Touted as Phoenix’s “most-anticipated” openings of 2019, Century Grand and Platform 18 are a restaurant, bar, and bottle shop duo housed in an unassuming building on Indian School Road that was once Gino’s Pizza. Fans of the underground tiki bar, UnderTow (see post here), and the now-closed Pobrecito (see post here), will be thrilled to know that Jason Asher and Rich Furnari of Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality are shaking up the cocktail scene once again, this time with an innovative dining twist.
When setting foot inside the dark grey building, the guest will find themselves in a stunning Art Deco style dining room and bar – think vintage crystal chandeliers, backlit bar, jazz music humming – plus a lovely outdoor patio. To the left of the entrance is the Grey Hen, a bottle shop boasting the largest single-barrel selection of whiskey in the country. And opposite of the Grey Hen located in Century Grand is Platform 18, the main bar, which IMHO is also the main attraction.
You see, the interior of Platform 18 is that of a Presidential Pullman-inspired train car serving cocktails and libations. Those with vertigo beware because the “windows” are tv screens projecting videos of a wintery scene traveling through the American Rockies. Snow is glistening on the ground and in the pine trees while the interior of the “cabin” is dimly lit. You are led to your assigned seats by a bartender/conductor clad in suspenders and bow tie. On your reserved table are two freshly poured champagne glasses. Thus, your journey has begun.
You are presented with a cocktail menu (more like a small book) called “The Man Behind the Curtain”. The pages therein lay out a story introducing Hollis Cottley Pennington, a railroad tycoon and bootlegger, whose character was inspired by the great industrialists of the turn of the century like Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick (his portrait is spot on). Within the chapters of the book are lists of cocktails, totaling approximately 50, with names like Man of Mystery, Blurred Lines and Weekly Shipments. You have a 90-minute time frame in which to enjoy your experience. But never fear, for the next journey is just as special, and will fill your stomach as it starts to rumble louder than the sound of the rumbling train.
Rich and Jason paired with Valley superstar chef Sacha Levine to round out the experience. If many of you, like me, didn’t make it to Singh Meadows while Chef Levine was there, then fear not. For at Century Grand, she is given ample creative license in the kitchen. In addition to 15 items offered on the menu year-round, like the Four Corners Chicken Fried Burger and the Japanese Fried Eggplant (not to miss!), an abundance of small plates are offered “dim sum style”, that is wheeled around on metal carts where your bill is stamped for each small plate that you order.
We opted to sit on the patio so I could snap some pics while it was still light out. Before I could arrange the napkin on my lap, the sommelier came around with the wine cart featuring organic and biodynamic selections from around the globe. Yes, this is an experience in which you really need to pace yourself.
I recommend you try as much as you can inhale, or as much as your pocketbook can sustain. The oyster cart came next, offering chilled oysters served on the half shell in a yuzu mignonette, with the option of adding a shot of Scotch.
What you will get next depends on the time of year and market availability. I can tell you that the two times I went I had the yellowtail crudo, which was as tasty as it is beautiful. Also not to miss is anything with Chef’s pimiento cheese which will blow your mind.
We tried our best to enjoy a tasting after dinner at the Grey Hen, but it was too packed and we were about to pass out. Another time no doubt, although I will have to go with someone else as Hubby had an unfortunate experience with Scotch while studying in Scotland in the 80’s and eschews anything Scotch or whiskey related. One more note about the Grey Hen, in addition to selling whiskey and other spirits, the Grey Hen can host tastings and educational events.
I certainly hope you have read this far, because the most important thing to note is that reservations are highly recommended for both Platform 18 and dinner at Century Grand. Yes, you can try your luck as a walk-in, but your experience will be highly improved if you take the time to go on Open Table and reserve your spots. You see, the first time I went, I made a reservation for dinner thinking that I could also have a drink in Platform 18. That is not the case. And there is no way to sneak around it. Instead of bouncers there are two svelte, attractive ladies whose sole purpose is to make sure you do not go into the wrong area. Reservations can be found on their website which I have conveniently listed for you below. All aboard! xoM