Photography by Charles Barth
Chef Ivan Jacobo’s reconceived Downtown restaurant is the swank, citified hideout we need.
Nothing says fine dining like crisp white tablecloths, but apparently, they’re as quaint as fish forks these days.
Imagine my delight, then, at finding these relics at Anhelo, chef-owner Ivan Jacobo’s reimagined Modern American restaurant housed in an immaculate storefront below the Orpheum Lofts in Downtown Phoenix. Jacobo opened the original Anhelo in Heritage Square in 2019, closed it during the early days of the pandemic and re-opened at this buzzier location in 2021.
The recently remodeled space fulfills his anhelo (“desire” in Spanish) to create a fine dining retreat in the heart of Downtown, and it’s a welcome throwback to more gracious times. Wine director and co-owner Ryan Ansell brings further weight to the project, creating a sophisticated global wine selection recently recognized by Wine Spectator for its depth and breadth. The bar is a beauty.
Jacobo’s seasonal menu has recently changed from prix fixe to a more flexible à la carte model, and the first “ooh” moment of the evening arrives with airy, sea-salt-flecked dinner rolls accompanied by butter shavings fashioned to resemble a rose. Next up: cold, bracing Kumamoto oysters brightened with jalapeño-lime granita, followed by coarse-textured, Pecorino-studded steak tartare mounded atop crunchy toasted brioche.
The “ah” moment comes via an ivory quenelle of foie gras ice cream, smooth and savory, sided with sweet grilled persimmon. Clove and ginger provide a bit of spice, while a bed of sweet crumble adds texture. It’s luscious.
Beet salad, light and refreshing last summer, is now rich and complex thanks to the addition of raclette (a creamy, pungent Alpine cheese), pistachios and fresh dill.
The delights keep coming. Soft, buttery ricotta dumplings, smothered in crispy chicken skin dust, melt away on the tongue, while miso-glazed roasted pumpkin tracks Middle Eastern in its use of tahini, yogurt, mint and pomegranate. Although it’s a tad chewy, I love aromatic, lavender-crusted duck breast sweetened with honey gastrique. Wagyu zabuton (Denver steak), strewn with chanterelles, is luscious in a rich puddle of Bordelaise. Perfumed shaves of white Alba truffles are worth the extra expense.
Anhelo is exactly what Downtown needs – an elegant haven for grown-ups who crave sophisticated food, great wine and polished service. It’s my new anhelo.
Cuisine: Modern American
Contact: 114 W. Adams St., Phoenix, 602-595-7745, anhelorestaurant.com
Hours: Tu-Th 5-9 p.m.; F-Sa 4-10 p.m.
Highlights: Kumamato oyster ($7); prime steak tartare ($10); foie gras ice cream ($20); beet salad ($15); butternut squash ($16); lavender-crusted duck ($66)