Pee-Posh Garden / Lauren J. Photography
In recent years the dining scene in the Valley of the Sun has elevated to the point that the culinary delights in the desert regularly draw the epicurious traveler. But many are surprised that the top table in town is the hotel restaurant at the Sheraton Grand resort at Wild Horse Pass.
Not only is Kai Restaurant the city’s best fine dining establishment, it’s the only Forbes five star and AAA five diamond restaurant in the state. Even more interesting, it’s the only fine dining Native American restaurant in the world.
We don’t open any cookbooks to look for recipes, we have to learn them in an organic way
“Native American recipes are taught within families from generation to generation and are passed down for centuries. If I am lucky enough, I get to learn these techniques and recipes from these families firsthand,” said Chef de Cuisine Ryan Swanson.
“This doesn’t happen every day, so it takes time to gain this knowledge and build these relationships. I have managed to learn how to use indigenous ingredients through experimentation and with the help and guidance of my friends from the Gila River Indian Community, who have led me on the correct path.
We don’t open any cookbooks to look for recipes, we have to learn them in an organic way.”
Kai, which means seed in the Pima language, will plant a new seed in your mind about what Native American restaurant dining is. Chef Swanson, incorporates the essence of the local Pima and Maricopa tribes with locally farmed ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community to create unforgettable culinary masterpieces.
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Tribal Buffalo / Kai
With innovative dishes like Pee-Posh Garden with Candied Pecan Soil, Confit of Baby Potatoes, Pickled Chioggia Beets, Crisp Lions Mane, Parsnip Espuma, Fermented White Asparagus, followed by Grilled Tenderloin of Tribal Buffalo with Smoked Corn Puree, White Runner Bean Chili, Cholla Buds, Saguaro Blossom Syrup, Native American Kai Restaurant delights the palate with every course in its five-course tasting menu.
But what pushes the meal into a lifelong culinary memory is the total sensory experience, attention to detail and exceptional service. The meal starts with your server presenting the menu adorned with a picture painted by a tribal member. The story behind the image sets the tone for the dinner. Later the server comes by and explains the art in the room, including a Basket Tree Memory Quilt that is one of only three in the world.
The Native American restaurant’s culinary theater continues with our server bringing a plant to the table at the end of the meal. A creosote tea with herbs and spices is poured over the desert plants to create a desert after the rain scent. Dry ice placed in the planter creates a smoke when the tea is poured on the plant. When I return to my room, outside the door is a gift bag housing an espresso pumpkin coffee cake for the morning and a personal note from the restaurant manager.
After a long, indulgent meal resulting in a food coma, I highly advise staying overnight on property, especially because the Sheraton Grand is debuting a $70 million renovation that saw an investment of $100,000 per guest room to transform the living space with custom furniture, Native American art and a more modern aesthetic.
The Sheraton Grand is debuting a $70 million renovation that saw an investment of $100,000 per guest room to transform the living space with custom furniture, Native American art and a more modern aesthetic.
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
Gone is the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass’s 1980s Southwest décor and in its place a much more luxurious, inviting Arizona interior that pays homage to the Pima and Maricopa communities. Saguaro cactus ribs were foraged by Community members from the Gila River Indian Community to create all-new valances that adorn the patio entranceway.
Additionally, all the artwork in the guest rooms were done by artists from the Community. Guests can also find calendar stick artifacts in each room, which tracked important events in the life of a village. The Maricopa tribe is famous for beautiful pottery while the Pima tribe is known for intricate basket weavings, so guests will find nods to both Native American tribes’ art forms placed throughout the rooms.
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Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
Designed to function more like a master suite in a home than a standard hotel room, there is a comfortable lounge area with plush seating instead of the typical hotel desk area. Because people are now working from anywhere, there are plenty of outlets, USB ports, lighting and insulated walls for better soundproofing.
The new Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass rooms debuted in the Maricopa wing this April, with the Pima room remodel releasing later in the year. This is the most extensive renovation the hotel has undertaken since it opened in 2002.
Venture beyond the ordinary and experience the culture of Native American cuisine and design.