette is like digging into a container of flavored Crisco. The onion ring was an onion ring and the chives sauce was bland. I could have done without it, especially because the whole dish did not come together at all, it seemed like they just wanted to create a fancy looking plate with some “reinvented” known ingredients (onion ring, chive sour cream…) but it wasn’t matching the trout rilette and toast.
My husband’s appetizer was ahi tuna with different radishes and purple potato salad.

Again, nothing really new. He said it tasted okay. Definitely a lighter plate than mine.

And then our third course was supposed to be served. Was supposed to. We waited 45 minutes (in words: forty-freaking-five!!!) not getting anything, with our waiter passing us several times, not acknowledging our table being empty, not even asking if everything was okay or if we needed something. Meanwhile the table next to us got their third course, finished it, got their desserts, finished them, paid and left. We managed to wave down another waiter who then informed our waiter, who then finally came over telling us the chef is stressed because it got busy. I would probably have believed that if not everyone around us had gotten several courses while we were waiting for one. He promised to check on our course right away and lo and behold, just ten more minutes later we got two plates of food that did definitely not require 55 freaking minutes of preparation. I, a patient person, was ready to flip the table. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any more pictures because by the time we finally got our third course it got dark outside and the light in the restaurant did not allow for decent looking pictures. But I will describe the downfall of elaborate cuisine in colorful words, don’t worry.

My third course was sea urchin mousse with wasabi mousse, cucumber jelly and sesame biscuits. I wanted to try sea urchin for a while, and I don’t know if it is supposed to have the aroma of dog breath, but it did. The wasabi mousse was so strong, it overpowered the dog breath flavor, and the cucumber jelly was so sour, it overpowered the wasabi mousse. The combination of all that was a confusing mixture of urgh, ew and bleh. The sesame biscuits however were really good. 

When my husband got his dish I could see he was about to lose it. He got the very same soup that we got as an amuse bouche, advertised as “tarragon sweet corn soup with popcorn”, with a scallop on top. Are you [beep] kidding me! We waited 55 [beep] minutes to get two [beep] dishes that were made a loooong long time ahead with one of them being the same stuff that we got before, just with some tarragon. Remember, “improvisational adventuresome cuisine“…..

Surprisingly quick we were brought the fourth course.

I got half a tiny quail, stuffed with couscous and fig, topped with more dried fig, on a pistachio crema. I love quail, and it tasted okay, but the skin was rubbery and limp and it was served in a deep bowl which made it impossible to cut. After more or less ripping off some bigger pieces of meat I just gave up. Someone did not think that through… The stuffing was a tiny heap of pretty bland couscous and the pistachio crema did not taste anything like pistachio, just like plain cream cheese. I was ready to cry bitter tears of sorrow.

Fourth course for my husband was escargots with mustard greens and roasted potatoes with a mustard and wine sauce. He liked the escargots, he never had them before and said they tasted like clams, hence he now calls them “land clams”. He said the dish tasted okay but again, just nothing special. 

We then waited for our fifth course and joked about how after all that ridiculousness we almost expect them to bring us dessert and the bill and forgetting the fifth course, but charging for six courses. And can you believe it, our waiter came and took our cutlery, asking if we wanted coffee with our dessert. Do you know how people who almost died say they saw their life like a film before they saw the light? I also saw a film in front of my inner eye, but it resembled the SAW movies, and it was targeted towards our waiter. I really fought to keep my cool and informed him as friendly as I could that we ordered six courses and only got four so far. He looked at us with unconcealed suspicion, as if we would try to trick him into bringing us an extra plate of this mediocre food, until my husband explained him what dishes we got. The waiter asked if we really didn’t get the wild boar bacon and the veal and my husband, admirably polite, confirmed. The waiter told us again how incredibly stressed the kitchen is, but I could see the kitchen, and I saw several cooks standing around for many minutes stretching their arms and just looking around. I was ready to call bullshit. 

In a timely manner we got our fifth course because it probably was sitting around in the kitchen already. By then we were so annoyed that not even heavenly nectar and ambrosia could have made us happy, and we definitely  did not get heavenly anything. 

I got what was described as “a play on a BLT”, wild boar bacon with a “compressed tomato” on tomato jam and lettuce. I don’t know if I didn’t get the memo of a simple pot roast now also being considered bacon, but I got a piece of pot roast. Thanks to the strong wild boar flavor it was tasty, you can’t go wrong with giving me any game meat. The lettuce was, well, a leaf of lettuce, the tomato jam tasted like watered down ketchup, and whatever they did to the poor tomato when they “compressed” it, it made the pitiful thing really mushy. I ate everything because I was hungry. After eating four courses of food I was hungry. That says something! 

My husband did not say much about his course because he said he just wants to eat and leave and never ever come back again and tell everyone on his way out to run too. He had sesame and seaweed crusted veal tenderloin with something crema and something puree and whatnot and said it was cold and bland.

We were crossing our fingers for dessert being a little ray of sunshine, and I crossed my fingers extra hard for it not containing my sweet foes that I completely forgot to put on my orange paper  (banana, raisins, licorice, marzipan). I was lucky and got a pear clafoutis with Chantilly cream, my husband got a something egg (either egg less or egg white) panna cotta with plums and fennel lemon syrup or so. 

My clafoutis was good, and if you put Chantilly cream on something I would eat it anyway. The panna cotta was, as my husband called it, “a fancy jello” without much flavor except citrus, and had about four small pieces of plum. 

We couldn’t wait to get out after finishing our plates, but we got another little extra, a disk of ice cream on a lollipop stick which the waiter said was either lemon something or orange vanilla, he doesn’t know, they change them up every other day. Well thank you for that valuable information. At that point I just gnarled instead of speaking. We spent 2.5 hours there and left absolutely dissatisfied and with quite some dollars less in our pockets  (on top of the menu we were also charged $10 for two iced tea, I mean, why not, isn’t iced tea the fanciest drink only topped by champagne? Well screw you!). 

To sum it up: Posh promises a lot and can’t deliver. Everyone around us got pretty much the very same dishes that we got, the dishes were all mediocre, advertised as top notch elaborate concoctions while being just big name ingredients  (sea urchin, escargots…) executed in a pretty generic manner. The surprise factor is interesting until you see the dishes you’re about to get and hear the explanations you’re about to hear while the waiter serves the tables next to you. While I absolutely understand that the chef doesn’t create a brand new dish for every single guest, which I wouldn’t even expect, I also expect a lot more from “improvisational cuisine” than generic dishes already prepared beforehand, and for the price, I definitely expect more and better food and better service.

I was close to making the song of the day some death metal with lots of angry screaming which would have matched my mood, but then I heard this song on the radio on our way home and it lifted me up immediately because how can’t you dance along when that Song of the Day is blasting: The Cars – Shake it up

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