Hotel restaurants have some difficult territory to navigate. They often find themselves threading the needle between fare that is too exotic for some of their own guests and hotel food so anodyne that it has little appeal to anyone not staying overnight. For a Kimpton property, the added challenge is creating something distinctive to match the multiple brand identities under that umbrella. In Phoenix, the downtown Kimptom has the name Palomar, just as it does in places like Philadelphia and Beverly Hills. Unique to Phoenix is the restaurant Blue Hound.
Blue Hound is found on the second floor of the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix, which is itself part of the CityScape development. The address says Jefferson Street, and that is where to find the main entry for the hotel lobby. More direct access to the restaurant is found via the elevated outdoor plaza in CityScape’s eastern half. CityScape is at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix where light rail platforms are found every few blocks and a transfer hub is now under construction. Bike racks are found along First Street, as well as locations inside CityScape itself.
Blue Hound’s space flows into the Palomar’s second floor lounge area, but the restaurant also has its own marked entrance, recognizable by the heavy wooden door and a sign in the shape of, no surprises here, a blue dog. Inside, statues of blue hounds repeat the theme, but otherwise the space is subdued yet contemporary with bare concrete, high ceilings, Edison lights, natural wood, and plenty of windows offering a view of Central Avenue and the outdoor areas of CityScape. A private patio augments the indoor dining space during favorable weather.
Blue Hound’s approach has evolved and changed numerous times during the dozen years of the restaurant’s existence, largely depending on which chef has run the kitchen and who has been in charge of the bar’s extensive cocktail offerings. There has always been some consistency in offering contemporary American fare, and the current iteration of that approach delivers its strongest results with seafood and beef dishes, although the menu, like that of any hotel restaurant, is designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of dietary preferences.
There’s often some playfulness and creativity at work here, and that approach is exemplified by an appetizer described as the BHKC 900° Hot Stone. Wagyu beef or yellowfin tuna is served atop a heated disc which sears the meat. A dropper of serrano ponzu sauce is provided to allow precision in adding spice and moisture to the protein. Two types of flatbread appetizers mix both Spanish influences like manchego cheese and Mexican touches such as avocado crema. A smooth roasted sunchoke bisque is given a bit of contrasting color with black truffle chimichurri.
At lunch, another velvety soup is offered, currently a red pepper and tomato blend. It can be ordered with a half sandwich as part of a midday special, and the grilled cheese with added umami from mushrooms is a strong contender for the best match in this pairing. Other lunch options include sandwiches like a turkey club or a tarragon chicken salad BLT with a side of fries, fruit, or salad. Power bowls, which focus on combinations of healthful ingredients in a single vessel, have included duos such as shrimp and mango or chicken and quinoa.
The dinner menu, as expected, is both more ambitious and more expensive, with some entrees past the $50 threshold. Fortunately, the quality mirrors the cost. A showcase dish from both aesthetic and culinary points of view is the Net of the Sea. The net in this case is a lattice of puff pastry topped with a mixture of seaweed salad, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and even a bit of lobster meat. Less dramatic but equally impressive is the cilantro-crusted Chilean sea bass with a smoky tomato romesco sauce, grilled broccolini, toasted almonds, and curly leaves of frisee.
As a hotel restaurant, Blue Hound must also meet the morning needs of its visitors. Both a standard breakfast menu and weekend brunch are offered. On Saturday and Sunday, entrees like chicken and waffles with maple syrup and hot sauce or lemon pancakes topped with ricotta and berries expand upon the usual morning fare. At the other end of the day, desserts, generally sold only with dinner, include seasonal fare like a hemispherical pumpkin cheesecake encased in an outer shell of dark chocolate or cinnamon fried apples with a fritter-like consistency.
Blue Hound’s bar, which dominates the front half of the restaurant’s interior, is defined by its original cocktails. An emphasis on dark spirits is evident in the Blue Hound Old Fashioned, made with bourbon of course, and the Open Sesame, crafted with black sesame infused rye whiskey. A Southwestern touch is found in the Pedro Conejo. This Peter Rabbit-themed cocktail incorporates a bit of carrot to add a bit of vegetable flavor and robust color to a drink that obtains its essence from sotol, a spirit derived from the desert spoon plant of northern Mexico.
Additional beverage offerings include six tap handles all offering Arizona craft beer. The wine list, in contrast, generally avoids nearby vineyards and focuses on vintages of global provenance. In the mid-afternoon, both drinks and bar snacks are available at happy hour discounted prices. With Palomar being just one subset of the Kimpton family, and Kimpton itself part of the much larger InterContinental Hospitality Group, it may be hard to keep track of all the brands involved. For food, though, Blue Hound is the name for an upscale meal at CityScape..
2 E. Jefferson St. Phoenix AZ 85004