Food with a View

Hearth ’61 serves a taste of tradition with a side of mountain scenes

By niki d’andrea

When the food is as delicious as the mountain views, you know a Valley restaurant is doing something right. In the case of Hearth ’61, the New American cuisine restaurant embedded in Mountain Shadows Resort and surrounded by the pristine peaks of Paradise Valley, there are so many things going “right” that diners could find themselves coming full circle.

Yes, a resort and attendant high-end eatery springing up in this spot was inevitable. The original Mountain Shadows Resort opened in 1959 on the same primo plot of land it currently occupies, drawing well-heeled guests and celebrity attention (an episode of The Monkees was shot there, as was an entire TV detective series called The Brothers Brannagan, which aired from 1960 to 1961). After changing ownership a few times – including stints under developer Del Webb and Marriott – the resort shuttered in 2004 and was razed in 2014.

Westroc Hospitality and Woodbine Development Corp. purchased the property and began construction of the modern Mountain Shadows in 2015. The resort reopened this year, with an updated, 18-hole golf course layout that pays homage to the original designed by Arthur Jack Snyder; a contemporary art gallery with artist receptions; two 75-foot pools connected by a waterfall; and Hearth ’61 restaurant.

The name Hearth ’61 is a nod to 1961, the year Paradise Valley became incorporated. That’s about the only shred of the ’60s to the place. The décor is sort of a Spartan, fine-dining aesthetic – dark wood tables and charcoal gray concrete floors balanced by bright and sunny floor-to-ceiling windows, communal tables, and a couple of attached, open rooms with dark chairs and couches for lounging.

A long bar lies between the main dining area and the sitting rooms, beckoning with insanely creative libations like the Cherry Bomb (Effen Black Cherry Vodka, white port, lime juice, activated charcoal and egg white); the Root of All Evil (El Silencio mezcal, Tempus Fugit crème de cacao, lime juice, beet juice and chai tea syrup); and the Forty-Rod (High West Campfire Whiskey, corn, ginger cayenne syrup and sage). If your drink inclinations aren’t daring, Hearth ’61 bartenders make a great Peachy Mule (vodka, lemon juice, cranberry, ginger beer and thyme) that tastes exquisitely effervescent and doesn’t contain anything you’ve probably never had in a cocktail before. There’s also a thick book for a wine list.

The food is hands-down some of the best in town. Executive Chef Charles Wiley isn’t messing around. From being named one of “The Ten Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine when he began his culinary career more than 40 years ago to his more recent deeming by the James Beard Foundation as one of “The Best Hotel Chefs in America,” Wiley’s accolades are perhaps only exceeded in size by the famous resorts he oversees the food and beverages operations for through Westroc Hospitality. Wiley’s focus on locally sourced and organic ingredients, beautiful plate presentations and prolific fresh fish dishes makes meals on his watch a real show.

Take the appetizers, for starters. The ahi tartare arrives looking so gorgeous – nestled against waves of puffy rice, and adorned with shishito peppers, Persian cucumber and shaved turnip – you almost don’t want to eat it. Almost. Thank goodness for Instagram (#bestahitartare). This is a scrape-the-plate situation. Sweet prawn ceviche wasn’t as pretty as the ahi, but when you’ve got a pile of plump pink shrimp bobbing in a bowl of light green cucumber gazpacho with chunks of avocado and kohlrabi, it’s more palate-pleasing than eye-pleasing. Seasonal flatbread brilliantly combines soft and creamy cambozola cheese with wood-roasted pear.

Salads are sparse (there are but three on the menu), but one of them is a must-try: humble heirloom tomato salad, made with fresh mozzarella, basil, smoked Maldon salt and aged balsamic.

Entrees include specialties such as Georges Bank scallops and charred eggplant with ancient grains. There’s also a “Roast of the Day” (garden roasts on Mondays and game hen roasts on Thursdays are especially popular) and an array of inventive side dishes like ginger carrots with tahini yogurt dip and heirloom cauliflower with golden raisins and caper gremolata. Carnivorous couples can’t go wrong with the aged Niman tomahawk rib-eye, a 40-ounce bone-in beauty bathed in rosemary truffle butter.

If there’s not room for dessert, make some for the vanilla lavender panna cotta, with pureed raspberries and shortbread crumble.

Service is friendly and efficient, but not overly attentive. (No one will ask, “How’s everything taste?” just as you are shoving a forkful of salmon into your mouth.)

And did we mention the delicious views?