Upscale dining inside of the Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain, Tucson AZ.
If you are looking for upscale and also have a few extra bucks on hand (around $50 per person or more) then Core is worth every penny and highly recommended. As you might expect from a Ritz Carlton, the meal and ambiance is relaxed in the tradition of Tucson chic with an atmosphere that is both soft and substantive. Big cushy chairs, great service, fire pits, mountain views from everywhere, and a knowledgeable wait staff combine with some great wine and imagination from the kitchen all come together, and the result is excellent relaxed dining.
We started on their back patio at sunset among the beautiful people with the fire pits and the popular, if not a bit cheesyfied, Ritz Carlton sunset service. With great fanfare Ranger Bob pops up on the fire pit and in a diatribe worthy of Custer himself, invokes a Native American vibe with a speech containing vague references to the local hieroglyphics up in them thare hills “whose meaning has been lost to ancient civilizations.” He then invites us to join the ritual at Dove Mountain. And then way off in the distance you see a white dot light up. Yep, it appears to be a white guy playing amplified native flute from about 200 yards off on a hill.
I will admit that after a couple of fru fru and savory vodka drinks I was able to, if not cynically, go along with the rube. Now let’s eat.
The menu is limited but proved to be delicious from start to finish. Here is something intriguing you don’t often hear from your waiter: “The kitchen wants you to know that if there is something specific you would like that you don’t see, they’d be happy to whip it up for you.” If you’ve ever worked in a busy kitchen you know that a special order, much less an off the menu request, can send the cooks into a rant. So I was intrigued but not enough to test them. Ha! I stayed with the playbook.
Starting with their imaginative mini bowls featuring different kinds of bread, right into my appetizer of Burratta & Prosciutto with Basil/Quince/Balsamic, the meal got off to an really delicious start. Buratta (Italian for butter), which I did not know when I ordered it, is a form of Mozzarella where the end effect is a soft pillowy fresh little pocket of cheese that, sort of pops in your mouth, melts into all of the other ingredients and leaves you smiling. When those other ingredients are fresh herbs like basil with succulent bits of tomato, the net effect is heaven. Simple, fresh, creative and plated with perfection.
My wife ordered the Beef Short Rib which was prepared using an immersed Sous Vide technique for braising. We were told that the fat would be left behind in a most pleasant way. What Core’s chefs did to that short rib immersed in a perfect temperature of 135 degrees was not just pleasant. It was sinful, lusty, and succulent. I was only able to negotiate one bite from my beautiful wife. She growled.
Since it was my birthday, I tried their version of Fried Chicken and Grits. Again they showed us a twist from a traditional fried chicken preparation, creating a terrine version of the dish. Over all, the plate of cheesy grits (not enough on my plate), hush puppies, and some kind of pickled tomato which was celestial and inspiring, was a hit. The fried chicken breading was too sweet for me, but overall was prepared to perfection.
The rest of the table ordered filet of Beef which is served with Borderlaise and the Sole. Both were prepared to perfection.
Because of my “other life” (the thing I do for a living), I end up in Ritz Carlton hotels all over the country for work. Their restaurants with built-in 18% service often fall far short of what you pay for or expect. But I’m happy to report that Core is clearly manned by talented chefs and cooks, and that the Core wait staff here in Tucson delivers on every level. Want to do something special for yourself or someone else? Count on Core to deliver.
Overall rating from me 4
Thanks to Lynn and Jerry for the outstanding Birthday treat and once again, taking such good care of us.
Everything you need to know is at their website here