The chefs at Maya Quetzal have plated authentic Guatemalan eats for more than two decades. “Tasty, well-prepared food has been a defining characteristic of this little Guatemalan restaurant since it opened,” says the Tucson Citizen, which goes on to praise the cheesy house rice and the pollo en pepian—shredded chicken simmered in a sauce of chili peppers, peanuts, tomato, green tomatillo, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Customers are especially fond of Maya Quetzal’s many vegetarian options, which include the spinach-and-cheese-stuffed chili relleno and the vegetarian plate—a corn tortilla stuffed with spinach, walnuts, tomato, and onion, then folded into an origami swan and deep-fried. The cozy dining room features a simple decorating scheme of rustic, wooden tables, woven blankets, and a prominent mural depicting a rural Guatemalan village.
Serial restaurateur Brian Metzger never lets success with his current restaurants stop him from making his next culinary dream a reality. The Abbey's intimate brick-and-stone dining room marks his second foray into comfortable fine dining. Along with executive chef Virginia ?Ginny? Wooters, he drafts a menu full of contemporary comforts, such as their take on updated versions of gnocchi and pot pie. Their influence extends from the kitchen to the full bar, where mixologists whip up craft cocktails spiked with fresh, seasonal fruit juices.
Whether seated on the wrap-around patio or gazing out the windows of the dining room or bar, a rolling vista of foothills tumbles away before diners' eyes, often igniting memories of joyfully rolling down hills as a child or painfully falling down hills as an adult.
Hailed by Phoenix magazine, among others, for its "mix of whimsy, talent, kitchen smarts and great service," Jax Kitchen concocts upscale comfort fare that blends the familiar with the sophisticated. The eatery?s seasonal dishes, featuring favorite foods of the owners and head chef Virginia Wooters, dress up new york strip steak with sunny-side quail eggs and load sea-scallop chowder with poblano peppers and house-made cornbread croutons. Inside the dining area, soft lighting illuminates each bite, and brick archways form the entrance to an outdoor patio area where patrons can sip cocktails and wines and inhale uninhibited amounts of oxygen.
Hazy, pastel-colored murals line the walls at New Delhi Palace, each depicting an Indian skyline with temples or rolling hills in the distance. The scents of cumin and coriander waft out of the kitchen, transporting diners over the ocean in a fraction of the time that a traditional turtle ride would take. Since the 1980s, the kitchen has crafted North Indian–style cuisine, such as the chicken, shrimp, and lamb, arriving fresh from the clay tandoor after marinating in yogurt and ground spices. The wok-like karahi sears meats before dousing them in tomato-based gravies, whose spiciness is calibrated to suit customers' tastes. The all-wood bar houses wines and beers from around the world, including India, Japan, and Great Britain.
Owner and chef Allen Yap began his culinary career in 1991, cooking alongside his mother and father at the family's first restaurant, which they founded after relocating to Tucson from Malaysia. Inspired by his childhood in Asia and driven by a desire to innovate, he took the reins at Neo Malaysian Kitchen and designed a menu that incorporates the spices, cooking methods, and flavors of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Malaysian cuisine. The resulting blend of sushi, spicy noodle dishes, and aromatic curries earned his restaurant the award for Best Asian Cuisine & Sushi from Arizona Foothills magazine in 2011.
Along with the inventive brand of fusion fare, bartenders keep spirits high by mixing potent cocktails, pouring glasses of sake, and disguising bottles of domestic and imported beers as adorable kittens. The wine cellar brims with hand-selected varietals from the vineyards of Italy, Washington, and Napa Valley, including the Uppercut cabernet sauvignon, which teems with notes of dark fruit, expresso, violet, and spices.
The restaurant's theme of updating the traditional carries over into its decor, which features stone walls inlaid with small statues. Towering bamboo shoots coil beneath modern, curved lanterns that hang from the ceiling and light the dining room as delicately as a beach ball hosting a firefly high-school reunion.
When diners order a burger at Opa!, they?re liable to be confused. There?s the bun, the tomato, the lettuce?and no meat in sight. Right before befuddled diners can flag down their server, a grinning Chef Andreas emerges from the kitchen with their meat, sets it aflame souvlaki-style at the table, and drapes the sizzling disk atop the diner?s bare bun. ?I like to make people happy. It?s what I do,? explains Andreas, who jumps at any opportunity to surprise and delight guests in his dining room. His commitment to creating a welcoming atmosphere has earned the chef praise from Tucson Weekly, as well a spot on Tucson Lifestyle ?s Best of 2011 restaurant list.
Though the prolific restaurateur has opened 74 eateries across the country, he eventually wearied of the anonymity in running more corporate establishments. Now, Chef Andreas shares his heritage instead?murals of the island of Santorini grace restaurant walls, Greek music flows through the dining room all day, and family recipes inspire the flame-kissed spiced meats that seem to pour out of the kitchen like a faucet with a water vendetta. Though Greek traditions are evident in his food, Chef Andreas also tunes in to customer requests, now preparing many gluten-free and low-carb platters to honor the wishes of his guests.