BEST PLACE TO TAKE A FOODIE Phoenix 2007 - Kai
For über-foodies turned on by menus with highly unusual combinations of exotic ingredients, Kai is a gourmet mecca. Executive chef Michael O'Dowd and chef de cuisine Jack Strong masterfully combine familiar haute cuisine elements like foie gras, fennel pollen, and lobster tail with things you've probably never eaten, or even heard of cholla buds, huitlacoche mojo, toasted saguaro seeds, and nopalitos are just a few of the ingredients that'll fire up your imagination (or maybe make you wish you'd brought a dictionary). Indeed, the descriptions of each dish can veer into the esoteric, but, rest assured, it's all delicious. Tres Pescado Ceviche presented with a flourish of mesquite smoke makes a memorable appetizer, and juicy grilled buffalo tenderloin with smoked corn purée is just one of the inventive, Native American-inspired entrees. Even the cocktail menu plays with the concept, from the spicy, lemony Skocu Thu (with ancho chile) to the fragrant mesquite bean martini. By the end of the meal, desserts like Mexican chocolate soufflé with wattleseed cr?me anglaise hit the sweet spot between high-concept and primal satisfaction. A few bites into it, when your foodie friends sigh softly and get a faraway look in their eyes, take it as a sign of approval.