Phoenix seems to have quite a few restaurants located in strip malls, though it is unexpected to find an upscale restaurant that impresses.
Crudo is Chef-Owner Cullen Campbell’s imaginative eatery, serving small plates including his fabulous silky crudos.
The entrance is located in a back alleyway behind a mall in Arcadia. I have been coming here for a few years. The decor is still very basic/minimalist.
The restaurant, of course, showcases crudo (raw) dishes in various combinations. They also serve other Italian specialties. Chef Campbell has cooked at the James Beard House and is no slouch. He transforms a curated range of ingredients into expertly crafted modern Italian dishes.
You can order a la carte, but I think the way to go is to try the 3, 4 or 5-course tasting menus to sample some of the delightful dishes in signature selections. The price options are $35, $45, or $55 respectively. You can choose from the crudo section, the cooked section, the cheese section, the grilled section and the dolce section. The menu emphasizes seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients.
We tried the Albacore tuna crudo with citrus and dill. It is tender and scrumptious – the citrus balance brings out the taste of the tuna. The butterfish with tomato, lardon and arugula is another fine choice. It practically melts on the tongue. From the cheese section, we had the stracciatella with toasted hazelnuts and grilled radicchio, which is made in-house. It was a tad over-salted for my liking.
However, we really enjoyed our two “cooked” dishes. The small gnochetti (a classic gnocchi) is made with rye flour, and prepared with Brussel sprouts and spring garlic, in a creamy fonduta. We also tried the Roman-style semolina gnocchi in a fabulous sauce of lamb neck, truffle and cacio e pepe and apples. This dish is fabulous, it has a similar taste to polenta. The sauce is so decadent. For our grilled selection, we chose the squid dish which is cooked with cannellini beans and a salsa verde. It’s surprisingly light and well-prepared. The biggest disappointment was the brisket with fingerling potatoes. We were assured it was a tender cut that would melt in your mouth, but our piece was dry.
For dessert, we tried the blueberry crostada done with a blueberry balsamic reduction and topped with a white chocolate streusel. I think it would have been wonderful if baked to order, but it came out one minute after ordering it which had me wondering if it was zapped warm in the microwave. It was tasty but not a mouthwatering dish. Ditto for the chocolate hazelnut crunch cake with a caramel sauce. It was good but didn’t wow me.
The restaurant was not very busy when I last dined there last year, which could be because the high season was coming to an end, or if it is not as “hot” as it once was.
The menu changes frequently with some real tempting choices.
Our waiter Michael was friendly and helpful and could describe every dish in detail. It is not outrageously priced and it is what many would consider a hidden gem.