Located in the Camelback Corridor, at 3213 Camelback Road and 32nd Street, Tarbell’s restaurant has been around for over 21 years. I have been an ardent fan of Tarbell’s and have been going there for 19 of those years. It is not a scene, or trendy or filled with young beautiful people. It is a consummate neighbourhood restaurant that serves consistently great food. Mark Tarbell has been inducted twice into the Arizona Hall of Culinary Fame and been nominated as Best Chef in the Southwest by James Beard. He also won Best Chef in Food and Wine Magazine as well as winning Iron Chef in its fifth season.
He is still crafting beautiful American cuisine and has an award-winning wine list. We were able to order a half bottle of Kistler Chardonnay which is rarely seen.
The restaurant is warm and welcoming with an unpretentious vibe. I think the place could use a facelift, but I go there for the food not the atmosphere. It is located in a strip mall but he has white tablecloths and great service. Mark Tarbell was one of the first restaurants to base his menu on locally sourced ingredients. His dishes are simple and well-crafted. He has kept pace with the times and his menu always has new surprises as well as the tried and true. In fact, one section of his menu lists items under the heading, “Things That Change With The Seasons”, with items like fish of the moment, Australian leg of lamb with gnocchi, George Bank scallops with ricotta gnudi with green and white asparagus, Brussel sprouts in a rhubarb coulis which is all in season right now. Under the heading, “Things That The Seasons Can’t Change”, are his signature dishes, some that have remained on the menu for years. One such dish that we always seem to order is the grilled Scottish salmon on a crispy potato cake with a molasses lime glaze. Or his famous spaghetti and meatball in an organic house made marinara sauce. He also has a wood burning oven for pizza. One section is called, “Tarbell’s Test Kitchen”, where he has a couple of brand new dishes that he is trying out and the prices are favourable. I tried the SeaCat Gardens tomato salad from this section. It was only $10 and it included ricotta salata, artichokes, morels and Evoo, and it was very good. We have also enjoyed the in house made Burrata with McClendon’s Farm tomatoes. The crispy tempura fried soft shell crab with a lemon aioli was a little too heavily battered for my taste. For my vegetarian readers, Tarbell’s always includes a vegetarian plate on his menu as well as a few salad choices.
The two desserts we tried knocked it out of the ballpark. The vanilla cheesecake made with mascarpone in a rosemary and caramel sauce may just be the best cheesecake I have ever had. A close second is the Tar’s S’Mores with homemade graham crackers in a heavenly marshmallow and chocolate mousse with dark chocolate sauce. He uses good quality chocolate too.
His consistently good food keeps me coming back time and time again. He has a solid grasp of the new American favourites and he puts his upscale spin on them.
The restaurant is open Monday – Saturday from 5-10 and Sundays from 5-9.