New Dishes at Char Kitchen + Bar
I've been a fan of Char Kitchen since my first visit (read about it here). A family-owned neighborhood spot, the Martinez and Micakaj families incorporate their Balkan heritage and family recipes into the Mediterranean menu at this comfortable, casual restaurant in Hilton Village on North Scottsdale Road. Last night, I joined fellow media guests to explore some of the recent additions to the menu family-style and, once again, Char Kitchen left me happy, full, and planning a return visit. Co-owner Pauline Martinez warmly welcomed our group as she introduced each dish.
"We're going to start with the Chicken Lemon Rice Soup, which my dad makes every day, I can't wait for you to try it," began Pauline. It was a perfect starter - velvety and rich, brightened with the tang of lemon juice and drizzled with paprika oil.
The Loaded Hummus is an off-menu specialty which can be ordered at any time. Creamy hummus was topped with crumbled gyro meat (made fresh in-house), roasted red pepper and tomato chutney, feta cheese, and crispy fried parsley. This was one of my favorites of the night and a dish I will be ordering every time I visit.
I love to graze, so the Mediterranean Chef's Board is the perfect meal for me. A colorful platter of nibbles included parsley-flecked falafel, soppressata, stuffed grape leaves, roasted red peppers, cucumber and tomato salad, hummus, tzatziki, olives, and triangles of pita bread. This can also be ordered without meat for a vegetarian platter (tip: the delicious grape leaves and falafel are also on the Happy Hour menu). "It's a trip to the Mediterranean and you're meant to take a bite of everything to really experience all the flavors," suggested Pauline.
Next were Sliders with Frisco sauce, cheddar and grilled onions. "The burgers are cooked on top of the onions so it permeates the meat and gives you that sweetness, and the fat helps to caramelize the onions," Pauline explains. When our table comments on the buns, we're told that while they don't have the space to bake the bread in house, they've supplied their recipe to a local bakery who delivers daily. The sliders were followed by grilled chicken gyros with tomato, onion and tzatziki wrapped in puffy naan that were just as juicy and flavorful.
"My dad has been making this for a long time," said Pauline as she set bowls of Shrimp Florentine Alfredo on the table. "It's one of my favorite dishes, and my son always calls it 'Papa's pasta'." Needless, to say, this pasta dish with plump shrimp, spinach, and silky Alfredo sauce was a table favorite.
Chicken Palma brought a juicy charred chicken breast plated over saffron rice and grilled pineapple and vegetables glazed in a special house sweet-and-sour Palma sauce.
I'm a fan of any of the lamb dishes here, so knew to expect perfectly-cooked and seasoned lamb chops in the Grecian Lamb Chops served with rice and mixed vegetables and garnished with zesty chimichurri sauce, red wine-pickled shallots, and crumbles of tangy feta.
Meat and potato lovers will want to order the Tenderloin Medallions with a generous side of vegetables and addictive crispy smashed red potatoes.
Our sweet finale brought Honey Baklava, a coffee shot, and a dreamy Rice Pudding made from a recipe handed down from Pauline's grandmother.
Char is one of those special family-owned spots I love to support - I hope you stop in and do the same!
Char Kitchen + Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 am to 9 pm (10 pm Fridays and Saturdays). Happy Hour is 3-6 pm daily with $3 off wine by the glass, draft beer, and well drinks, and $12 off bottles of wine. Brunch is offered 10 am to 2 pm on the weekends, with $5 mimosas and $7 Bloody Marys. Char is located at 6107 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ, 85250. For reservations, call (480) 664-9238.