I've been a fan of The Camby's Executive Chef, Dushyant Singh, since my first introduction to this sophisticated Phoenix hotel at a media event. First impressions lingered, such as oxtail rillette with prickly pear chutney, and a silky citrus and Arizona honey-smoked salmon. Later visits reinforced my initial appreciation, such as the achiote-seasoned steelhead trout baked in banana leaves and served with the chayote and sweet potato relish that I raved about here. Recently, I was invited to explore his new summer menu and it not only matched my expectations, but exceeded them.
We stepped through the chic lobby of The Camby into the dining room at Artizen Crafted American Kitchen & Bar. It's a lovely space framed in modern hues of blue and taupe with gleaming copper accents. As I perused the menu, divided into Snack, Soil, Land and Sea, I sipped on one of the latest cocktail creations. Five new libations are inspired by Arizona’s five C’s: Copper, Cattle, Citrus, Climate, and Cotton. The Copper was perfect for a warm summer evening, a refreshing union of Rittenhouse rye, fresh lemon, Giffard Pampelmouse pink grapefruit liqueur, and the effervescence of grapefruit pale ale.
The difficult task of deciding between the many enticing choices was solved when we were told Chef Singh had a custom tasting menu planned. What a happy surprise! We would be treated to dishes from the new menu and others that were being tested as possible additions. Our first course was a luxurious beginning. Tater tots and caviar arrived as pillowy nuggets of potato seasoned with the gentle kick of aji amarillo (a golden-orange Peruvian chile) in a crunchy shredded shell, gilded with crème fraiche and the briny pop of caviar. Crispy, creamy, salty - we savored each and every decadent bite paired with a glass of sparkling rosé.
I've been thinking about Chef Singh's tuna crudo ever since we visited, and it will be one of my first orders on our return. Glistening slices of ahi were enhanced with cubes of avocado and pickled pineapple, the crunch of macadamia nuts, and a hint of tingly heat with Oaxacan chile shoyu and Szechuan peppercorn oil - a wonderful cross-cultural melange of flavors and textures. This was followed by another inventive winner. Slathered on a toasted baguette, aji amarillo made another appearance, this time transformed into a slightly sweet jam as a base for creamy foie gras and bacon pate, with tangy pickled vegetables to cut the richness.
Executive Sous Chef Kyle Kent delivered a fantastic R&D dish that was as beautiful as the plateware (crafted by a local artist) on which it arrived. Each spoonful was a perfect bite of plump mussels poached in a saffron-tinged broth nestled with purple potato gnocchi, charred leeks, spring vegetables, and edible flowers in a pool of glossy saffron beurre blanc.
"I love working with vegetables," said Chef Singh and it shows. I could be content with savoring a wonderful vegetarian meal solely comprised of his garden dishes, such as warm roasted beets glazed with kumquat butter and strewn with cumin-spiced pepita brittle and tangy Arizona goat feta; vibrant grilled broccolini displayed on a bed of lemon aioli and festooned with crispy shallots; silky confited and seared sunchokes with ground Marcona almonds, sherried beurre blanc, and fragrant lemon balm; and addictive patatas bravas, Chef Singh's version of Spain's potato tapas dish, with twice-fried potatoes tossed in salsa verde and accompanied by poblano crema, cotija cheese, pickled red onion, and cilantro.
Chef Singh has a way with seafood, and crispy-skinned, moist fillets of sea bass were served perched on heirloom cannellini bean ragout, turnips, frisée with smoky rendered pancetta sparked with Minus 8 vinegar, and chermoula (a North African herb sauce) scented with cilantro and oregano.
Veal cheeks were braised to luscious fork-tenderness in veal stock and complemented with a summer staple, potato salad, along with braised shallots, saffron rouille, and pickled Fresno peppers. Superb Colorado lamb chops were boosted with coffee-roasted organic carrots and a layered, complex ancho mole that almost stole the show, a family recipe from one of Chef's talented kitchen staff.
Steak and 'shrooms featured Arizona beef with a juicy prime New York steak sliced and enhanced with mushrooms and Chef's version of A-1 sauce, with components of raisins, tomatoes, and worcestershire contributing to its umami richness.
Heralding the finale of our decadent night were coconut macaroons and another cocktail off the new menu - Cotton, a frothy blend of Nolet gin, Clement Mahina Coco coconut rum liqueur, heavy cream, Giffard orgeat (almond syrup), Yellow Chartreuse, and soda.
Our decadent night culminated with a clever Artizen Drumstick, an ode to the childhood ice cream truck treat, served as a crunchy waffle cone filled with housemade popcorn and date-caramel ice creams, dipped in Callebaut chocolate ganache, and decorated with white chocolate pearls.
"Your dishes are all so refined and delicious - I think this is your best work yet!" I enthusiastically shared with Chef Singh. Full and happy, we left convinced this meal will remain one of the highlights of 2017.
Artizen is located at The Camby Hotel at 2401 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016 and is open seven days a week. For reservations, call (602) 522-6655.
I was hosted by Artizen and our meal was complimentary