Relish Kitchen and Wine Bar has already been open for a whole year. Hard to believe it took us that long to revisit the space that used to house one of our favorite haunts — the quirky, family-friendly, decorated with mismatched furniture Create Cafe.
Perhaps it was the “wine bar” in the name that scared us a bit. Sounds very grown-ups-only, and the term conjures up images of big checks and too-small meals.
Happily, this is not the case.
Relish is fancier and sleeker than its predecessor. Burgundy and mustard-yellow paint bathe the walls. The furniture all matches, a mix of high and low-top tables as well as the money seat — a comfy L-shaped couch for larger parties. Three flat-screen TVs flash the top sporting events while pop music plays unobtrusively in the background. The open kitchen is still around.
It’s a comfy space that aims to please — just like its wide-ranging menu.
Chef/owner Stephen Hurd, who used to be clubhouse manager at Tucson Country Club, offers a little bit of everything: seafood, Italian, even ol’ fashioned steakhouse fare. A nice touch: Some entrees are available in half portions, a great option since not everyone feels compelled to supersize. While the wine selections are decent and cover the bases, there’s nothing to really excite an aficionado.
The fig and brie flatbread ($8) is a sweet and smokey starter even if the flatbread beneath it was reminiscent of the lackluster stuff you get out of a package from the grocery store.
There was no such complaint about the brioche — glistening with buttery goodness — cradling the pulled pork barbecue and a solid burger, topped with the standard fixings (both $10).
The Pasta Bolognese ($16/$11 for a half portion) was meaty and full-flavored, flecked with soft carrot and tomatoes, and it tasted pleasantly of wine. Fresh basil punctuated the penne while dashes of cream and butter richened things up but not too much.
Along with the expected standards, Relish offers some fun twists on its entrees, like the strawberry-onion jam accompanying the seared strip steak ($16). And the blackened mahi ($16), though a touch overdone, had a thick spice coating packed with just enough heat that was tempered a bit by a fresh pineapple salsa that added tangy sweetness.
For the full review, see Thursday's Caliente.