Chef's Pick: HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery

photo cred: david olsen

photo cred: david olsen

As soon as you walk into the newly renovated and expanded HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery, you may not instantly notice the changes. However, with a keen eye for detail, you'll notice brand new marble bartops, new tables and chairs. A new private dining room that can accommodate up to 30 persons, men's and women's restrooms, and a kitchen expansion with all new equipment are some of the other polishes.

What did not change was their menu. While HUB's menu was momentarily condensed during its renovation, finding a home under the roof of Martin Drug Co., Executive Chef Ben Caballero wanted to welcome back his guests with their original full menu, including all HUB favorites. However, Caballero does anticipate some menu changes later this month.

His favorite dishes are the enchiladas, which have journeyed with him from restaurant to restaurant. And the salmon, which was the first dish he created for HUB. Neither of these I had previously tasted in my prior visits.

What came to my surprise was that the enchiladas were not served in a plate of excessive red sauce, how I’ve always known them to be prepared. But rather, the chicken is neatly fixed in a beurre blanc (white butter sauce). Unfortunately because I’m lactose intolerant I was unable to clean the plate, but Caballero has successfully rebelled against the traditional red sauce.

In his beurre blanc, he blends roasted salsa verde, tomatillos, poblano, and cilantro, among other secret green ingredients, and mixes it with sour cream. The toppings: oaxaca, cheddar cheese, queso fresco and pico de gallo.

The salmon, which Caballero describes to be a new HUB favorite, is prepared with seasonal grilled vegetables (delicious), sundried tomato pesto, white wine butter and thin zucchini shoestrings. Tasting this dish reminded me how much I actually love vegetables and how salmon is flavorful when well prepared.

photo cred: david olsen

photo cred: david olsen

While at HUB, I had the chance to feed Ben my five q’s.

Why are these your favorite dishes on your menu?

When I first got into a kitchen, which was at La Hacienda, I used to do banquets. We used to make enchiladas with a red sauce but I asked if they were ever made with a white or green sauce. It was like I was speaking a different language! I made it for them, the chefs tried it, and they fell in love with it. They decided to switch it. In my first actual Executive Chef job where I opened Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, I was making them for lunch one day and was asked that I add it to the menu. This recipe has followed me from the north side to University to here.

The salmon was one of the first dishes I did for our menu. It was my first menu, first idea, and first plate that I finished in my head. It’s become a new HUB favorite.

What’s your favorite food memory?

The first time I had menudo. I was about eight years old. My dad’s cousin was cooking menudo and at the time I didn’t know what it was. I sat down, had a bowl and loved it. Once a month we’d visit her and she always had a pot of menudo for me.

What’s the hardest ingredient to cook with?

Rice because it’s one of the things, to tell you the truth, that I have had a problem with here. From the forbidden rice to the Spanish rice. We decided on a white rice we could add different things to; like for the enchiladas I add an avocado and poblano compound butter.

You’re eating in a restaurant other than yours, where is it?

I’m always going to Mi Nidito. It’s one of my places to go sit down and eat if I’m not here. I’ve been going there for a long time. When I walk in they know my name. They’re really friendly. They’re all the same servers and waitresses from the past twenty years. They know their clientele. Their food is always great. It feels like home almost.

If not there, I’m at Miss Saigon. I’m all about the pho.

Last weekend on Earth, what city are you eating in?

New York City all the way. I have a brother that moved to New York about two years ago and I’ll go visit him as much as possible. At one point you’ll be in Little Italy, you walk two blocks you’re in Chinatown. You find all kinds of different foods that are really close together. You can get everything there. Melting pot of the world!

 

Hub Restaurant & Ice Creamery is located at 266 Congress Street, Tucson, AZ, 85701 and is open daily, 11am-midnight. Visit them online at hubdowntown.com