If first impressions are everything, Virtú Honest Craft knows how to make a splash. It instantly stands true to its name.
Walking into the hideaway, lit up with soft white lights, fancy fixtures and shabby-yet-very-chic touches, you instantly feel at home. The Old Town Scottsdale restaurant was named one of the best new restaurants of 2013 by Esquire. Naturally, I had to check it out.
Chef Gio Osso, head chef and owner, is a Italian Arizona transplant, who brings his craft of expertly prepared Mediterranean, seafood and pasta dishes using simple ingredients with a bit of upscale flair. Prices are special occasion worthy and just above average at about $20 to $35 per entrée.
When we arrived to a half-full dining room on a Sunday night. We made a reservation, and at first we thought we didn’t need it. Soon, hungry patrons came rushing in and within 30 minutes, every table in the restaurant was filled. My dining partner and I made a point to peek at entrees and small plates as they arrived at other tables, trying to make our final decisions.
To start, we ordered up two small plates—burrata cheese with grilled pear, macrona almonds, evoo dressed micro greens and honey, and grilled asparagus with a fried egg, feta, candied bacon, foie gras hollandaise and truffle oil. Small as they might be, both starters packed a punch. The burrata salad blended creamy cheese, slightly sweet pears and salted micro greens in a refreshing combination that could easily satisfy small appetites. The asparagus was the winner of the two for me, however, with savory, tender asparagus, sweet, crunchy bacon and creamy hollandaise (you can thank the foie gras duck fat for that.)
I noticed our expert server place our entrée order once our small plates were practically licked clean. With just eight entrees to choose from, the simple menu staples are quick to prepare, and each comes out like a work of art.
Fanciful plating is at the center of upscale cooking. Often chefs get carried away, making plates look more like a Jackson Pollock painting, but the crew at Virtú exercise beautiful restraint. Each of our entrees—a flat iron with truffle polenta fritters, meaty king oyster mushroom and chives, and duck with bacon-roasted brussels sprouts and sweet peppers—arrived as works of art. After all, you eat with your eyes first.
My dining partner graciously allowed me to take a bite of each of the items on his plate. First, the perfectly-grilled medium steak, was juicy and simply seasoned with salt-and-pepper. Some people like to get fancy with their steaks, but personally, I feel it’s best to let the steak to the talking. The polenta was the ideal starchy complement to the dish and the mushrooms added an extra meaty element to trick carnivores.
While the medium rare duck I ordered was certainly tasty—especially the crispy duck skin that surrounded the thin-sliced medallions—the star of the dish was the bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts. Brussels have a tend to have a bitter taste that makes 5-year-olds swear off the veg for life, but these were roasted heaven with a muted, savory bacon sauce that made them sing.
While we were already wholly satisfied, we decided to opt for dessert. And I’m so glad we did. We probably ordered the least adventurous dessert on the menu—a flourless chocolate torte.
Slightly warm and topped with peanut butter mousse and espresso ganache, this dessert is honestly (pun only slightly intended) one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. The flavors just sing. It might sound like your typical decadent dessert, but the salty-sweet peanut butter mousse paired with espresso with a tinge of bitterness really set off the smooth chocolate torte in a way that made my head swim.
So I have to say, not having tested the other restaurants on Esquire’s list, that they were 100 percent right about Virtú. And I can’t wait to go back.
VIRTÚ HONEST CRAFT
3701 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale