I love arriving at the Montelucia Resort, which sets the mood for its signature restaurant, Prado. Inspired by the Moorish and Spanish architecture of Andalusia, its golden yellow walls and vibrant splashes of cobalt blue and red immediately transport you to Southern Spain.
Prado is named after the famed museum in Madrid, and stepping through the wooden double doors, you feel as though you’ve entered a luxurious European villa. It’s a beautiful space with soaring arched ceilings and exposed beams. There’s a marble-topped bar with high tables that opens onto the pretty courtyard, a cozy lounge delineated by plush banquettes and low tables, and an elegant dining room featuring a wood-burning brick oven. A highlight is the mosaic-tiled outdoor terrace that overlooks the row of fountains, especially romantic at dusk with the backdrop silhouette of Camelback Mountain.
I wrote that eight years ago in a dining article for AZ Wine Lifestyle magazine, but those same impressions still hold true. Last month I was invited on a media journey to explore the latest updates at Prado and fell in love again. We were welcomed in the Mbar Lounge with red and white sangria and a plate of Spanish bites as Food and Beverage Director Uro Vazquez spoke about a recent trip to Rioja. "We took some of the things we saw there and recreated it in our own way here," he explained, including our plate of pintxos, or tapas, covering our sangria (the word tapa means "cover" or "lid").
We were then introduced to Executive Chef Marcos Seville, who described what we would be enjoying that evening, including the new tapas bar and dinner menu. "These two chefs are integral to the creation of this menu," he said as he introduced Chef de Cuisine Smail Yaakoubi and Sous Chef Belal Rajab.
"Belal worked very closely with us on the tapas menu," said Chef Seville as he emphasized the three main aspects of the tapas bar - "simple, casual and using the foods of the region." Six of us we were seated at the cozy bar in front of the open wood-fired grill as plates of olives and house-baked sourdough bread were set before us. "Most tapas are eaten with nice crusty bread," Chef Seville pointed out.
The tapas menu is inspired by the food of Andalusia and these small plates can be ordered as two to four bites per person, with many of the options grilled over white oak. Twelve tapas are offered along with a build your own board selection (menu here). We sampled shrimp casuela, albondigas made with beef and chorizo, berenjena (eggplant with onion, tomato, and garlic), chorizo, beef tenderloin with green romesco, and lamb chops with mint pesto.
We were then led to our table to discover some of the new dishes on the dinner menu as red and white riojas were poured. "Chef Smail is a big part of the dinner menu," Chef Seville told us. "You'll find some traditional Spanish items but also those that showcase Chef Smail." We feasted on Kale Salad with manchego cheese, marcona almonds, and a creamy avocado Green Goddess dressing; Crab Timbale with avocado, cucumber, jumbo lump crab and a vinaigrette designed to capture the flavors of gazpacho with sherry and sweet tomatoes; Roasted Sea Bass with heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, spinach and goat cheese cream; Lobster Paella loaded with chorizo, chicken, scallops, mussels, clams, halibut and red snapper with saffron rice and roasted sweet peppers. My favorite? The Casablanca Lamb Tagine. Representing Chef Yaakoubi's Casablanca heritage, sitting on a bed of saffron risotto was a fork-tender lamb shank that had been braised for six hours and seasoned with ras al hanout, an exotic North African blend of spices with aromas of cardamom, cinnammon, and coriander.
Our next stop was Mbar, where vivacious Prado Sommelier Sarah Joubert educated us on gin tonics, a cocktail whose popularity in Spain has soared in the last decade. "When you go to Spain, you're going to find gin bars with elaborate garnishes and different kinds of gin, so we want to be both modern Spain and classical Spain," Sarah told us. As a result, M Bar now has a gin and tonic section with your choice from an extensive selection of gin, the option of upgrading with Fever Tree tonics, and the Spanish tradition of serving this libation in large goblets. We sampled three different gin and tonics:
- Arizona Distilling Company Commerce gin with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water, cardamon and grapefruit peel.
- Plymouth gin with Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic water, rosemary and raspberry.
- Malfy Italian gin with Fever-Tree Indian tonic water, cilantro and orange.
My favorite was the Commerce gin and tonic with the floral and herbal notes of Mediterranean tonic water and a garnish of pink grapefruit zest and cardamom.
We ended our evening's journey back in the Mbar Lounge, this time for glasses of cava and decadent desserts - Quesada Pasiega (Spanish cheesecake),Wild Berry Crumble, and rich Hot Chocolate in a phyllo dough wrapper.
What I especially love about Prado's lastest concept is the casual nature. Yes, you can still visit for a formal dinner or special occasion, but now it's also the perfect spot to stop in for cocktails and tapas, meet friends, or unwind after a long day. In fact, we're joining friends there this weekend for gin and tonics at M Bar before heading over to the tapas bar.
Prado is located inside the Omni Montelucia Resort at 4949 E Lincoln Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85253. It is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To view the full menu, visit https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/scottsdale-montelucia/dining/prado.
I received a media invitation and my experience was complimentary.