First Dish: Renata’s Hearth

Madison RutherfordDecember 8, 2021
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Roasted Chilean Seabass | Photo by Madison Rutherford

The iconic Arizona Biltmore resort recently reopened, revealing a $70 million renovation that included Renata’s Hearth, an upscale, Latin-influenced eatery that debuted on May 18.

Combining Old World mystique with a distinctly modern identity, Renata’s Hearth (née Wright’s) presents a full sensory experience – from enticing aromas and bold flavors to ornate décor and pleasant sounds. During my visit, a live flutist and guitarist serve as the soundtrack, their melodies mingling with the boisterous voices of eager guests.

Reservations are recommended at Renata’s. Here’s a tip: Arrive early, explore the historic hotel, enjoy happy hour at The Wright Bar and really soak in the vibe of the legendary Valley institution that allegedly brought us the original tequila sunrise cocktail and “White Christmas.”

Even the name Renata is a beguiling blend of history and mystery. Renata is a female name of Italian origin that means “reborn,” an apt appellation for the “reincarnation” of the resort itself. Legend has it that Renata was a bold and daring adventurer, defying expectations and challenging traditions. Spend an evening at Renata’s Hearth and you’ll quickly understand the connection.


Renata’s Hearth “flight attendant” with mezcal flight | Photo by Madison Rutherford

In August, Renata’s Hearth launched a lineup of spirit and cocktail flights to further liven up the restaurant’s Latin flair. The mezcal flight (Derrumbes Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca and Zacatecas) arrives on a handsome wooden plank with heaps of cinnamon and worm salt and four orange slices. It’s served by one of Renata’s resident “flight attendants,” who dress as stewardesses and explain what you’re sipping. The contents of each of the four glasses has a slightly different flavor, though they all possess that signature smokiness I love.

Mezcal is decidedly my favorite spirit and I always get excited when I see cocktails that contain it at various Valley establishments. Imagine my sheer elation when I notice that Renata’s Hearth has ten, listed under “Mezcal Maven Cocktails.” I carefully deliberate which drink to try first, and settle on the Burnt Paloma (mezcal, grapefruit juice, pamplemousse liqueur and club soda with a smoked chile salt rim and a charred grapefruit garnish). It’s a dangerously drinkable tangy-smoky-sweet tipple that makes my little “mezcal maven” heart happy. Next up: something spicy. I go for the Margarita Verde, a sage-green number with mezcal, Ancho Reyes verde chile liqueur, cilantro and lime, topped with a fresh red hatch chile. It looks like Christmas and packs a piquant punch.

Our charming server, Jackie, recommends the fresh guacamole to start (Hass avocado, charred tomato, cilantro, red onion and lime, dusted with a generous pinch of Cotija cheese) with tortilla crisps, which she endearingly dubs “imposter Doritos.” They look like those tasty trigonal snacks, but they are in fact fresh, paprika-flecked tortilla chips. The combo is addicting.


Chips and guac | Photo by Madison Rutherford 

The dishes at Renata’s sway toward small plates tailormade for sharing and have Latin and Southwestern influences. Seafood is also the star of the show. The presentation is fabulous. One dish appears in a shell-shaped bowl, another on an abstract floral vintage-looking plate.

Highlights include charred Spanish octopus – a large, succulent limb perched on a spicy fingerling potato swimming in a San Marzano tomato sauce. The Caesar salad, often one-note at some spots, is a revelation: crunchy romaine hearts, Parmesan and cracked pepper do the tango with a fresh, tangy dressing, all topped with slices of grilled rosemary crostini instead of croutons. There are two versions of ceviche on the menu, one with Peruvian-style halibut and the other with Argentinian shrimp. If you’re like me and love spicy stuff, go with the shrimp – it’s bathed in a broth made from Valentina hot sauce. Another Jackie rec: roasted Chilean seabass with mole verde, Peruvian rice and pickled Fresno peppers. Fresh fish and a genius medley of flavors, not to mention its meticulous presentation, make it my favorite dish of the evening.


Margarita Verde | Photo by Madison Rutherford 

That is until it was time for dessert. Jackie, who has been knocking it out of the park all night, suggestes the piloncillo- and cinnamon-dusted churros and the Suspiro Limeño, a layered confection featuring vanilla cookies, dulce de leche and vanilla Chantilly, and toasted meringue. Who am I to object? Along with an espresso martini made with New Deal Distillery coffee liqueur (handcrafted in small batches with locally roasted coffee from Oregon), it’s the ideal denouement to a delicious and decadent experience.

2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602-954-2507, renatashearth.com

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