Value, Flavor High Points for The Prime Restaurant
A restaurant is more than a place to eat. In order for one to be the kind that merits repeat visits, it has to have several parts working together in harmony. Naturally, great food is a given in the equation. Without providing a culinary experience worth savoring, a restaurant becomes nothing more than a place to go and be seen.
Even with a well-designed décor and a great deal of “buzz,” without tantalizing food, there is little to keep your attention. It is possible a restaurant can have spectacular food while lacking atmosphere and still succeed, the problem is that these places are seldom the type where you want to stay for long.
Another critical area is service. Nothing spoils a dining experience faster than inattentive service. Even if everything works: food, location and interior design, if the service is weak, those things easily wreck an otherwise positive experience. Hitting all of the key points, including a central location, The Prime Restaurant has had longevity in a business where dining establishments come and too often swiftly go.
Providing Chinese cuisine in Phoenix for 22 years is no minor achievement. In a city where change is a constant, establishments that can survive and thrive are few and far between. As the new light rail brings parts of the city together more efficiently and economically, its arrival brought about a drastic reconfiguring of downtown Phoenix. Fortunately, The Prime has been able to exist through those changes.
As a long-standing institution, The Prime has been something of a local secret. For those familiar with the area around Central Ave. and Camelback Rd., the place is well known. Minus a great deal of publicity, they have created an established following.
But even longtime Valley residents may be surprised to know of its existence. In spite of clear signage and a central location, it may fall of the radar for some. Once introduced to the place, repeat visits are inevitable.
If you have had Chinese cuisine in San Francisco, the quality is high. The probability of being closer to authentic to cuisine is much closer if you frequent places known to San Franciscans. Jenny, The Prime’s owner hails from San Francisco, a city well known for the amazing dining.
Being that the central reason for a restaurant’s existence is food, The Prime scores high. The Mongolia beef was spicy, but not over powering. The flavors were rich, but not overblown. There is an art to being subtle, and it was achieved here.
Another strong dish is the Sweet and Sour Chicken. Too often Chicken is killed by being heavy handed. With the light batter, rich flavor, it was hard to believe that chicken could become this transcendent. Having been to The Prime several times, I was amazed at the level of consistency. Every time I’ve there, the food has been a marvel to see and taste. Presentation is always an added plus.
Soups, always a benchmark for any restaurant, are universally worth sampling. Every soup I have ever had here has been a winner. Contrary to the idea of Chinese food being heavy, there is a graceful “light” quality to the food and the flavors are deep and compelling, No item here has ever been remotely greasy.
As to price, lunch items are in the $5.50 to $8 range while dinner items range in the $10 to $18 vicinity. Considering the portions, the quality and the atmosphere, this is probably one of the best values going.
One of the elements that make a place special is the atmosphere. If Chinese restaurants bring to mind dragons, lanterns and other “stereotypical” elements, The Prime eschews those things. Not unlike many upscale restaurants, the look here is restrained, minimal, but certainly not cold. The use of less is more is utilized here to good effect. Supporting local creativity, the restaurant’s walls feature local visual art talent on a rotating basis.
The service here is professional, unobtrusive and still friendly. There is an atmosphere here that is calming, welcoming and unhurried. It is hard to put into words the feeling The Prime imparts, but there is definitely a feeling of being in a location that makes return visits inevitable.
Factoring excellent food, great price points, a sophisticated atmosphere, comfortable furnishings and superlative service, The Prime Restaurant is a Phoenician institution well worth frequenting again and again.
The Prime Restaurant
24 West Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013
Monday through Friday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.