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Sel Restaurant | Fine Dining in Scottsdale AZ

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Don’t Pass The Salt | Sel Restaurant Embodies Fine Dining in Scottsdale, AZ

Photography courtesy of Sel

Sel
At Sel, you’ll find layered flavors and exquisite presentation that exemplify superb fine dining in Scottsdale, AZ.

Chef Branden Levine and his wife May opened Sel, which means salt in French, a fine dining restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale, AZ in 2016. After working in restaurants across the U.S. and around the world, Levine wanted to open his own restaurant. A job opportunity for May in her family business brought the Levines to Scottsdale from the Washington, D.C. area. Before opening Sel, Levine worked at Rio Verde Country Club north of the Phoenix area and the award-winning Café Monarch in Scottsdale.

“Having my own restaurant allows me to focus on the dishes I want to make and the experience I want to create. As a chef you are constantly elevating and challenging yourself,” Levine says.

Levine grew up in Virginia where he learned to cook from his mother, who was a restaurant server. His mother and grandmother made everything from scratch from pies to pasta. 

“I loved cooking in the kitchen with my mother at home and then I worked with her. I bussed tables, became a line cook and learned the restaurant business,” he says.

“Having my own restaurant allows me to focus on the dishes I want to make and the experience I want to create. As a chef you are constantly elevating and challenging yourself,” Levine says.

Levine studied at Johnson & Wales University. His culinary career took him around the world from Aureole in Las Vegas and Julep’s New Southern Cuisine in Richmond, Virginia to Tanzania working for Elewana, a luxury safari lodging company.

Through his upbringing and culinary experiences, Levine has developed a unique and creative style. 

My food is eclectic with Asian and Mediterranean influences, French technique and Latin American flavors,” he says. “It’s about balance with layered flavors that complement each other.”

Sel offers a chef’s tasting menu with optional wine pairings. The tasting menu changes regularly to feature the highest quality seasonal ingredients.

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“Arizona has truly amazing produce and great local farms,” Levine says. “We try to use local suppliers and organic ingredients whenever possible.”

Recent items on the tasting menu include Malpeque oyster stew with smoked trout roe, ahi tuna poke with king oyster mushroom spaghetti, Iberico pork tenderloin schnitzel with fermented chanterelle mushroom ravioli, and seared Chilean sea bass with clam dashi chowder.

The restaurant also offers a vegetarian tasting menu with items like roasted broccoli soup with English white cheddar foam and black truffle, and roasted shiitake mushroom ramen with grilled kimchi.

In addition to the regularly changing tasting menus, Sel offers an a la carte menu. “There are several popular dishes that guests come in specifically for so we have them available,” Levine says.

Debby Wolvos

Favorites on the a la carte menu include Imperia Royal Ossetra caviar with deviled egg crème fraiche, Korean style beef short rib steam buns, grilled Spanish octopus with squid ink capellini, seared Hudson Valley foie gras and strawberry marzipan shortcake with vanilla bean gelato.

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Sel also offers a three-course Sunday brunch during the area’s busy season starting in January. Brunch options include a vegetarian and gluten-free roasted beet salad with candied black walnuts and goat cheese; braised pork belly tostada with pickled onion and coconut jam; scallop crudo with white truffle and smoked trout roe; octopus tacos with fennel seaweed salad and habanero mango aioli; and duck and waffles with Korean fried duck leg confit and a wild blueberry waffle.

Like the tasting menu, the cocktail menu also changes seasonally. Recently featured libations include a Mezcal Mai Tai with chile liqueur and pineapple juice, and Caviar Dreams with cucumber vodka and green juice topped with Kaffir coconut foam and caviar. Mocktail options include Kaffir Limeade with butterfly pea tea and Coco Fresa with coconut milk and macerated strawberries. 

While the ingredients are high end and the presentation is stunning, Levine wants guests to feel comfortable with an approachable fine dining in Scottsdale, AZ, experience. 

“We strive to create a warm and inviting environment where people feel at home and can be themselves,” he says. “In addition to positive feedback on the food and guests enjoying new flavors, we also get great reviews on the service and how the staff engages our guests and pays attention to detail. We have a great local clientele, and we also get a lot of visitors, many who are in town for some of the big events in the area.”

The Levines love the active lifestyle and the growing culinary scene in Arizona, and plan to expand their business to open other restaurant concepts in the future. 

“There is a lot of competition in the restaurant business in Scottsdale, but we have wonderful customers and Arizona is a beautiful place to call home,” Levine says.

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