Almost two decades into its genre-bending, white-tablecloth gastronomic journey through the desert we call home, Kai remains a pillar of Arizona dining. Chef Ryan Swanson, who scored a James Beard Award nomination this year, has the restaurant humming like a sleek vintage car. Still, he keeps driving Kai to new places. Swanson can nimbly hit notes across the gastronomic map, often using hyperlocal ingredients in uncommon ways, such as many kinds of cactus in a "key lime" pie, or Ramona Farms corn in an earthy amuse bouche. Though classics remain (including a "sensory course" that rewires your mind late in the arc of the tasting menu), Swanson routinely decks out the menu with new dishes like bison creme brulee, octopus, smoked squash soup, and compressed lamb on ceme't. Eating at Kai gives you a powerful sense of what eating in Arizona could be: imaginative, born from the cracks, valleys, and washes of our unique land — and like nowhere else in the world.