Restaurant Review: Phares' Kitchen

by Walter Pierce

Ambassador seafood and steak restaurant undergoes menu overhaul.

Ambassador seafood and steak restaurant undergoes menu overhaul. By Kari Walker

Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014

Photos by Kari Walker

Chef Pat Waters, left, and sous chef Zach Doise cook up
creations that bring new life to Phares' Kitchen.

Gone are the days of a beloved raw bar and chargrilled oysters at Phares Restaurant (pronounced like ferris wheel). While this loss has brought on grumbles from customers seeking out older menu items, a vibrant and fresh menu is bringing in new customers looking to experience revamped cuisine. With a slight name change of the restaurant to Phares' Kitchen also comes a change of hands in the kitchen. New executive chef manning the helm is Pat Waters with the help of sous chef Zach Doise. In the past Waters served as head chef at Café Vermilionville and Doise was owner-operator of food truck LA StrEAT.
The new menu Waters debuted in late July reflects some of the creations he experimented with at various after-hours events coordinated as part of the Skeleton Kroux pop-up dinner series. In place of oysters on the half shell, Phares' Kitchen's guests now have a variety of craft cocktails, small plates, salads, flat breads and innovative entrées from which to choose.

At first glance, the cocktail menu has something for everyone - the grilled lemonade is intriguing with a blend of Buffalo Trace bourbon, grilled lemons, rosemary simple syrup and a house-made pecan wood-smoked ice chilling the refreshing beverage. As the cubes melt, the smoked flavor intensifies to offset the sweetness of the lemonade. If you're seeking a small nibble to go along with cocktails, take a glance at the small plate and flat bread menus as any pairing of these items is the perfect portion for snacking. The grilled peach flat bread satisfies the tastes of summer with creamy goat cheese, arugula and crispy bacon happily melting together with the natural syrup of the peaches - the portion is priced right at $10 for sharing as an appetizer or for one as a light meal. An added bonus if you're seated in the middle of the dining room is the view of the brick oven where the flat breads are baked fresh to order.

Steak lovers with a more voracious appetite swill not be disappointed when selecting the veal porterhouse. This large chop is tender and comes served with a grilled cauliflower steak and smoky tomato sauce topped with an olive relish - the blend of flavors will remind you of an Italian puttanesca-style dish. Don't be intimidated by the size of the chop because whatever is left behind at dinner will be just as tasty as tomorrow's lunch.

Veal porterhouse chop served with cauliflower steak,
smoky tomato sauce and olive relish

And for seafood lovers, not all good things have come to an end: The barbecue shrimp, scallops and market fish are excellent choices celebrating the sea. But for Phares' Kitchen the change in menu direction comes with the acknowledgment that getting quality and consistent quantities of the best catches from the Gulf of Mexico has become a challenge since the BP oil spill, meaning this cannot be the primary focus of the restaurant.

"Oysters are taking five years to turn around," says owner Maria Phares. "Sometimes it's difficult for us to get enough quantities of fresh Gulf fish, too - and we don't want to rely on a frozen product."

With decreased supply comes increased demand and increased pricing, making it difficult for Phares' to keep up with the soaring market.

The shift to a seasonal menu that changes with what's available from local suppliers makes sense in order to carry on the Phares brand, so grab a table for your crowd and sample some of the newest culinary innovation in town.

Phares' Kitchen
3502 Ambassador Caffery Pkwy.
(337) 504-3002