Meritage Steakhouse at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
I first met Chef de Cuisine Chris Neff of Meritage Steakhouse at Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Cooks and Corks. After sampling his braised beef ravioli with wild mushrooms, grana padana and lemon oil, and a beet salad with hazelnut butter, Concord grape vinegar, and spiced crème fraiche, I was immediately impressed. It took me far too long to finally visit Meritage, and I quickly learned I've been missing out. Located at the JW Marrriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort at Wildfire Golf Club, during the day a casual menu caters to golfers, but in the evening a fine dining menu debuts.
After an afternoon touring the onsite Chef's Garden on my staycation, I was looking forward to seeing how Chef Neff integrated the garden's organic produce in his dishes. Sipping on the resort's exclusive blend of Buffalo Trace bourbon, I perused the menu with anticipation.
What followed was dish after dish of harmonious flavors and balance showcasing Chef Neff's deft culinary skill and creative inspirations.
Peas and Carrots: Carrots three-ways (pickled, caramelized, and raw) and peas tossed with honey vinaigrette on a bed of creamy smoked yogurt with porcini crumble, and bedecked with pea tendrils, carrot tops, and red shiso.
Garden Tomatoes: Chef's clever play on Caprese salad with sweet tomatoes marinated in barrel-aged port vinegar nestled in housemade buttermilk ricotta, drizzled with basil oil, and crowned with whey foam and fresh basil leaves.
Poached Lobster Tail: Chef's reinvention of lobster mac 'n cheese featuring poached cold-water lobster tail with sweet corn ravioli and rich shellfish velouté enhanced with chile oil and a shower of fresh chives.
Braised Lamb: Lamb shank braised in red wine and white soy with star anise and black peppercorns, shredded, combined with reduced braising liquid and agar agar into a boneless slab of savory, tender meat, and served over miso polenta with pickled carrots and cilantro microgreens.
Prime Rib: Brandt Farms ribeye seasoned with an herbed olive oil crust and cooked low and slow to rosy, juicy perfection.
A bountiful quartet of side dishes to share rounded out our feast: Butter Poached Jumbo Asparagus strewn with peppery nasturtium petals, decadent Potatoes au Gratin embellished with local Crow’s Dairy goat cheese, creamy Mac & Cheese with cavatappi pasta and a blend of four cheeses including Arizona cheddar and smoked provolone, and Brussels Sprouts complemented by tangy pickled apricots and crispy bacon.
Our indulgent finale: Signature Banana Cream Pie in an oreo cookie crust with salted caramel sauce decorated with a crunchy plantain chip, and a luscious Vanilla Crème Brûlée (Chef's favorite dessert) gussied up with purple corn-poached pineapple, passion fruit coulis, and cocoa nib streusel.
It's easy to see why Chris Neff is now one of my favorite chefs in the Valley. After such a phenomenal meal, I can confidently guarantee that you will be hearing more about this gifted culinary talent.
Meritage Steakhouse is located at Wildfire Golf Club, 5350 Marriott Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85054. To make reservations, call (480) 293-3988. For fabulous service, ask for Jerome.
I was hosted by the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge and my meal was complimentary.