The Mission Restaurant: A Culinary Pilgrimage
The Mission Restaurant takes diners on an extraordinary culinary pilgrimage—starting with the main dining area which is decorated in rich earth tones, supple leathers and large candelabras hanging from the exposed duct-work ceiling. A back-lit Himalayan salt wall sets the stage for Peruvian accented Latin fare that introduces the palate to a complex and bold piquancy. The pilgrimage is highly pleasurable, no penance paid.
Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, in the famed arts and shops district is an iconic church known as the Old Adobe Mission. Its stature and bright white exterior is impossible to miss—at over 80 years old, it is one of the oldest buildings in Scottsdale. Directly next door, is The Mission Restaurant, which takes esculent Latin cues from its historic holy neighbor.
Brian Raab, general manager of The Mission, told me that the location of the restaurant was purely coincidental and good fortune, that the concept was already in the works before the location was selected some six years earlier. The connection between the two neighbors goes beyond shared land, withing The Mission Restaurant diners will find a few similar characteristics as within the Old Adobe Mission, from votive candle holders to the crosses.
A few months ago I enlisted a group of Phoenix area food writers and bloggers to give me their top-3 favorite restaurants in Scottsdale. In order to have no duplicates, I then assigned each writer one of their top three choices to write about. The end result is one of the most fair top-10 lists of best Scottsdale Restaurants you’ll likely come across. One of the restaurants that several of the writers had listed, and that was featured, was The Mission in downtown Scottsdale. There were a handful of restaurants on the list that I personally had not tried, The Mission Restaurant was one of them. Thankfully, I finally had an opportunity. This was my experience…
On this gastro experience I invited my folks to join me, it was also their first time to The Mission. We were seated in the back courtyard, which on a beautiful spring day is probably the most coveted place to sit at the restaurant. We were soon greeted by our server, Sterling, who proved to be extremely knowledgeable about both the food and drink menus. Sterling also had an extraordinary personality, which really enhanced our dining experience.
We started off with a serving of table-side, freshly made guacamole, a signature starter at The Mission. While being prepared, we were able to choose from an array of ingredients to either include or exclude…as well as level of heat desired. We also ordered a round of signature margaritas made with top-shelf tequila.
At this point it was the first chance I had to look at the menu, which the physical appearance itself is worth mentioning. The pages of the menu were covered with a heavy, well-aged leather, in the form of a booklet. The menus were soft and pliable, and the age appeared to enhance the masculine beauty. The interior menu pages were a unique type of paper, perhaps vellum with a sheen, quite smooth to the touch. The graphic design and layout matched the uniqueness of the menu display. This attention-to-detail is carried throughout the restaurant and what makes the entire experience so enjoyable.
While we were masticating on the guacamole and sipping our cocktails, an order of shrimp anticuchos arrived (skewered shrimp, aji panca, oregano, soy & black pepper), a perfect accompaniment to the margaritas.
For entrees we ordered the following:
Every dish we had was equally as good. Often there is a stand-out dish, but not in this case, each had its own characteristics and emanated a unique flavor profile.
To conclude the meal, we shared a warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with scotch, pepitas & pomegranate with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to top it off. To complement the dessert, we tried a tequila flight. Tequila, like others in the spirit industry are seeing a surge of boutique distilleries producing some fantastic high-quality liquor. We had the Reposado flight which consisted of Casa Noble, Clase Azul, Casamigos and Forteleza tequila. None of them we’d heard of before, but all were quite good. Each had such a full aromatic bouquet and smooth finish. The one that stood out was the Forteleza…silky smooth with a touch of sweet and a tad of spice–like coconut candy with a hint of cinnamon. If you want to try this tequila, you’ll have to go to a restaurant like The Mission since it’s not sold retail.
Bottom Line: I’ve been to dozens of outstanding restaurants in Scottsdale, The Mission is right there at the top. There are many components to a dining experience and The Mission Restaurant excels in all of them. Amazing and unique food, wonderful atmosphere, outstanding service and great presentation.
If you’ve ever been to The Mission Restaurant in downtown Scottsdale, please leave a comment below and share your experience.