Okra

Good eating in the Valley of the Sun
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Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

4 years ago

Dom can probably tell you all more about this (nice first-peek write-up! http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertai ... /71396200/) but the folks behind Crudo are opening Okra on 7th St. just south of Bethany Home. They officially debut Sept. 16 and I urge you all to get over there when they do.

Cocktails -- definitely up to par with what they've got going on at Crudo. Originals, classics and variations on juleps -- lots of things to try! Though I'm going to be hard pressed to move past the delicious, well-balanced "New Gothic" (I'm not sure I remember all the particulars but I think rye, amaro, orange bitters & yellow chartreuse).

I don't remember the specific names they've given the menu sections but essentially there are small, medium and large plates. The waiter informed me that the small ones are just a little bigger than an amuse -- more like 3 or 4 bites -- the medium twice that size and the large sort of small entree-sized -- I think he said "you could do two of those" but maybe I am mistaken. For me (admittedly a light eater) a small and a medium were almost more than enough, but it may depend on what you order. In my case -- crispy chicken skins, with honey/habanero sauce. Pretty perfect balance of crispy/fatty/salty/sweet/hot. Not QUITE as addictive as Crudo's crispy pig ears, but definitely crave-able (DEFINITELY bigger than an amuse or even 3-4 bites; the serving was 3 large chicken skins. I found it more than plentiful). Then, mussels with "pot likker" and cornbread -- would almost be happy with just the cornbread and pot likker; fragrant and lovely. Slightly sweet cornbread (which my Texan Mama would've frowned at -- "only Yankees put sugar in their cornbread!" -- ha!) that soaks up all that lovely liquid; you might want to use that spoon to get it all!

SO many other things on the menu I'd have liked to try; I definitely look forward to (many) return visits.

Okra
5813 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
http://www.okraaz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/okraaz?fref=ts
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chrislee
Posts: 170
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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4 years ago

Will chime in soon with more details & pics but already big fans of Okra.

As said, great drinks. Food was fantastic. It's definitely Crudo 2. There's that same feel. Same interesting dishes. Same excellent execution. I do think we like the space even better than Crudo too? It's nicely laid out - more open. Has a nice vibe.

With Crudo already a favorite, Okra's going to be too!
Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

4 years ago

2nd visit on Sunday with a friend. It was decadent and delicious.

Fried chicken skins again -- they were my friend's favorite of the night. Definitely more than the described "3 or 4 bites" (not complaining!). Plenty for sharing between 2 or even 3 people. Gonna have a hard time not ordering these every time.

Bone marrow, biscuit & oxtail jam -- so rich, so good. The waitress delivered compliments from the kitchen that these & the chicken skins were our first two choices. I'd been a little worried that there wouldn't be enough to share but both the marrow bone and the biscuit were huge, and I had leftover jam to bring home and enjoy later. I'm pretty picky about biscuits and this was a nice one; not too heavy.

Grilled broccolini w/ sunnyside-up egg -- my "healthy" choice. Simple and lovely.

Pork cheek pot pie -- also crazy rich. Crust + olive oil mashed potatoes is kind of overkill, but delicious overkill. I enjoyed it but it'd be even better in, say, mid-January on a chilly, cloudy day. Hearty stick-to-your-ribs comfort food for sure. I ended up bringing 1/4 of it home and it was enough for a meal (though again, I'm kind of a light eater). I was afraid the crust wouldn't reheat well (microwave!) but it still had some nice flakiness to it so yay!

I stuck with the "New Gothic" cocktail and was not sorry, though I think this iteration was maybe a tad sweeter than on my previous visit. The waitress seemed a little taken aback and kept talking about how "spirit forward" it was -- like I was brave to be conquering such a thing -- but I find it nicely balanced and not at all too strong or overwhelming.

My friend had a "Spirit Animal" (he liked it ok but pronounced it "less complex" than he was expecting) and a mint julep (judged "too sweet" at first but once the ice melted in a bit he liked it better).

Having this place close to home/on the way home from work is gonna be DANGEROUS. I am smitten. Utterly.
artvandelay
Posts: 148
Joined: 7 years ago

4 years ago

Just want to echo the praise for this place so far. Went here last night and for a restaurant that has only been officially open for such a short time they are really firing in all cylinders.

Most importantly the food was fantastic. Took the whole family and everyone was thrilled. Kids has the cheese focaccio and fried mac and cheese balls. The focaccia was far closer to pizza and was wonderful. I tried a little and the crust was outstanding. They were also very pleased with the Mac and cheese.

I got the Tennessee hot chicken and the wife got the eggplant parm (she is a vegetarian). The chicken might be the best fried chicken I've ever had. The breading held up to the sauce nicely and the chicken was moist. The sauce had a kick but wasn't painful at all. It was really the perfect balance. I didn't try the eggplant but the wife really enjoyed it.

We also got a few sides. The fried Dilly Beans were a nice start. I really liked that they lightly pickled the beans. Also tried the biscuits, mashed potatoes and hoe cakes. All were great although I think the biscuits and hoe cakes should have been served with some butter.

We also got two drinks. The wife got the Pineapple propeller and I got the cool hand. Mine was a fruity, blended concoction that made me feel like I should be sitting poolside at a resort somewhere. We both really enjoyed them.

For dessert, we got a piece of the pecan pie. Again it was a hit. They are using a local pie bakery for those and it seems to be a great choice. Probably the best pie I've had in a long time. The crust, in particular, was perfectly flaky and buttery.

Just a word about service, which was impeccable. The staff were all very attentive. There was a slight delay in bringing out one of my kid's meals (which really wasn't a problem given how much food was already at the table) and they went ahead and comped it without even a word from us. Not necessary but very much appreciated.

All in all, this experience was one of the best I have had at a new restaurant in a very long time. To echo Bax, having this place so close to our house and working so well as an option for the whole family is going to be dangerous.
mwest
Posts: 37
Joined: 5 years ago

3 years ago

We hit Okra for the first time this past Sunday afternoon for happy hour and had quite a good experience. It was pretty empty at 4:00 PM on a Sunday, not too surprising, but some folks did trickle in. Brandon Casey was at the bar, Jackson later told us they are friends and go back a few years working together in bars on Mill Ave in Tempe. Nice to see another generation (well not quite a whole generation) of craft cocktail compatriots spreading their skills around the Valley.

Cocktails were up to the high standards set by Crudo. Jackson and Gemini were behind the bar and they both did a nice job being both efficient and social while making some tasty drinks. My wife had a Seelbach, I had a Pendennis System, then we had a couple Vieux Carres and finished off with an off-menu Jackson creation (I didn't get the name) with Rittenhouse rye, Fernet, sassafrass bitters and maybe something else. All were tasty and balanced. My only critique was that the Vieux Carre lacked a distinct flavor, tasted more like an Old Fashioned to me. Might have been the vermouth (I like Carpano Antica and they used another one I can't recall the name of).

Dang, those grilled okra are delicious! We had the mussels and the Tennessee hot fried chicken. Good cornbread in both dishes and the hot sauce had more vinegar tang than spicy heat, so that worked out well for my palate.

I like the food at Okra a lot more than the food at Crudo just based on my personal preferences not because of any quality difference.
J Live
Posts: 60
Joined: 4 years ago
Location: Phoenix, AZ

3 years ago

mwest wrote: I like the food at Okra a lot more than the food at Crudo just based on my personal preferences not because of any quality difference.
I think that's a real compliment to Chef Campbell. Nice to see a chef showing diversity in their menus. I liked Okra a lot, but Crudo has a firm spot in my top three restaurants in the valley. The person I don't want to dine with is the one who likes neither!
mrln242
Posts: 40
Joined: 6 years ago
Location: Tempe

3 years ago

Spicey chicken, good, great actually.
Battered beans, good.
BoneMarrow Oxtail, good.
Pizza, good.
Wings, good.
Chicken skins, good.
Desserts, good, lard in lemon pie, kill me please. So good.
All in all it was a light meal overall, :twisted:
In all seriousness everything is made really well and is tasty to the point of gratification. The one thing I wish I would have more of were notes of brightness. Partially its my fault for sure. The spicey chicken was made with ghost pepper sauce, not the regular sauce as I have a high heat tolerance and that was fantastic. The battered beans were crunchy and soft and briny as Im sure they were intended to be. It wasn't my favorite dish but it was really well done. The bone marrow, I just enjoy bone marrow. nothing innovative on this bone marrow but again it was made with a high degree of effort and quality. Pizza was good, not a contender but it for sure hit the spot. Wings were good, damn good actually. Im kind of a wing and fry connoisseur and these hit home with me. They definitely hit all the notes. Crunchy, soft, buttery, chickeny, spicey, salty, sweet, they were pretty awesome. Cluck chicharones are always amazing. Price point wasnt too bad. I enjoyed it overall.
Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

3 years ago

As a hardcore introvert, I've always been a little uncomfortable with the idea of being a "regular" anywhere. Like, once I'm recognizable then they know too much about me and I'm not cool with that (ha!).
But. I'm happy to say that I'm at a point where I'm able to relax a little and realize the upside of being a regular. They know what I like! And they're willing to play around, let me try new things, make things just for me. That's pretty cool.
Andrew Calisterio of Crudo/Okra is the first server to make me realize hey, it's cool to be recognized. To say (and make me hear) "hey, I know you, I'm happy to have you back, I want to treat you as a person and not just a ticket." On top of that, the man knows how to make a kickass cocktail. I respect his creativity, his talent, his professionalism and his knack for hospitality. So I'm extremely sad to hear that he's leaving Phoenix and moving back to the Bay Area (to, hopefully, bigger and even better things).

I went to Okra tonight, knowing he was working. Had his fantastic "New Gothic" which is my favorite Phoenix cocktail right now (though admittedly there are plenty out there I haven't tried! ;) ) and then he treated me to a "Right Hand" (rum, Campari, sweet vermouth, mole bitters? I think?). The man bought me a drink. I mean, c'mon. That's a top-notch server right there. He also let me try one of the drinks he's developing for the new menu -- leaving his mark before he goes away (it was refreshing/citrus-y and winter spicy at the same time; perfect for our balmy Phoenix winters! Tentatively titled a "Peace Out." :) ).

So hey -- he's working next Tues-Sat. If anyone wants some amazing cocktails and excellent customer service + creative, delicious versions of comfort food, get a seat at the bar at Okra. Have some cocktails and crispy chicken skins with the best bartender in town before he gets away from us.

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/restaura ... ea-7870356
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BillBuitenhuys
Posts: 397
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Location: Chandler, AZ
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3 years ago

Andrew will definitely be missed around here but he's a great addition to the House Spirits team.
He is a true bartender in the absolute most wonderful definition of the profession.
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chrislee
Posts: 170
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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3 years ago

Big fan of Andrew's too. Definitely a great bartender but the thing that makes him stand out is how nice he is.

Super sad he's heading back to SF. Will have to look him up when ever we get over there!
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GoBlue18
Posts: 84
Joined: 6 years ago
Location: Chandler

3 years ago

Ooh! any idea where he's going In the Bay Area? I just moved out here and would like to check out wherever he's going
Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

3 years ago

You can read the article I linked above for more info but the gist is:
"He’s accepted a job as the North California Brand Ambassador for House Spirits, the Portland, Oregon distillery best known for producing Aviation American Gin. Living and working out of San Francisco...Calisterio will be representing and maintaining the House Spirits brand in the Bay Area and Sacramento, in addition to hosting educational events and parties."
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chrislee
Posts: 170
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
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3 years ago

Andrew's behind the stick for 2 more nights. Go see him before he leaves.

#mrlee and I got in tonight & had some great drinks. Need to try the PTO from the new menu & had a killer egg nog. #mrlee's carrot cream soda was pretty rocking too!

Turns out in his new role that he's not going to be taking shifts at any of the 3+ places he's going to have under him. Kind of a bummer as he's so good with people. Will definitely look to hit those up when in SF though!

Food was excellent tonight as always as well!
Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

3 years ago

Continuing with the Andrew part of the thread -- I hear he's working at Whitechapel gin bar in San Francisco these days. I'd love to get out there to check out what they're doing....

I am sad that they took his "New Gothic" off the menu at Okra (though I'm guessing they'll still make one if I ask?) but I'm looking forward to trying more of the new offerings. I had a "Port in a Storm" a few nights ago -- "Copper City bourbon, ruby port, blueberries, lemon, almond, Mi Casa bitters." It was ok but nothing that made me think "YES, I want to drink THAT again!!" I also had the happy hour hot dog -- that particular night it was wrapped in bacon and a crespelle and topped with a bourbon/maple glaze. It tasted like breakfast meets campfire cookout (that's a good thing!).

Coming up on the 1 year anniversary of Okra, it remains one of my favorite places in town (even though I don't get over there nearly as often as I'd like these days).

Am trying to replicate the "New Gothic" at home. I have the ingredients (rye, Meletti amaro, yellow chartreuse, orange bitters) I just need to figure out the proportions! Hmmm....
DesertDoc
Posts: 84
Joined: 7 years ago

3 years ago

I have sent out messages to Micah and Andrew for the recipe for this great cocktail. Will post as soon as either gets back to me. I know a lot of people are at Camp Runamok...
DesertDoc
Posts: 84
Joined: 7 years ago

3 years ago

From Andrew...
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Bax
Posts: 79
Joined: 5 years ago

3 years ago

Ha, thanks!

I'd sent him a message on FB and this afternoon he replied with that exact thing. I told him that I currently have a different orange bitters so it wouldn't be quite the same to which he replied "If you're using Fee Brothers' orange just toss it." Ha! I had to sheepishly admit that that IS what I have in the house right now (having run out of AZ Bitters Lab and Scrappy's, and Fee Bros. is all Total Wine had on the night I needed orange bitters). For the record -- New Gothic with Fee Bros. while not correct, is drinkable. :)

I especially appreciate all the explanations for why those specific ingredients. My inner geek is happy.

Oh! Bonus info -- he says he's since revised it with a pinch of salt, which "may take more dilution." I haven't tried that yet, but will soon.
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