The desire for comfort, community, intimacy and help is synonymous with hospitality.
Chefs have become virtuosos of their trade, crafting carefully curated experiences over something we all desire. Sustenance. A word that stretches beyond what we taste and smell, but the places it takes us. The moments we celebrate, the memories it revives, and the way it communicates love.
A good meal is often a deluge of emotions for us. The chef, weaving his own memories and experiences into the dishes he crafts, takes us on culinary versions of nostalgia and parts unknown. Food is more than appetite and craft. It is a connector.
‘Anhelo’ the word for ‘desire’ in Spanish, is a hidden jewel in downtown Phoenix. This “Best of Award of Excellence” winner by Wine Spectator magazine is abundant with prestigious wine, exclusive offerings of fine vintages, and rare bottles not available elsewhere in the state.
The most exclusive part of the wine list, however, is not the 2010 Château Lafite Rothschild from Bordeaux, but the 2019 House White Blend from Lodi, California. Chef Ivan Jacobo flies up to Northern California to blend it himself.
For Chef Ivan, ‘Anhelo’ was inspired by “bringing people together, creating amazing food, and supporting our community and friends. We created our house blend to raise funds for LoveIAm, a local Arizona charity. A portion of our proceeds directly impacts children with heart defects.” (Anhelo, “House Wine,” www.anhelorestaurant.com, 12/26/22).
Astoundingly, a percentage of every bottle or glass sale goes to the LoveIAM charity. To which Chef Ivan adds covertly, “We haven’t made this public, but this year for my 31st birthday I am giving the gift of scholarships (under the Restaurant’s name) for underprivileged kids at Estrella Mountain Community College, his Alma Mater.
Growing up in Avondale, Az, he was the first member of the family to go to college to pursue a career in the culinary arts. From the school's cafeteria, to opening his own food truck, his vision turned to a dinner party-style pop-up called ‘319 Hidden Kitchen.’ Ultimately 'Anhelo' was born.
There is a joyful understanding that his desire to help people, through the art of food, has delivered a legacy to his family.
Inspired by his now two-year-old daughter, he wanted to "create the best restaurant in hopes of giving her a better life that I didn’t have.”
His service to others extends beyond never turning someone away that asks for help. His excellent and proficient staff have no fine-dining experience. His hiring practices are based on the applicant’s work ethic, not expertise. He hires, unsurprisingly, on desire. “Are they coming in hungry to learn?” and proudly adds, “I wanted staff that I did not have to babysit. Now they can run the entire restaurant.” Moreover, his staff enjoys a normal work week, with Sundays/Mondays and holidays off. The restaurant is open 5 PM-9 PM Tues-Thurs and 5 PM-10 PM on Fri/Sat.
When asked what he loves about Anhelo, his response was “seeing people get dressed up to go out for a meal.” He adds that downtown Phoenix has not had a fine dining restaurant in which people make it an occasion to get dressed up.
And indeed, going to Anhelo is an occasion. Being the only white tablecloth fine dining establishment in downtown Phoenix, the restaurant is a symphony. A well-orchestrated procession of maitre d’s, a welcome glass of Brut, a menu stamped in red wax with the monogram of the restaurant, tableside truffle service, foie gras ice cream, Chef Ivan in the open air kitchen, perfectly executed Beef Wellington and a glass of Argentinian Malbec.
Signature dishes include Beef Wellington crafted with Prime Texas tenderloin and prosciutto imported from Italy; as well as Hokkaido Scallops from Japan, whose meat is tender, sweet, and creamy.
The Hokkaido sit on a bed of sweet potato puree, textured with a savory sweet potato hash. Capers add a lemony tang and olive brine. The Ricotta Dumplings crisped with dry chicken skin dust, swimming in a black peppercorn sauce with tendrils of peas are an adventure for the palate, layered with salt, sweet and cream.
The Wild Mushroom Risotto with Hypha Foods mix of mushrooms (we had tableside Perigord Black Truffle), creamed with vegetable stock pecorino and dusted with chives, add a subtle hint of onion to the earthy notes of the mushrooms and rice.
Anhelo meets many needs. An unforgettable meal, an intimate experience, and help.
“We can make a difference regardless of how small we are”, closes Chef Ivan.
This intrepid young chef may soon appear in the Michelin Guide’s “10 Chefs Who Are Changing the World,” in which chefs are encouraged to ask the question, “What am I serving aside from a good experience?”
For more information, go to Anhelorestaurant.com, visit the events page for upcoming wine dinners or charity events, or go to the contact page to learn how to help.