If you’re like me, there are a handful of qualifications that make a high-end dining establishment truly special. The first is a welcoming atmosphere with luxury design elements that create a memorable ambiance. The second is a team of professional and knowledgeable staff members that can provide insightful recommendations and informative explanations of the menu. And finally, the third and most important feature is high-quality food that makes the restaurant unique within the industry. T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa certainly checks all the boxes. In fact, it might just be the gold standard for destination dining in the Valley.

Setting the tone for the evening

Royal Palms Resort and Spa is located off Camelback Road – one of the busiest streets in Metro Phoenix – but if you hadn’t driven there yourself, you wouldn’t even know you were still in the Valley. The beautiful entry way is lined with palm trees and lush flower bushes leading you up to a rustic, stone fountain that is all set to an incredible backdrop of Camelback Mountain. Needless to say, the setting was enough for an incredible experience… and we hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet.

Royal Palms Resort
Front of Royal Palms Resort and Spa. Photo by Paul Schaum.

This quiet little slice of Arizona is tucked away just enough to provide a peaceful and private dining experience. As you make your way through the European-style courtyard, you’ll become immersed in your surroundings as another gorgeous stone fountain provides the tranquil sounds of a trickling creek to truly set the mood. Oh… did I mention that we’re still not in the restaurant yet?

Finally, as you approach the entrance to T. Cook’s, you’ll notice that the ambiance is taken up a notch within the luxury dining establishment. The restaurant’s rich earth tones, brick walls and high-vaulted ceilings tie the resort themes together perfectly. The rustic atmosphere is enhanced by the cast-iron chandeliers hanging above the dining room. Although it is beautiful inside the restaurant, the true gem of this establishment is the patio. Prepare to be greeted by a spectacular view of Camelback Mountain, complemented by the vibrant colors of lime and orange trees and topped off by a fresh flower smell that makes you wonder, once again, if you’re still in Phoenix.

Experience the Mediterranean magnificence 

Once you’ve been able to soak in your surroundings, you’ll want to start getting to the good stuff. It’s important to note that T.Cook’s is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, but you’ll want to check the hours ahead of time, as they vary based on time of day. With each time slot comes a unique menu with offerings catered to that meal. For now, let’s focus on the dinner and dessert menus.

Your wonderful server will start you off with some fresh baked bread and some of their house made pesto sauce that is light and features a hint of garlic. For an appetizer, you should consider the artisan cheese & charcuterie board, especially if you are enjoying a glass of wine. It features a wide array of meats, fruits and cheeses, with each pairing creating a unique set of flavors. My personal favorite had to be the sweet strawberry paired with the salty goat cheese on a toasted pita.

Beef Tenderloin at T. Cook's
Beef tenderloin at T. Cook’s. Photo by Paul Schaum.

For an entrée, you can’t go wrong with the garlic and rosemary lamb chops or the beef tenderloin. The tender lamb was paired with sweet pomegranate seeds, roasted spring potatoes and snap peas that left your taste buds bursting with every bite. The beef tenderloin was cooked to absolute perfection, melting in my mouth as I drift off into my happy place. The truffle mash and seasoned brussels sprouts complemented the protein perfectly, with each bite better than the last.

Finally, the dessert. Our server was gracious enough to provide us with recommendations throughout the night, and I must say, he nailed the dessert options. The crème catalana is a Spanish orange crème brulee that is served with seasonal berries and features a delightful crunch. The chocolate decadence might be the crowned jewel of the dessert menu. It is a cocoa nib Breton base topped with milk chocolate butter cream and sour raspberry coulis. It’s a bit heavier than the crème brulee but pairs perfectly with coffee.

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. T. Cook’s provides everything that you could possibly look for in a luxury dining establishment. Whether you’re going for the food or the views, you won’t be disappointed visiting T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa.