Review: Prep & Pastry

2014-05-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T10:20:33Z Review: Prep & PastryBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

People don’t seem to mind waiting at Prep & Pastry.

At breakfast, lunch or brunch (no dinner service here), it isn’t unusual to find people outside the restaurant calmly checking their phones, visiting, just lounging around waiting for their chance for a table and a meal.

We set out to find out why.

Make yourself at home

Prep & Pastry kind of hollers “settle in, let’s chat, let’s not.” In short, there’s a serious country-fresh, at-home vibe to it. The blackboard walls have chalk scribblings with such pithy sayings as “tea time any time,” “all you need is bacon” and “if you can’t stay take me away,” an indication that they’ll pack up whatever you want. The tables are a bare blond wood that matches the high, beamed ceilings, and windows wrap around the building, allowing sunlight to stream in. There’s patio dining, and something about it says comfy, too, even while it looks out over the small strip mall’s parking lot.

Good beginnings

Whoever came up with the maxim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day must have eaten at Prep & Pastry.

And must have had the duck confit hash ($11).

It is lovely to behold, and heaven to indulge in.

The hash (such a harsh word for such a decadent dish) has chunks of dark and gamey duck confit (that’s the bird’s thigh meat) tossed with wilted spinach and topped with a gently fried, over-easy egg. Small rounds of country-style hash brown potatoes, crispy and seasoned with onion and bell peppers, sit on the side. Cherries add a sweet edge, and a dollop of goat cheese serves as a crown. Everything about this dish was plain ol’ wondrous: the eggs, from Zambudio Farms in Elfrida (the restaurant goes local as much as possible), were so fresh they nearly clucked. The duck was moist without being greasy. The crispy home fried potatoes, made with fingerlings, were tossed together with thought and spiked with the cumin and fennel that seasoned the duck.

Sure, it’s rich. And hefty. But we found that leftovers hold quite well and make a fine dinner.

The fresh eggs also made the omelette ($8.50), which changes from day to day. On this visit, that was sausage, fresh and wilted spinach, and gruyere cheese. You almost had to tie it down, it was so light. A side of fried potatoes filled out the plate — these were made with Idaho potatoes and, unfortunately, were underseasoned. But hey, salt and pepper are on the table.

Not your mama’s sandwiches

This is Lunch. With a capital L.

The grilled cheese ($8) has arugula, pistachio pesto, tea-smoked tomato, brie, mozzarella and Parmesan.

The Bacon Lucy ($10) is a hamburger patty on a brioche with eggs and bacon.

They were tempting, indeed.

But the waiter said he had a soft spot for the Cubano ($10.50), and we must admit it sounded very tempting. Duck confit, ham and stone-ground mustard joined up with a made-there pickle, and they were all nestled between two slices of toasted ciabatta. The slightly nutty taste of cumin permeated the tender, tasty meats which, unfortunately, were way oversalted (even this big salter found it a bit much).

That was not an issue with the The Dip ($9.50) — a changes-daily version of the traditional French dip sandwich. This day, that was marinated and grilled tri-tip with a blanket of gruyere. The side of au jus was abundant, and a dunk infused the sandwich with a moist richness.

Feeling the need to be healthy, the beet salad ($8.50) seemed wise. Fresh, roasted beets — a generous amount of them — mixed with greens, crunchy pecans, crisp apple and julienned zucchini. Now, we are pretty sure the gouda cheese the menu promised was missing, but it was a nonevent — the salad, topped with a dressing puckering with cider vinegar was the good-for-you kick we wanted without leaving a sense that you were just eating it because it was good for you.

Maybe not so good for you

As though we had some unconscious desire to negate the healthful aspects of the salad, we had dessert. Hey, “pastry” is in the name. It’s a tough job, but someone — you know how it goes.

We’ve had the dossants ($4) from the restaurant before, and the combo doughnut/croissant was positively decadent. But when we had one at lunch, we found it to be heavy. Sure, the maple and bacon that covered our dossant was sweet and salty, but the dough isn’t as tender and tasty when they’ve been around for a few hours. Our conclusion: Get these babies in the morning, freshly out of the oven. That’s when they are the most swoonable.

The Oreo-inspired cookie ($2.50), too, didn’t live up to expectations. Two large chocolate discs with a fluffy butter-cream frosting sandwiched between them made for a hefty treat. But the cookies were hard, and the filling so oversweetened with vanilla that there was little else you could taste.

On the other hand, a green tea scone ($3.50) we had with breakfast was perfection: slightly sweet, flaky.

Cheers

The restaurant, which opened in January, has recently secured its liquor license and built a bar. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are served.

Who’s who

The four co-owners are young go-getters who first met when working at various Brian Metzger restaurants. They are: Nathan Ares, William Meinke, Billy Kovacks and Brian Pracko. Helming the kitchen is chef Donivan Hale who worked at both Acacia and Penca; and Kara Hranicka, who studied in France and is a culinary graduate from Johnson & Wales University, claims the pastry corner.

Service

Service was fine in the morning when it wasn’t as frantic; lunch service was choppy. The waiter forgot to put in part of our order, we waited for some time for a tea refill, and when we asked for to-go boxes he said he’d be right back with them, but wasn’t. In fact, it was another waiter who stopped at our table and offered to package up our leftovers.

We’re willing to cut some slack — it was awfully busy. Here’s hoping clumsy service smooths out. Even if it doesn’t, we’ll be back. Even with a few glitches, it’s worth waiting for.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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