To mark such an occasion, Kai invited the media to meet the team behind the success and sample some of their creations. Naturally, we at Chow Bella were more than happy to do just that in the hopes of narrowing down what aspect of this restaurant makes it worthy of five diamonds and five stars.
Somewhere between drinking a cocktail made with passion fruit and muddled, candied ginger, and eating a chocolate circle filled with mesquite smoke-flavored mousse and tattooed with the Kai logo in cocoa butter, we realized that the answer had to be in the details.
|The team responsible for Kai's five stars and five diamonds.|
We dined on appetizer versions of items taken from Kai's menu inspired by Native American cuisine. We started with a wood-grilled TOCA squash puree served in a shot glass with a tiny piece of Aji Amarillo-scented cotton candy. We followed with macerated local vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes served with a Fossil Creek goat cheese and mascarpone tart. Next up was pickled herring and Sea of Cortez smoked Mackerel on an artisan bread crisp, seasoned with Bolivian rose salt. Mind you, we were eating these gastronomical gems while overlooking 640 square miles where 1500 wild mustangs roam free. Talk about feasting with your eyes.
Kai's connection to the Gila River Indian Community can be seen by the art that adorns its walls as well as the inclusion of indigenous ingredients grown by the community.
Executive Chef Michael O'Dowd told us that each member of the staff is indoctrinated into the tribe by working with the farmers to appreciate where the ingredients come from in addition to reading stories to the children or offering cooking demonstrations.
Perhaps it is this unique connection to a truly American culture paired with excellent culinary creativity and presentation that makes Kai a restaurant worthy of it's collection of diamonds and stars.
Yet Executive Chef Michael O'Dowd reacted humbly when asked how he feels about Kai's awards. He said he is uncertain whether Kai can maintain these high standards now that it has been awarded them but is appreciates the challenge as "something to shoot for."
"This really is the pinnacle," O'Dowd said. "As a child if you're going to be a chef, this is what you dream about."