What’s not to like?

Let me introduce myself. I am not a ‘foodie’ (sounds like an unpleasant emoticon). I like food. I like drink. And sex n’ drugs n’ rock and roll. Don’t all normal people?

Atlas Bistro BYOB doesn’t serve up sex n’ drugs n’ rock and roll. I’ve been around a bit (lived in Montreal, London, Venice). Phoenix is a hell of a place for scenery, sports, beer … But let’s face the brutal truth, my fellow Phoenicians: the city’s full of mediocre, unreliable, pretentious and over-priced restaurants. Were Atlas in Montreal, London or Venice I’d be there as often as possible.

Consider the food. Haven’t eaten it yet? Scan this website’s sample menus. My opinion is that they read like the fare expected of any top-flight restaurant nowadays: the finest ingredients unfussily prepared. Like most people who love to eat I’m a passionate cook. My acid test for a restaurant is: can I make this in my own kitchen? The answer is ‘yes’ for some of the dishes at Atlas: the raw ones. In his kitchen Chef Cory is a culinary magician. And his sous Luis isn’t the magician’s apprentice. Most other places Luis would have his own sous. In the common run of things brilliant chefs have violent tempers. I’ve stuck my curious nose into Cory’s kitchen. Cory and Luis are really nice guys. Go figure.

Consider the drink. Adjoining Atlas is AZ Wine: in fact one enters the restaurant by way of the wine shop. Now I used to buy wine for a Cambridge College (our cellar dates back to 1473 – not that we retain bottles more than a few hundred years old). AZ Wine is one of the three best wine shops I’ve frequented. It is superior to Berry Brothers & Rudd, for example.
I’m not a ‘wine snob’. It’s just that I like to drink. My acid test for a wine shop is: do I have this in my own cellar? Sometimes the answer is ‘yes’: that would be because I’ve purchased a case or two from AZ Wine.
So, by this point I’ve convinced you in spades to visit Atlas. You’re smart and don’t ‘bring your own bottle’. You follow my example and invariably browse AZ Wine, purchase a bottle or two or three, then make your way through the door to Atlas (trust me: reservations essential).
Maybe you love wine, but aren’t confident in your own judgement? Todd’s your man. Mr Sawyer runs both Atlas and AZ Wine. He is a sommelier extraodinaire (in English = ‘this lovely man has forgotten more about wine than we’ll ever know’). First, browse tonight’s menu and choose your dishes. Second, secure Todd’s assistance in marrying up food and wine.. Third, tell him your budget. Fourth, accept Todd’s advice. Last but not least, the corkage charge couldn’t be more reasonable.

Food. Drink. Again last but not least, ambience. Phoenix restaurants: pretentious as hell (as hellish as our summers). Atlas is a simple room. Not many tables. They are well-separated, so you dine in privacy. The chairs are comfortable. On the walls hangs provocative art. Nothing but nothing is rushed. Menus appear promptly. Atlas doesn’t patronise you: you are given time to read through the menu, but aren’t left waiting. At the right moment a server is at your side. Likely enough that would be Todd. What’s Todd like? The ultimate pro – his expertise leavened by sardonic wit. Todd takes you through Cory’s menu. Ever been to a restaurant where they not so gently nudge you towards the most expensive option: the tasting menu? Todd inquires about your likes and dislikes and gives you a perfect steer. Then he uncorks your wine. Bet you’ve been to a ‘fancy’ restaurant where two things happen. First, the server waits until your mouth is full of food then swoops down on your table to ask ‘is everything OK?’. Second, the courses are banged out so quickly that you’re just eating one when its successor arrives. Like you’re in a big hurry to pay the bill and vacate the table.

My wife and I are frequent visitors to Atlas. Special occasions: our wedding anniversary. Her birthday. I am feeling hungry. Hungry for the tasting menu.

Do you love food? Do you love drink? Do yourself a favor. Atlas.

So look I did you a favor. Reciprocate. Buy me a beer.

Robert Wardy