Food critic John Mariani's annual list of best new restaurants for Esquire magazine hasn't hit the streets yet, but it's already shown up on the web, courtesy of the Eating Las Vegas blog. For 2009, the lone Arizona pick in Mariani's roundup is Prado, chef Claudio Urciuoli's Spanish-themed fine dining spot at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa.
Mentions of Mariani often come with a cloud of controversy, as the writer does not operate in stealth mode for his visits. Restaurants get advance notice of his arrival, and allegedly, a list of special requests. While he was in the Valley earlier this year, he was accompanied by a food critic from another local newspaper, as well as local tourism officials.
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His choice of Prado comes as no surprise, though. After dining at a dozen or so local eateries in the Valley, he wrote about them in a three-part series that ran on his blog back in May. J&G Steakhouse, Digestif, NOCA, The Mission, and Sushi Roku were among the newer high-end establishments he checked out, although he was clearly smitten with Prado, calling it "Easily the best new restaurant to open in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area in the last year."