With seasonal ingredients served by candlelight, it is easy to mistake Café Monarch for a cosy dinner at a friend’s house. But enjoying the 3-course set menu at Café Monarch is very much a grand affair; some of the most inspiring highlights include a starter of poached pear and brie that leads on to an elegant main course, with the dining experience culminating in a rum cake bonanza, served with caramelised white chocolate. Mains are typically your choice of meat or fish. The on-site sommelier is happy to suggest a wine to accompany any meal, while the owner-chef often wanders the dining room, greeting guests. Café Monarch has two lovely dining rooms, but it is the tree-filled outdoor patio that makes the experience even more memorable.
The Phoenician’s highlight offers a taste of tradition: the classic English afternoon tea. At The Phoenician resort, tea is served in the elegant beige and cream lobby along with classic finger sandwiches, scones with preserves and bite-sized sweets all looking too pretty to eat. And, of course, some of the best tea west of the Atlantic Ocean, served in delicate china cups. The Phoenician has received many accolades for their dining venues, including OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award for Top Restaurants in America 2013.
Italian food and the Old West may seem like an odd combination, but the Italian Caffe’s owner Franco Fazzuoli manages to bring original Tuscany spirit to the heart of Arizona, and he does it in style. The simple dining room is the perfect backdrop to the gorgeous, colourful food placed in front of anticipating diners. What to choose is the worst part of dining here, it all sounds (and tastes) delicious. Franco is rumoured as being one of the first chefs to introduce true Italian risotto to the Valley, and his seafood risotto is still an excellent choice. The fettuccini tartufo, velvety and aromatic, is practically unmanageable for one person, while the rustic chicken contadina would make Fazzuoli’s fellow Florence citizens proud, and his veal, Milanese-style, is another sure winner.
The corridor behind the wide wooden doors of ShinBay is the first step towards an oasis of calm and spirituality. The tranquil dining room is a serene blanket for ShinBay’s guests, while the food’s velvety and multilayered textures bring to mind oriental travels. Traditional Japanese cooking techniques are used by Chef Shinji Kurita and his team to serve up seasonal specialities with an emphasis on freshness and flavour. Knowledgeable staff are happy to recommend, but top choices include the six-course Chef’s Tasting and the smooth, fresh sashimi.
At The Mission, the chefs focus on modern Latin cuisine, with a sharp emphasis on the grill. The dining room is modern with touches of authenticity, including a salt rock wall and a seeming forest of candles. The outdoor patio is a wonderful place to be on a warm summer evening. Peruvian and Mexican influences criss-cross the food, making The Mission the perfect place to experience ‘southwest’ cuisine. The chefs’ goal seems to take familiar dishes such as tacos and reinvent them with unusual flavours, for example by adding butternut squash. The margarita is quite a treat, using only organic tequila, agave nectar instead of sugar and fresh limes.
Esquire magazine named Virtu one of the 20 best new restaurants in the USA. The restaurant is actually located in a luxury bed and breakfast, and Chef Gio Osso’s motto for Virtu is ‘honest craft.’ Mediterranean-inspired contemporary cuisine may not sound too original, but Virtu’s homemade pastas, fresh seafood and rustic herbs bring a comforting smile to diners’ faces, and a warm glow to their bellies. It is near-impossible to recommend one specific dish; the grilled octopus with fennel makes for a perfect starter, the spaghetti with Napolitana-style lamb ragout is a filling yet elegant main course, while the whole dining experience can be crowned with a portion of the velvety Virtu tiramisu.