The ‘fixe’ is in as tasting menus are trending across Arizona – AZ Big Media

In recent years, even the most particular of tastes on the national food scene – from the James Beard Foundation to the Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Awards – have applauded the strides that members of the Arizona culinary community have taken to elevate the craft to an art statewide. Among the most ambitious of the local king and queens of the kitchen, and certainly those making the national tastemakers take notice, are those curating culinary adventures for diners via prix fixe tasting menus based on the season’s bounty and his/her/their daily inspirations. Here are some of the best expressions of this growing trend:


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Kai 

There is only one AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurant in the state of Arizona: Kai at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. In homage to the native peoples for which the restaurants is inspired, Kai is named for the Pima word for seed. True to its name, the awe-inspiring restaurant is rooted firmly in celebrating the essence of the Pima and Maricopa tribes using locally farmed ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community. Its indulgent seven-course tasting menus – available with foie gras and lobster enhancements as well as optional wine pairings – from epicurean magician chef Ryan Swanson is a full sensory experience.  www.wildhorsepassresort.com

Sel

Sel is an ultra-intimate restaurant offering progressive American cuisine from executive chef Branden Levine, known for his appearances on The Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell and Beat Bobby Flay. Candlelight flickers inside the restaurant, providing just enough light to allow your date to gaze into your eyes and at Levine’s intricately plated chef’s tasting menu, which is served in five delectable courses, with enhancements available. Each course is a work of culinary art, first enjoyed visually and then aromatically before dancing on your date’s palate in a symphony of flavor. www.selrestaurant.com

Hermosa Inn photo credit Joanie Simon

LON’s at the Hermosa Inn. (Photo by Joanie Simon)

LON’s at the Hermosa Inn

Known nationally for being a leader in globally inspired Arizona cuisine that celebrates the region’s freshest ingredients and prepares them with age-old cooking traditions—roasting, smoking, wood-grilling—combined with cutting-edge trends, LON’s in Paradise Valley offers a seasonal tasting menu for with wine pairings for an added fee. The menu gives guests the chance to “choose their own foodie adventure” by tempting with multiple options for each course. Expect ultra-Autumnal standouts on the menu just a last year, when LON’s wowed with roasted branzino, butternut squash soup, Rovey Dairy lamb and a pecan-apple tart. www.hermosainn.com

Shift Kitchen & Bar

As the name advises, be prepared to shift any preconceived notions of the food scene in Flagstaff when you walk into Shift Kitchen & Bar. The passion project of entrepreneur and pastry goddess Dara Wong, Shift offers an eclectic, whimsical menu that is best described as the happiest of unions of mountain food and gourmand greatness at the highest level. Think jalapeño cheesecake and roasted corn agnolotti with pickled peaches and Fresno chilies. There is both a tasting menu and a la carte option nightly, both of which are expertly paired with a drink menu of aromatic cocktails, local beers and winning wines. www.shiftflg.com

Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion

In 2018, James Beard award-winning chef Christopher Gross joined Wrigley Mansion to re-imagine his beloved Christopher’s – formerly at Biltmore Fashion Park – for a whole new generation. Now open, Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion offers several dining adventures from which guests may choose, all with 180-degree views via floor-to-ceiling windows and a retractable roof. The most luxe option is Gross’ eight-course (plus surprises) tasting menu, which changes seasonally and may include farm-fresh eggs with caviar, foie gras candy, Wagyu with Béarnaise, fresh pasta, lobster, truffles and copious sweets. Those missing Christopher’s all-time most popular dishes are also in luck, as there is is prix fixe menu showcasing his classic culinary triumphs as well. www.wrigleymansion.com

ZuZu

In a similarly whimsical fashion as Christopher’s, ZuZu is all about having fun with flavors without ever taking itself too seriously. The restaurant features regular tasting menus in one of the cleverest of ways thanks to a series called Versus. During Versus, LaCasce invites two breweries, wineries and/or distilleries – meaning it may be wine versus beer, wine versus wine, beer versus spirit, et al – to take each other on in a challenge of epic epicurean proportions. More or less, each brand chooses its top varietals to showcase head-to-head against each other. LaCasce then taste tests them leading up to the dinner and creates a tasting menu that will showcase both in the best light. At the end of the night, one pairing reigns supreme and is crowned the champion, but diners are the real winners. www.hotelvalleyho.com

J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician

Offered nightly to tantalize every taste bud, J&G’s seasonal five-course tasting menu showcases executive chef Jacques Qualin’s modern versions of classic steakhouse fare as well as fresh seafood flown in from across the globe. Though the new fall menu is just weeks away, expect a combination of playful vegetables, expertly prepared seafood and decadent proteins and sauces. The in-house sommelier is also about to hand-select wine pairings for each course from his Wine Spectator award-winning wine list for a $55 supplement. www.jgsteakhousescottsdale.com 

tasting menus

KAI. (Photo by Lauren J Photography)

Roka Akor

Omakase – loosely translated as “to entrust the chef” – is offered nightly at the Japanese robata steakhouse for $128 per person. This personalized tasting menu features exclusive in-house premium, chef-selected ingredients and is meant to showcase the best of Roka Akor’s three kitchens. During the feast, guests will enjoy hot and cold appetizers, premium sushi and sashimi, and items from both the robata grill and tempura kitchen. Entrees are accompanied with a wild mushroom rice hot pot, which is an earthy risotto-like dish, and dinner is topped off with decadent desert platter featuring the venue’s most popular desserts, sorbet, ice cream and exotic fruits. www.rokaakor.com

The Reserve

In late 2020, the founders of Café Monarch quietly opened Reserve, a dining experience inspired by Michelin-star restaurants across Spain. Helmed by Benjamin Wald, a veteran of L’ecole in Paris under culinary icon Alain Ducasse and the three-Michelin star Inn at Little Washington, The Reserve offers a 12-course tasting menu limited to just 25 guests per seating. The evening begins with a reception inside the main building, which was designed to resemble the living room in a mansion complete with candelabras and antiques throughout. Then, guests are led to their tables outside near a grand fountain and ample greenery. Once seated each table is taken through the 12 courses by a Court of Master Sommeliers-trained server and an advanced sommelier that has pairings at the ready. www.reserveoldtown.com