Char Kitchen + Bar
From co-owner Pauline Martinez of Perk Eatery comes the latest addition to Hilton Village in Scottsdale, Char Kitchen + Bar. For this new restaurant featuring Mediterranean cuisine, she has joined forces with her father and brother, Peter and Pal Micakaj, to feature the influences of their Montenegro and Balkan heritage. The Micakajs have extensive history in the restaurant industry, with Pal honing his skills at his father's restaurants in New York and Michigan. Now this family team brings their experience to Char. I was recently invited to explore their menu at a media introduction, and was as impressed with the food as I was with this talented family.
As we sipped on Head Bartender Justin Czarnecki's bright and refreshing cocktail made with Three Star Plantation Rum, St. George Raspberry Liqueur, orgeat and lemon, Pauline welcomed us and introduced us to her family as she described the restaurant's concept. "Just like Perk was designed to be a neighborhood spot for the locals in the Kierland area, we felt that handrafted dishes and a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant would really be a good fit for the Hilton Village neighborhood." Both of Pauline's parents hail from Montenegro, a country in the Balkans on the Adriatic Sea and at Char they are welcoming people into their culinary traditions. "I’m so proud that my dad is able to do this and show a little bit of how we live and how we eat, and share that experience with everybody."
"We make everything from scratch," explained Pauline. "We have the highest integrity for our food and source the best product we possibly can. We use as much local as we can, like McClendon, Blue Sky and other Arizona farms."
"The beauty of this restaurant is that even for those who are not familiar with Mediterranean food, we have other options like a beautiful hand-cut Arizona grass-fed filet or salmon flown in whole from Scotland. A lot of work and care goes into our menu and we hope you can taste the pride that goes into the food we send out."
This is readily apparent in the excellent Hummus and Pita to start, made fresh daily with organic chickpeas and served with tzatziki and ajvar, an addictive Balkan roasted pepper relish.
"We take a lot of pride in our food, a lot of pride," said Pauline. 'We never serve anything that we wouldn’t want to serve on our own tables at home." We learn this firsthand as we dive into the rest of the menu, such as Chicken Lollis enrobed in pomegranate-harissa BBQ sauce and accented with crumbled feta, pickled onion, and fresh cilantro, and the crowd-pleasing Sriracha Chicken Skewers brushed with a spicy-sweet Sriracha-honey glaze and served on a bed of fluffy saffron rice.
Or dive into Crispy Calamari in a light and crunchy batter complemented with pickled shallots and Calabrian chile dipping sauce.
Our friend Eric raved about this burger, and I could see why. Expertly seasoned, the juicy Choban Lamb Burger was layered with charred tomato chutney, tangy feta, and peppery arugula on a brioche bun.
Lamb likewise took center stage in the Gyro. With Char's made-from-scratch philosophy, you won't find slices of the ubiquitous premade meat cones filling your warm pita. Here, ground lamb is baked into finely spiced loaves, sliced, griddled, and topped with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki.
Looking for Chicken and Beef Skewers that are perfectly charred, tender, and juicy? Look no further than Char Kitchen + Bar (you can also find veggie and shrimp skewers on the menu).
Just as satisfying was the Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop, a table favorite, perched on a mound of seared green and purple cabbage and accompanied by smashed fingerling potatoes and a rich Bing cherry-red wine reduction.
Juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked was also the description for the smoky Grilled Lamb Chops with roasted vegetables and an herbaceous chimichurri sauce.
Be sure to save room for this sweet treat - a decadent Chocolate Mocha Hazelnut Cake draped in Nutella and raspberry coulis.
"We really are just aiming to be a great go-to neighborhood spot that has really fantastic handcrafted food that isn’t break-your-budget but that is going to fill your belly and make you really happy," said Pauline. Mission accomplished!
Char Kitchen + Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 am to 9 pm (10 pm Fridays and Saturdays) and located at 6107 N. Scottsdale Road 85250. For reservations, call (480) 664-9238.