As soon as I pulled my car around and saw the charming entrance, I knew I was in for a delightful experience. Crudo is tucked away in the Gaslight Square Plaza on 36th Street and Indian School Road. The setting adds to the charm of this establishment, which is recognized as being one of Phoenix’s finest.
I loved the ambiance as I entered the restaurant. It’s tastefully decorated with an understated, modern flair. The dining room has a quaint atmosphere that is intimate and romantic with low lights and nicely spaced tables. And for larger parties, a separate area surrounded by three walls of windows creates a wonderful, secluded feeling.
Owners Chef Cullen Campbell, his wife Maureen McGrath Campbell, and Micah Olson have been perfecting their craft for the past three years, earning them much recognition and putting Crudo on the map.
Chef Cullen enjoys cooking with raw fish and Italian ingredients. He combines the two with a tasting menu that is sure to please. Cullen also has a knack for creating Italian entrees with a Southern twist—after all, he is from Tennessee— and brings new flavors together to create amazing cuisine.
“We consider ourselves an adventurous bunch and cater to those who seek out a unique experience,” shares Chef Cullen.
McGrath Campbell works in front of the house, and she’s perfect for that position with her warm, friendly smile and energetic personality. Both she and her husband came from the restaurant industry, so they understand the hours of dedication needed to run a successful restaurant.
“It pleases me to watch our diners enjoy my husband’s cooking,” shares McGrath Campbell.
Olson, the mixologist and certified sommelier, creates many wonderful drinks with fresh squeezed juices and herbs. He has earned much recognition for his delicious creations, including The Arizona Republic Critic’s Pick for “Best Cocktail Bar.”
An Evening of Tasting
There are three-, four- and five-course meals that are priced accordingly, offering a great tasting of a variety of items. The menu is broken down into four categories. The first category is Crudo (which means raw). Chef Cullen specializes in serving flavorful sashimi, which is thinly sliced raw fish served without rice. Choices listed are Albacore, Yellowtail, Butterfish and Ahi. There is also a raw vegetable dish. I had the Yellowtail, one of my favorites, and it was very fresh and tasty.
The second category is Cotto, where you have choices of cooked items that have more of an Italian flavor. They include Risotto, Semolina Gnocchi, Potato Gnocchi and a cooked fish item. I thoroughly enjoyed the Semolina Gnocchi, which was unlike any other gnocchi this Italian has had before, but was very good with a serving of tender lamb neck and truffles.
The third category is Mozza, which lists different prepared cheeses. The choices are Burrata, Ricotta, Burricotta, Grilled Mozzarella and Fresh Mozzarella, which are all served with just the right accompaniment to enhance the cheese’s flavor. The homemade Ricotta had a hint of honey and was drizzled with olive oil. I enjoyed spreading it on a slice of the wood-fired grilled Noble bread. Delizioso!
The final category is Griglia, where you’ll find grilled items. Those listed are wood-fired grilled Yellowtail Collar, Lamb Belly, Brisket and Pork Belly. The Brisket is slow roasted and shaved, then cooked on a wood-fire grill, which gives it a wonderful flavor. Wow, I am a big fan of Brisket and this was one of the best I’ve tasted! My mouth is drooling just thinking about how tender and wonderfully flavorful it was. It’s served with mushrooms over cannellini beans. This entrée alone is a definite winner.
Hard Work Pays Off
For the past 20 years, Chef Cullen’s passion has grown, starting at age 18 as a dishwasher, later as a line cook, and then into the catering business. He worked on developing the concept for Crudo for a couple years in a small restaurant behind a leading Salon in Scottsdale.
With the same passion and dedication that went into creating Crudo, they’re opening a new restaurant next month called Okra. It’s located at Dunlap and 7th Street, featuring Southern cooking with an Italian twist.
Yes, the whole team works together to assure their diners have a memorable culinary experience. Amanda, one of the servers, sums it up nicely, “Without passion, what’s the point!”
Note – The restaurant is closed the first two weeks of July and will reopen on July 14th. You can still make reservations to experience the wonderful cuisine for yourself.