$cratch

Photo by Perla Farias The newest addition to downtown Phoenix, Scratch, provides a French taste.
Photo by Perla Farias

Where hole-in-the-wall cafés and coffee shops litter refurbished spaces in downtown Phoenix, another regenerated piece of real estate recreates the cuisine and environments of Paris.

With its French café serving as the newest of these newly inhabited spaces, Scratch aims to fill a gap of exquisite, complicated taste palates.

Opened for just over a month, upkeep is performed by the husband and wife team of Duc and Noelle Liao, who control the culinary and business side of things respectively.

Located on downtown’s eastern outskirts, between Roosevelt and 3rd Street, it takes up a portion of the space once set to house Canvas, the abandoned site of a nightclub before renovation halted indefinitely.

This Scratch is their second to open, following their Scottsdale pastry shop, which opened in 2008.

Furnished in predominantly blacks and whites, the café’s interior is a place where minimalism and uniformity dominate — the Liaos attempt to synthetically cultivate a piece of France, cuisine and all, in the middle of the arid desert.

Scratch is a juxtaposition of styles providing fresh French taste in the arid desert. Photo by Perla Farias Scratch is a juxtaposition of styles, providing fresh French taste in the arid desert.
Photo by Perla Farias

Adding to this illusion, authentic Parisians compose some of their waiting staff. All the waiters were polite to a fault, frequently checking on their tables. This even extended to the chef himself, personally visiting customers on his nights in the kitchen.

Not an item is out of formation, ready for the photographer at a culinary magazine to capture at any moment:

Near the front entrance, the white bar and the register possess their own islands, forming the rudimentary shape of an L, a rectangle if you include the high steel tables a few feet away.

Any traces of carpeting — if there were any before — are obliterated by an acid-stained black floor.

Sitting atop the concrete are 16 stainless steel tables and matching chairs, made elegant by a black covering on top of each chair.

Contributing to the French vibe is the open kitchen layout, where the chest-high dividing wall provides patrons with a view of chefs preparing meals.

The only clue that gives away the space’s past as a former blue-collar establishment is the brick-and-mortar work wall leading to the pastry shop.

In addition to the interior design, various menu options also seem to assimilate Europe with the U.S. Some of the chef’s dishes capture Parisian cuisine and throw it in a blender with American sensibilities.

As is the case with many variations on the burger, individual ingredients contribute to a unique flavor for each menu item as a whole.

The Kobe-style burger, served with Wagyu meat, a Japanese beef, is sandwiched between a tomato, a thick slice of parmesan cheese and sautéed mushrooms. The saltiness of the parmesan compliments the crackling oily flavor of the mushrooms, which have been browned in a pan.

Scratch blends local and global cutlures to bring a customer cuisine. Photo by Perla Farias The restaurant blends local and global cultures.
Photo by Perla Farias

This merging of the two cultures  — Japanese and French — is slight, and nothing radically original, yet it nevertheless provides a richness.

Despite a downgrade from the main course, the appetizers attract the second-most attention, behind the dessert items.

On any day, Camembert cheese, known for it’s mild salty buttery taste, is a delight. A whole meal could be centered upon scooping the melted cheese onto grilled French bread, which is exactly what Scratch does. However, as if by design, the small portion sizes beg for more.

The Camembert bread did not result in stereotypical gastric expansion of the belly. The chef had defined his food by taste alone.

Maybe for potent meals, which could overload the senses, it’s better to serve in doses.

Because of the small portions, no one in my group made telltale signs of loosening their slacks. Yet.

But then came the dessert, a digestible devil that came to tempt our stomachs.

Then server flaunted our choices on a white doily and a stainless steel tray. He held it at our eye level, a presentation suiting the opulence of France.

Who needs a sheet of dessert choices when you have the whole damn gambit literally in front of you?

IMG_6812e (1) Choosing dessert on a menu is hard enough, but when a display of mouth-watering treats is set in front of you, the decision becomes more complex.
Photo by Perla Farias

He rattles off a description of each delicacy, touting which of his summations could send the instinctual psyches and blood sugars into overdrive.

My poison was a Raspberry Mogador, a dark chocolate mousse with a thin layer of glaze on top and filling in the middle, in a the shape of an overturned large tea cup.

By itself, the dark chocolate surrounding the raspberry glaze is quite sweet, yet the tartness of the raspberry compliments it perfectly.

This is the perfect metaphor for Scratch as a restaurant and bakery; it takes dissipate ingredients and intrigues with the deliciousness of its combinations.

However, the sophistication comes at a price: $3.50 for homemade green tea! $7.25 for the appetizer! $12.95 for the Kobe Burger! $5.75 for dessert!

Not including the healthy 20 percent tip earned by our waiter, the subtotal of $29.45 added up quickly.

It’s especially steep considering a group of three can wine and dine at a burger joint down the road for the same combined total. This simple game of numbers may be their undoing, even if the reputations of the pastries and breakfasts go a long way.

 

Reach the writer at tccoste1@asu.edu or via Twitter @TaylorFromPhx

 


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