Here is a report on our recent visit to Scottsdale and two restaurants we visited: T Cooks Restaurant at The Royal Palms and Kai at the Sheraton Wild Pass Resort. Let’s start with the entirely positive and exhilarating review first.
Thanks Seth for this rec. Kai is one of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to; both a thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely unique dining experience. Definitely a destination spot and a great change from the cloistered Scottsdale Princess! We’ve never seen a Sheraton this classy. The Wood Grilled TOCA Squash Puree and Cured Meats and Game Pate Under Smoke appetizers were superlative. For main courses, our party of four had the Grilled Buffalo Tenderloin (of the Cheyenne River Tribe) the Colorado Lamb Loin, the Kurobuta Pork Prepared Three Ways and the Caramelized Loup de Mer with young Ginger and Green Curry Infused Coconut Fume which all received soaring praise from all-around the table.
I had questioned our server on the authenticity of ordering fresh fish in the desert but was informed that Native Americans in the area had plenty of aquatic animals before dams were built. The infusion of Native American ingredients, from Saguaro Blossom Syrup and Native Seed SEARCH Chili Dust, to Cereal of Chia Seeds and Native Seed SEARCH Mole was imaginative, creative and tasty.
For desert we shared a Warm Fry Bread with Ibarra Chocolate that was a perfect way to end the meal, which left us totally sated. For wine we drank two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape which was reasonably priced. Regarding the wine list, it was hard to find a good bottle below $100 though.
The service was elegant, un-rushed and impeccable. In fact they had a most pleasant and surprising finishing touch with which I will leave to your imagination; in the high hope that all those who venture out to Kai in the future will be able to experience first-hand! The bill came to $402 before tip.
Bill Hunt, I suggest you bite the bullet as we did and hire a car/SVU service to ferry you and three guests to and fro. Kai is truly a hidden gem in the USA and well worth a visit!
The over-arching question here was: where was the Southwestern Mediterranean influence we came to savor? I wanted to order Chef Hillson’s Iron Tasting Menu ($75) but a more apt description would have been Chef Hillson’s Ham Tasting Menu: first course was a Lobster carpaccio with Ham broth, second course a Ham Soufflé with Grain Mustard Cream and the third course a Ham Gruyere Tart with Sun dried Tomato-Rosemary pesto and shallot salad! Any SW-Mediterranean ingredients noticed here? I passed.
Among the appetizer/soups we had, only the Lobster and Fennel Bisque was above average. The Torchon of Foie Gras with Prune Chutney had little taste of the advertised almond-Armagnac and cinnamon ingredients. The Asparagus, Frisee and Arugula with Warm Bacon-Truffle Vinaigrette showed no evidence of bacon or truffle flavor and there was not enough goat cheese. Perhaps, there is never enough goat cheese!
In main courses, the Beef Tenderloin wrapped in Mushroom Duxelles was good and while the Fig-glazed Sort Ribs were tender, the Mediterranean Paella (at $28) was neither. In fact, it had barely any seafood at all: a couple of mussels and two shrimp and that was it.
It was a lovely setting in the outdoor terrace and the service was excellent. Good wine list at reasonable prices but like Kai, it was hard to find a good wine below $100 a bottle. We settled for a Sancerre at $53.
Although we had a comfortable experience at T Cooks we felt let-down by the lack of any evidence of SW-Mediterranean infusion.