Sel Scottsdale

Reviewed By: Andy
Oh boy it has been awhile since our last review, but time to get back into the groove. Every now and then we go out and I say, "We really need to write up this place". And sometimes I say it, but the tone is totally different (re-read with your more sinister voice). We were recommended to check out Sel Scottsdale and were told we would be blown away. While not quite blown-away, it was a unique dining experience.

Ambience:  When you first arrive they have the table setting out front, with the menu available to peruse. We skipped right through since we had a reservation and were greeted immediately at the front door. Your first thought when entering is, "Wow, this place is tiny". Tiny restaurants tend to have lots of charm, and Sel fits the bill with lots of velvety covered chairs and a giant herringbone patterned tile floor. The space is well lit and dimmed nicely with the setting sun. While it could probably make for a romantic evening for some, it lacks sound dampening to have that fun casual conversation. More of a yella-sation.

Quality:  This is where I was expecting to have my mind blown. Reading through the menu you can see that the chef went to great care to pick ingredients and flavor profiles you will not find in most restaurants. Look at the photos (credit Sel Scottsdale) and you can see that the chef is certainly above anything a plating artist. I started with the ginger-carrot soup and an heirloom tomato salad. The soup was bold and was a great mix of the sweetness from the carrot and bite from the ginger. There was a coconut foam that provided some relief to the powerful flavors. The salad was a few small slices of heirloom smothered in pickled vegetables. For my entree I had the venison. It was slightly overcooked which made the last few bites dry, and the sauce really did not seem to fit. Leslie had polenta and vichyssoise, and the diver scallops as her entree. I tried the scallops and Leslie agreed they were way over salted, and I love salty dishes. The polenta was a nicely textured cake with morrels and microgreens. The dish was delicious, however lacked balance in flavors. The dressing on the greens seriously overpowered the rest of the dish. 

Service:  The servers were excellent, but a bit slow to get that first drink order in. We were well attended to and when the hostess noticed we were having trouble with the overall volume, she offered us a table in the corner which lessened the bar noise a degree.

Value:  After tip, and with one cocktail each, this was just under $300 and I left still hungry. While it was more than obvious the expense that went into the ingredients (poached lobster, smoked uni hollandaise, squid-ink ancho mole) we didn't feel the dishes really worked. For some, the flavor profiles were all over the board and for others they were dominated, either by salt or acid. I wanted a balanced dish that was tasty as well as composed. Sel is certainly a top-notch restaurant and I would be inclined to try it again. If I could send one word of advice to the chef, it might be SIMPLIFY. Too many rich flavors in a single bite can sometimes cross the line.