Kai
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

Sometimes you just have to turn the tables. Got a New Yorker pal who's hard to impress? Yeah, we feel ya. It's not always easy coming up with something that outshines the allure of the Big Apple, but after years of racking our brains, we've come up with a bunch of ways to show off the joys of living in Arizona. Dinner at Kai is one of the highlights. We guarantee that in the City That Never Sleeps, there's no fine-dining spot with the kind of cuisine they serve at this high-end eatery, whose distinctive menu revolves around indigenous Arizonan ingredients done up with traditional techniques — a sort of haute Native American, if you will. Think grilled tenderloin of buffalo with smoked corn purée, barbecue scarlet runner beans, saguaro blossom syrup, cholla buds, and mushrooms.

There are enough intriguing, unusual things on the menu to spark the curiosity of even the most jaded gourmet, although even traditionalists will find something to love (like the juicy bone-in New York strip). The bonus at Kai is the view, if you can swing a table near the windows. It's the opposite of a cityscape, but just as breathtaking.

Best Place to Take an Adventurous Eater

Roka Akor

Roka Akor
Nicole Hoffman

Don't be scared off by our brazen Best Of category name here; Roka Akor has plenty of options for folks who're just looking for accessible Japanese food, like edamame, California rolls, and skewers of grilled chicken. For us, that's all fine and good, but that's not really the true allure of Roka Akor. We're here for the more adventurous gourmet eats, like foie gras with umeshu plum and nama nori, or the rice hot pot with an unusual assortment of Japanese mushrooms. A sushi roll stuffed with Korean roast pork, shiso, and chile cabbage is yet another reason to skip the California roll. And for pure drama, we're fans of ebi no kushiyaki, a whole grilled wild Madagascar prawn that looks like a shrimp on steroids. Seasoned with spicy yuzu kosho chile paste, and plated with its giant head perched alongside a skewer of meat chunks, it's a dish that'll make you either drool or dive under the table.

Eddie V's Edgewater Grill

For being the best seafood spot in town, it's a little bit surprising that Eddie V's doesn't really scream "ocean." Yeah, there's a giant fish sculpture over near the kitchen, but besides that, the place is pretty quiet about its top-rung status. Instead, this classy restaurant lets the seafood speak for itself: sweet, briny oysters on the half-shell, crab cakes full of tender lump crab meat, and expertly prepared fish dishes, like melt-in-your-mouth sautéed lemon sole in a Parmesan crust. Prime steaks and generous side dishes like truffled macaroni and cheese are worth a look as well, although if you're really craving the catch of the day, you'll be plenty occupied with the seafood selections. The atmosphere is suitably refined, with waiters in white jackets and black ties gliding through the serene dining room, which glows from smooth, cream-colored ceiling lamps. And if all of that doesn't make you float away in sheer bliss, then be sure to order the molten chocolate cake, just to be safe.

Bourbon Steak
Heather Hoch

Since it opened earlier this year, celebrity chef Michael Mina's Scottsdale outpost has certainly raised the bar on luxury dining in the Valley. Located at the posh Fairmont Scottsdale resort, Bourbon Steak takes premium ingredients and serves them up in the most decadent way possible, whether it's crisp French fries sizzled in duck fat, Colorado rack of lamb poached in olive oil, or prime steak poached in butter before it hits the wood-fired grill. Rich, melt-on-your-tongue A5 Kobe beef — the real deal, imported from Japan — will run you nearly two hundred bucks, but it'll also blow your mind. Truffles, bacon, and foie gras round out the savory options, while molten chocolate cake and mascarpone cheesecake are a couple of sumptuous desserts that you shouldn't resist. If all that leaves you too stuffed to move, don't worry — the surroundings are so glamorous that you won't want to leave, anyway.

Sassi
Courtesy of Sassi

Just glancing at Sassi's dramatic entranceway, with its gurgling fountains, elegant lighting, and rustic courtyard leading to a heavy wooden door, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was an over-the-top private estate or, perhaps, even a resort.

Indeed, this restaurant takes "destination dining" quite literally, not only because it's located in the most scenic northern stretch of Scottsdale, with lovely views of Pinnacle Peak, but also because the property itself transports customers to the Mediterranean. Inside, luxurious furnishings in a series of rooms only add to the feeling that this might not be a restaurant at all, but perhaps a mansion belonging to some aristocratic gourmand who happens to enjoy 24-month gran reserve prosciutto, handmade orechiette with sausage, grilled free-range veal chops, and nice bottles of Italian wine whenever the mood strikes.

Yes, this place is pure fantasy fodder, but luckily folks with a taste for artisanal cheeses, fresh pasta, local produce, and premium meats can live the dream, too — as long as they're willing to spend real money for it.

Pizza A Metro

This category doesn't literally have to mean an Italian restaurant that's on a corner, but in the case of Pizza A Metro, it's exactly that: nestled alongside a Circle K in a tiny corner strip. Really, it's an unlikely location for such a cool restaurant; walking through the door into this 20-seat spot is a revelation. One whole wall is painted with a mellow coastal scene, and you can see right into the kitchen, where meter-long pizzas (hence the name, which means "pizza by the meter") are baked in a wood-fired oven. Owner Maurizio Benforte, who often mans the dining room single-handedly, is as gracious as they come, while the homey Italian food is delicious. Besides pizzas, there are several notable starters (including tender grilled calamari), a handful of secondi, and a long list of pastas. We're partial to the homemade gnocchi with pink vodka sauce, and fresh ravioli with Bolognese. As if that weren't enough to make us smile, there's crisp, cream-filled cannoli and homemade tiramisu for dessert. Considering how reasonably priced this place is, we're always up for a splurge.

Sophie's French Bistro
Jackie Mercandetti

We're completely aware of the stuffy reputation that French restaurants have, and we're certain that the folks at Sophie's are, too. In fact, it seems like they're trying to completely defy that snooty stereotype. The service is warm and welcoming, and the setting — with wood floors, rustic wooden ceiling beams, colorful abstract art, and a little piano jazz in the background — is stylishly cozy. Meanwhile, the bistro-style menu is both sophisticated and comforting, a roundup of French greatest hits, from tender, garlicky escargots and velvety pâté du chef (made with Madeira, Cognac, and lavender honey), to crispy frites à la Parisienne. Pan-seared coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops served with ricotta gnocchi) is hard to resist, while the magret de canard aux peches is one of this city's tastiest preparations of duck. Here, Maple Leaf Farm duck breast is perfectly seared, glazed with saba and cinnamon. Desserts are seductive as well, from lemon-honey crème brûlée to the decadent chocolate-hazelnut pyramid. You don't have to be a Francophile to visit Sophie's, but it's hard not to be one after eating here.

Black Forest Mill German Restaurant & Bar

There aren't too many restaurants that put us into party mode, but we have to smile whenever we think of Black Forest Mill. No matter what month it is, it feels like Oktoberfest as soon as we set foot in this place. Crisp, golden wiener schnitzel, potato pancakes, grilled beer-soaked bratwurst, gulasch made with braised beef and veal, and toothsome homemade spaetzle are just of the few of the hearty dishes we like to feast on as we soak up the cheerful German atmosphere — and the ice-cold German beer. Friendly waitresses clad in traditional Alpine dirndls give us another reason to celebrate, and once the band starts playing the oom-pah-pah music, we're ready to roll out the barrel. At Black Forest Mill, it's the best of times and the wurst of times.

GreekTown Restaurant
Lauren Cusimano

It's remarkable that the folks behind GreekTown Restaurant have managed to capture the pleasurable atmosphere of a Greek taverna, but they've really pulled it off. The music is distinctively Greek, and the service — as welcoming as if you were a member of the family — is true to the way they treat you back in the old country. Decorated in a crisp blue and white color scheme (the colors of the Greek flag, of course), it has that leisurely Mediterranean vibe that's perfect for nibbling on flaming cheese and dolmades, sinking your teeth into tender souvlaki, and maybe even knocking back a shot or two of ouzo.

The sprawling menu includes casual items, such as salads and pita sandwiches, as well as more upscale dishes, including rack of lamb, scallops piccata, and veal sautéed in white wine sauce. The next time you've spent too much time ogling travel magazines, come to GreekTown to soothe your wanderlust. It's the next best thing to a flight to Athens.

Wow, do they serve anything at Sabuddy that isn't completely scrumptious? Not that we can tell. It seems hard to go wrong at this friendly, casual north Scottsdale spot, where the menu is chock-full of made-from-scratch Middle Eastern treats. Smooth hummus, drizzled with tahini, is lightly garlicky, while grilled eggplant salad mingles smoky and lemony flavors. Sabuddy's falafel is top-notch, fried to a crisp but still light inside.

Ground beef kebabs come perfectly seasoned, and curry-flecked shawarma is delicious, too. There are also Israeli specialties that set this place apart, from deep-fried schnitzel, sprinkled with sesame seeds, to knockout Jerusalem meatballs that give Italian meatballs a run for their money. See, what did we tell you? At Sabuddy, it's all good.

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