Kai

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Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa
5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, Phoenix
602-225-0100

Kai (which means "seed" in the Pima language) has certainly grown up since its opening five years ago. Located on a vast tract of desert owned by the Gila River Indian Community, it's always offered beautiful views and a unique Native American menu. But nowadays, the food is just plain fabulous, thanks to the collaborative efforts of consulting chef Janos Wilder (a James Beard award winner who honors Southwest traditions) and Native American chef de cuisine Jack Strong (of Oregon's Siletz tribes). The dining room, which features Native American art in various media, manages to be dramatic and cozy at the same time; the service is solicitous; and the menu is like nothing else in the Valley (or the US, for that matter). Many ingredients (cholla buds, TOCA squash, saguaro blossom syrup) and a few preparations (including chile, olive or dried fruit-studded flatbread) are Native American in origin, but of course, Strong's classical background is abundantly evident in each elegant presentation. There's not a thing here I wouldn't recommend, but personal favorites include wood-grilled squash puree, lobster degustation, cured meats and game pate (served under a glass dome filled with mesquite smoke) and buffalo tenderloin, served with spicy chorizo, smoked corn puree and big, meaty runner beans. For dessert, don't miss goat's milk cheesecake or Local Olives Prepared 3 Ways (trust me on this one). Dinner Tu-Sa. $$$