First Dish: Ember at We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort

Madison RutherfordAugust 3, 2021
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Grilled Maine Lobster | Photo by Madison Rutherford

 

A serpentine stroll through We-Ko-Pa will take you to a calm corner of the casino that doesn’t feel like you’re in a casino at all. Such is the charm of Ember, the casino and resort’s new fine dining destination – a culinary oasis that is well worth the trek to far-flung Fort McDowell.

The kitchen is helmed by critically acclaimed chef Richard E. Pelz, who places a particular emphasis on USDA Prime and Angus Wagyu beef and sources seafood from around the world. Each protein is prudently prepared over a custom grill that uses Mesquite wood from local trees.

The dynamic dining space is anchored around the kitchen, where patrons can peek at their dinner being prepared, but they can also focus their attention on the wraparound bar or live music in the piano lounge.

Start with Ember’s signature cocktail, the Sacred Smoke ($16), which combines bourbon, vermouth and bitters, prepared tableside in an oak chip smoked glass. Other specialty cocktails include the Midnight Sun ($17), a spicy riff on the classic Paloma with tequila, chile-lime simple syrup and activated charcoal, plus a Tajin rim and a dehydrated grapefruit for a spicy-sweet finish. All of the mixers and garnishes in Ember’s creative cocktails are made in-house – just one of many subtle details that make the restaurant stand out from the pack. Before appetizers even hit the table, you’ll learn that Ember is in a league of its own.

 


Ember dining room | Photo by Madison Rutherford

 

Of course, the Ember experience is just beginning. The palpable passion and pizzazz continue with its signature starter, the Ujih (Yavapai word for “ember”) Hot Stone ($23). Guests can choose from Wagyu beef or Pacific ahi tuna and watch as it is grilled to perfection on a 900-degree hot stone right at the table. Sided with truffle ponzu, radish salad and pickled ginger, it’s interactive fusion fare at its finest – a full sensory experience that’s pleasing to the eyes and the palate.

Post-hot stone is the perfect time to peruse Ember’s expansive wine list, which spans 17 different countries, focusing on each locale’s top wine-producing regions. The restaurant boasts more than 500 wines by the bottle and 26 by the glass, ranging from an Argentine Malbec to Chardonnay from Napa Valley.

Next, consider a splurge on Ember’s seafood tower ($95), a stately display of oysters, shrimp, stone crab, grilled Spanish octopus, tuna poke and chilled mussels. The seafood section of the menu features Faroe Island salmon ($36), herb-crusted Chilean sea bass ($52) and a succulent grilled Maine lobster complemented with black truffle butter and thick stalks of asparagus ($55), but the pièce de résistance of this part of the menu is the seared sea scallops perched on a creamy acorn squash puree and crowned with crispy Brussels sprouts, double-smoked bacon and a tangy pomegranate gastrique ($41).

 


Seared sea scallop | Photo by Madison Rutherford

 

Veal Milano ($34), braised buffalo short rib ($42) and a Snake River Farms Wagyu striploin ($65) round out the entrée menu, while a plant-based portion includes house-made tagliatelle with lemon ricotta and Thai basil ($29).

Too often an afterthought at many eateries, dessert at Ember is the cornerstone of an already exhilarating gastronomic experience – a captivating way to cap the meal. The Ember Flaming Liquid Chocolate Truffle is just as enticing as it sounds: a chocolate truffle balances on a citrus-infused cognac-toasted brioche pudding with vanilla bean marshmallows, which is then set aflame at the table, allowing the chocolate to ooze over the rest of the confection like a s’more on steroids.

The immersive atmosphere and thoughtful flourishes at Ember will have you abandoning the outside world – until you enter the cacophony of the casino and return to reality once again.

10438 N. Fort McDowell Rd., Fort McDowell, 480-789-8544, wekopacasinoresort.com/dining/ember

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