I devote a ridiculous proportion of my
budget to food, but not
indiscriminately. Generally speaking, my
favorite restaurants — and the
restaurants I’ve mentioned in this
column — are the kind that serve great
food at everyday prices.
Heck, my primary reason for cooking is
to be able to eat better than I could
Still, if a restaurant is really
exceptional, then I’m happy to shell out
accordingly — particularly for a festive
meal with family and friends.
And because it’s the season for such
things, I’d like to call your attention
to Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass
Not only is this exceptional restaurant
more or less in our neighborhood, it’s
undoubtedly one of the best high-end
food values in the Valley.
I visited Kai a couple of weeks ago to
check out their new menu and recent
Full disclosure: I didn’t foot the bill
myself. Like a lot of the extravagant
meals I enjoy, this one was in the name
of “research” for another story.
But unlike a lot of those meals, this is
one I’ll actually be reprising on my own
nickel. From the concept to the food to
the service, Kai is an awesome place,
and one I’m excited to support.
The Wild Horse Pass Resort is located on
the Gila River Indian Community, and Kai
(which means “seed” in Pima) reflects
Its Native-inspired menu is a
collaboration between three chefs:
consulting chef Janos Wilder, executive
chef Michael O’Dowd and chef de cuisine
Sandy Garcia, who grew up in the San
Juan Pueblo Tribe in my home state of
The three share a commitment to
furthering Native culture through
creativity, education and sustainable —
almost spiritual — agriculture. If you
have the opportunity to chat with them,
it’s impossible not to get caught up in
In another restaurant, a dish like
buffalo tenderloin with saguaro blossom
syrup and cholla buds would be a
conceit. At Kai, it’s a way of
supporting Native enterprises while
introducing a broad range of diners to
indigenous edible plants.
It’s also incredibly good. I visited Kai
about a year ago and had a solidly great
meal. But the kitchen seems to have
really hit its stride in the meantime —
everything was better, more artful, than
On my most recent visit, I opted for
Chef Garcia’s five-course tasting menu.
This is a pretty good sample of all the
restaurant offers: it includes the
aforementioned buffalo as well as
mesquite-grilled rabbit loin and Kai’s
signature lobster-tail fry bread.
My meal began with an exquisite little
salad plate of watermelon, stone fruits
and microgreens, accompanied by a
berry-tequila “shooter” that was a
surprisingly perfect touch. It ended
with chocolate, lots of it — and
chocolate is always a good way to go
I mentioned that recent enhancements
were one of the reasons for my “research
trip.” Now, generally I’m preoccupied
with my food, not my surroundings.
But even I was impressed by the
flatware”: warm forks for hot dishes,
chilled ones for cold.
Other nice touches were Riedel
glassware, Frette table linens and the
rosemary-scented hand towels that
preceded dessert. And Kai’s menus —
which each feature an original
watercolor painting by a local Pima
artist — are literally works of art.
Kai is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday
through Thursday and from 5:30 to 10
p.m. Friday and Saturday. For
reservations, call (602) 225-0100.
You can preview the menu at
Believe me, it’s worth the trip.