Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is as distinctive a figure as the Phoenix food scene has produced, a deeply thoughtful impresario of Mexican cooking. She has basically created a new high Mexican cuisine, by refusing to traffic in tacos and tamales and so forth, instead focusing on the ingredients and flavors that move her. You have two venues to try. One is her original Barrio Café, 2814 North 16th Street. (www.barriocafe.com; tel. 602/636-0240; no reservations), where she made her name, turning a once-marginal neighborhood into a culinary must-visit. Here she mixes various meats and vegetables with flavorful chili-based sauces—like a poblano stuffed with pear, apple, apricot, and pecans, and finished with cilantro and pomegranate. To go even deeper into Silvana’s World, however, try the smaller and more formal Gran Reserva, a tiny triangle space alongside the hip art galleries on Grand Avenue. You can get some Barrio dishes here on the a la carte menu, but trust me—go with the $44 tasting menu, where her chefs treat you to six-plus courses of delicacies, each exquisitely presented, like a luscious single scallop soaked in chili and lime. This may be the single most mouthwatering culinary deal in the Valley. Wine aficionados will swoon to the accompanying wine pairing. Call in advance to reserve seats at the (two-person) bar at the kitchen for personal service and the chance to talk to the chefs about what they’re preparing.
Barrio Café Gran Reserva
1301 W Grand Ave.
Our Rating Neighborhood Downtown Hours Tues–Sat 5–10:30pm; Sun 5–9pm. Closed June–Sept. Phone 602/252-2777 Prices Small courses $15–$35 Reservations Reservations recommended Cuisine Type Haute Mexican Web site Barrio Café Gran Reserva
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.