The 2014 crop of outstanding new restaurants may not have been as plentiful as those in years past. But the ones that made the top-10 cut all cleared a high bar. And their culinary range was remarkable, from exquisite fine dining to down-home barbecue, from steak to Mexican-Asian fusion.
10. CuffChef Tom Harvey left the security of Scottsdale's tony Eddie V's to open his own place in downtown Glendale, and we're the beneficiaries of his entrepreneurial energy. The tasty and affordable fare includes irresistible crispy calamari, smoked brisket, pork-belly tacos and shrimp with grits in a pool of luscious tomato "gravy" studded with andouille sausage.Details: 5819 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale. 623-847-8890, cuffdowntown.com.
9. SumoMayaThe bustling scene at this Scottsdale hot spot is only partly fueled by its extensive list of spirits, cocktails, beer and wine. The energy also is unleashed by small plates with Mexican-Asian accents, like the Mexican "pho" soup; the sushi roll with adobo-grilled shrimp and jalapeños; skewers of miso-marinated Chilean sea bass; and the terrific rice tossed with duck, chile and salsa verde, sprinkled with Japanese seaweed.Details: 6560 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-397-9520, sumomaya.com.
8. Southern RailChef Justin Beckett (Beckett's Table) heads south of the Mason-Dixon Line for inspiration at this good-time spot, set in part of the space that housed Beef Eaters for 40 years. The good times stem from first-rate cocktails and dishes like fried green tomatoes, smoked trout, Wednesday-only fried chicken and duck confit with collard greens and dirty rice.Details: The Newton, 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 602-200-0085, southernrailaz.com.
7. Urban VineHe spent a decade basking in national acclaim at Kai. Now, chef Michael O'Dowd wants to bask in neighborhood acclaim. Set in the charming, century-old bungalow last occupied by Coronado Cafe, Urban Vine focuses on globally accented comfort fare, like peppercorn-crusted filet, mole-scented pork belly and Frito-crusted chicken. The nightly seafood-steamed-in-a-bag special really is special.Details: 2201 N. Seventh St., Phoenix. 602-258-5149, urbanvinephx.com.
6. Silver DragonSo much for retirement. After a seven-year break, chef Kam Yun is back in the kitchen, dishing out the same Cantonese favorites that wowed us for years. Ask for the "Chinese" menu, where you'll find gems like sui kui soup with pork and shrimp dumplings; crispy Hong Kong-style chicken; eggplant and pork hot pot; and superb barbecue pork chow fun.Details: 1739 W. Glendale Ave., Phoenix. 602-841-1346, silverdragonaz.com.
5. Forno FabbriYou can almost feel the Mediterranean breeze when you linger over a bottle of Primitivo or Nero d'Avola while sharing smartly fashioned small plates of meatballs, spinach gratin and prosciutto-stuffed Sicilian rice balls oozing with fior di latte mozzarella. Be advised: Peperonata Pomo, an eggplant and red-pepper casserole, is too good to share.Details: The Shops Gainey Village, 8977 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-907-5202, fornofabbri.com.
4. Steak 44This smaller, more casual sibling of swanky Michael Dominick's features the same great prime-grade beef. But you'll also find wonderful dishes like pork belly braised with honey and chile; superb meatloaf fashioned out of beef and pork; and a terrific side of bourbon-roasted sweet potatoes.Details: Camelback Village Center, 5101 N. 44th St., Phoenix. 602-271-4400, steak44.com.
3. Little Miss BBQInsanely scrumptious "Central Texas"-style brisket is the star attraction here. Slow-smoked over oak, pecan and mesquite, the beef is rich, juicy and ultra-flavorful. So are the sausages, made out of pork and beef trimmings. At any other place, the terrific barbecued pork ribs would be the destination dish.Details: 4301 E. University Drive, Phoenix. 602-437-1177, littlemissbbq.com.
2. Quiessence at the FarmNew ownership. New menu. And new chef Dustin Christofolo nails it with his deftly crafted seasonal fare. Look for persimmon salad with pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts; hamachi crudo; homemade gnocchi with duck confit; and pork chop with fig salad and roasted beets.Details: The Farm at South Mountain, 6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix. 602-276-0601, qatthefarm.com.
1. Atlas BistroNew chef Cory Oppold brings serious fine-dining skills to Atlas Bistro's contemporary American menu template, which prizes ingredient-driven sophistication. The menu, tweaked daily, has spotlighted chanterelle mushroom ragout; butter-poached pheasant; and gorgeous halibut with couscous and artichokes. Atlas Bistro is a BYOB — this is the time to uncork your best bottle.Details: Wilshire Plaza, 2515 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. 480-990-2433, atlasbistrobyob.com.
Howard Seftel, Republic Restaurant Critic
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