Anhelo Restaurant Nabs Top Wine Award, Reopens with Fresh Interiors
Downtown Phoenix fine-dining spot Anhelo Restaurant has a refreshed space to match its award-winning, reinvented wine program. The eatery, at 114 W. Adams St., recently updated its interiors in the art-deco Orpheum Lofts, bringing a contemporary look to the historic building while maintaining the white tablecloth experience. Anhelo was named a 2022 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” winner. The focus is on quality wine that’s reasonably priced, says chef and owner Ivan Jacobo. Wines are curated by one of the state’s private collectors. “We started with the mindset to go about this very differently—start from scratch with the customers’ wants and needs and build from there,” he says. Meanwhile, strong relationships with vintners from around the world allow them to host unique, intimate pairing dinners, which will continue in 2023.
Q&A With Chef Ivan Jacobo of Ahelo Restaurant
You were just named a 2022 Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” winner on the heels of revamping your wine program. What changes did you make?
We started with the mindset to go about this very differently—start from scratch with the customer’s wants and needs and build from there. Instead of going the typical sommelier route, Anhelo engaged one of Arizona’s largest collectors to curate and craft the premier wine program focused on the customer. We wanted the program to not only offer the very best wines in each category, but also charge a reasonable price, in most cases up to 50% less than other fine dining establishments. By charging a fair price, it allows the customers to get more for their money and not feel cheated.
What’s more is we offer our loyal customers the option to join us for privately held dinners where wineries and chateaus fly in from all over the world to host special events. We don’t believe this combination exists anywhere else in the world, making it a very special opportunity for us right here in Arizona.
How big is your wine program and how have you gone about curating it?
Anhelo has over 500 unique selections, allowing guests to choose between by-the-glass, half bottles, standard bottles or larger formats. We don’t stop at just selections. We curate based on the best options for our clientele and the menu. Our commitment to quality, price and selection is integral to our mission. We want the program to be a playground for a newly discovered wine enthusiast as well as to the avid collector.
Are there regions or styles of wine that you focus on?
Anhelo’s wine program has reinvented the traditional wine-paired fine-dining experience, exclusively offering the finest vintages from Napa and Sonoma Valley; Oregon; Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and Rhone, France; Piedmont and Tuscany, Italy; and rewarding wine lovers with incredible bottles not available anywhere else in the state. This allows our customers to go on a journey of exploration with the very best of wine in every category.
What’s a region or style that you’re hoping to get more diners to appreciate or pay attention to?
Arizona has a tremendous thirst for wine knowledge and appreciation, but for far too long it has been ignored by the wine community. However, Anhelo and a handful of others in the Valley are now actively filling that void. Here at Anhelo, we are passionate about Bordeaux—so much so that our wine director travels to France once a year to taste hundreds of wines and to learn where they are in the development process. Plus, he gets to see firsthand how the vintages are performing, both new and older, in order to make sure Anhelo continues to have only the best in stock. This intimate setting and personal knowledge along with the relationships he has built with the chateaus allow us to offer the best of the best year after year.
For cocktail enthusiasts, you’ve also recently rolled out a new cocktail menu—what can guests expect?
We can’t have an incredible wine program and not have an extensive cocktail list to satisfy everyone at the table. Like our wine and food menu, we strive to provide fantastic staples as well as seasonal influences focused on the overall culinary experience. Our guests can always expect a wide variety of balance and complexity. As we move towards winter, there’s a heavy vegetal tone to these cocktails. We find inspiration within the ingredients of the kitchen, using garden elements such as black garlic, beets, stone fruits and potent herbs. We also take a classic fine dining approach with riffs on old-school staples. Guests can comfortably sip on a gin martini with Japanese-style bitters and blended vermouths.
You’ve been in the Orpheum Lofts for about a year. How are you settling in?
We are loving our new location so much that we made a major investment in the interior by hiring a premier interior designer to give us a refresh and make the space look and feel both classic and welcoming—with a modern twist.
What’s your favorite pairing you have on the menu?
Some of our favorites include our award-winning, signature seared scallops paired with the Chassagne-Montrachet, the caviar tasting with sweet potato Blini along with Krug Champagne and the delicious lavender-seared duck paired with the Vosne-Romanee Pinot Noir. An Anhelo staple is the Prime Beef Wellington with locally foraged mushrooms, which pairs perfectly with 2006 Dominus Estate or 2014 Château Malescot St. Exupéry.
You donate a portion of every glass of house wine sold to LoveIAM and have set up a scholarship foundation at Estrella Mountain Community College to give opportunities to aspiring West Valley chefs. Why have you chosen to pay it forward in this way?
While I do not have a large restaurant, charity is so important to my family and I, now that I am in a position to give back. Even if it is still early in my career, I want to do everything I can so when I come home to my beautiful baby girl, I can look her in the eyes knowing she will be proud of me when she grows up. By paying it forward to children with heart defects, other charitable organizations that we support throughout the year, as well as to those students who are hoping to accomplish their culinary goals, it’s important for me to give back to the community that molded me into the chef I am today.