Desert Ridge, spiced up
GETAWAYS • Phoenix
Phoenix has no shortage of luxury resorts for travelers looking for a dose of desert magic. Often, when it comes to the on-property restaurants, the trick falls flat. But JW Marriott’s newly renovated Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is a notable exception, with two excellent options for a getaway dinner.
Angelo Sosa, a Jean-Georges protégé and Top Chef alum, is behind the stove at both Tia Carmen, the property’s Southwestern-leaning flagship, and the Asian-inspired Kembara, which opens today.
With its wood-fire grill and Instagram-candy plating, Tia Carmen drew near-universal praise from critics and locals alike when it opened last year. But Kembara is clearly where Sosa is having more fun, leaning into his love of Asian street food, pushing the boundaries of what a hotel setting might lead you to expect.
There’s a bit of a nightclub feel to the space, with graffiti-esque murals and neon rope lights, which, frankly, fits the mood at the sprawling resort. (The property has a bit of everything: kids screaming down a giant waterslide, almost four dozen pickleball courts, and a massive spa with an adults-only pool and turquoise massages.)
But the food hasn’t been neutered to appease timid tourists. I was pleasantly caught off-guard when instructed to eat the fish head curry, ladled over a banana leaf tableside, with my hands; ditto the fiery black pepper lobster, served in the shell alongside disposable plastic gloves so I could pick the meat from every last crevice. The chicken larb was so spicy that I downed my miso-enhanced mezcal cocktail in one go.
This is the kind of property — a half-hour drive from Phoenix’s downtown, designed with every comfort in mind — that it doesn’t make sense to leave once you’ve checked in. How nice, then, that now you won’t want to. –Jamie Feldmar