A Poetic Chef | Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix, AZ
When poetry invites itself to the table
Phoenix, AZ, October 2022
• GAYOT’s Rating: 18/20
• Cuisine: French / Contemporary
• Open: Tues.-Thurs. 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Classics $125 / person + tax & service; Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Eight-course Chef’s Tasting Menu $275 / person + tax & service; Optional wine pairings + $230 / person + tax & service
• Note: Reservations are pre-paid. The service is included.
• Christopher’s Wrigley Mansion is on GAYOT’s:
– Best French Restaurants in the U.S.A.
– Best 10 Restaurant Wine Lists in the U.S.A.
– Best 10 Restaurants with a View in the U.S.A.
– Best Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.A.
– Phoenix/Scottsdale Best Restaurants
– Best Phoenix/Scottsdale French Restaurants
– Best Phoenix/Scottsdale Outdoor Dining Restaurants
– Best Phoenix/Scottsdale Romantic Restaurants
– Best Phoenix/Scottsdale Special Occasion Restaurants
– Best Phoenix/Scottsdale Wine List Restaurants.
> Scroll down the videos and the food photo gallery for a tour of the wine cellar, a blindfolded champagne sabrage and décor photos.
Christopher Gross has a very distinctive energy. He has been a chef forever, but he looks more like an artist with writing skills, a thinker. But instead of using a pen, Gross puts into his hands kitchen utensils; in place of words, he transforms ingredients and products to elevated dishes; and in lieu of laying his ideas on paper, he deposits them on a plate. The story line is based on Gross’ experience (hence the “forever” in the first sentence). His intense production is to be classified in the “poetry” category, rather than in the “novel” one. Every one of his culinary creations is a different poem that rhymes with the beauty of the site, presented in different vessels (some made exclusively for the restaurant based on Gross’ design, and available for purchase).
Since Gross’ inspiration is at large, the offerings create a different experience if you have the chance to return. You would not ask a poet to change his carefully chosen words. The same goes with Gross’ cuisine where he attentively curates every single ingredient to create a collection of presentations then tastes en bouche (in other words, this is an haute gastronomy establishment where you should not ask for substitutions).
Open the book by swirling up around the road leading to the Wrigley Mansion nestled on top of a 100-foot knoll. At the last turn, here it is, finally: the majestic Camelback Mountain. The mansion was constructed between 1929 and 1931 by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. Its main style is Spanish Colonial, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989. So, it is somewhat, to say the least, surprising that the brand-new building that houses Christopher’s restaurant is in a completely different style: very contemporary, black, glass and metal. And, of course, to let the backdrop be fully part of the experience, the bay windows stretch from the floor to the ceiling.
Commence your gastronomic voyage with a cocktail made table side to wake up the palate. Then, the culinary pages start rolling one by one, brought to the table by the chefs themselves from the open kitchen fully integrated in the room design, both in round shapes to align with Arizona’s Mother Nature landmark. Since the menu is a tasting format, try not to read it if you are like me and you like surprises; let the chef’s inspirations compose an evening of discoveries. Then you may retort, “But how can I choose the wines?” The answer is a complicated-simple one: there are more than 16,000 bottles in the wine cellar. I highly suggest you call on Wine Director Jason Caballero to uncork complementary bottles. He knows the menu; trust his expertise to lead you to the perfect pairing (see below the exclusive video interview with Caballero, filmed in the wine cellar).
During my soirée at the 32-seat restaurant, my head spun at each of the modern French cuisine dishes presented to the table. There is no show, no eccentricity, just perfectly calibrated and balanced execution. Open the drawer hidden in the table on your right to seize the knife and fork to plunge into, what was in my case, scrambled egg and caviar, Spanish turbot, parsnip and truffle stuffed pasta. Then, the chef finished table side the Béarnaise for the Miyazaki A5 fire-wood grilled Wagyu (see video below). It was followed by an aged duck breast in a sherry gastrique. With a wealth of experience in his times in France, Gross has included cheese in the form of a croquette, and paid homage to the Tour Montparnasse in Paris with the mini chocolate tower. I also appreciated the sorbet palate cleanser, and the tart of fresh figs.
Between the cuisine of chef Christopher Gross and the setting, Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion is a true culinary ecstasy.