Mexican Courtyards & Bubbling Fountains is Your Setting at Sedona's René Restaurant

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I discovered Sedona Restaurant René at Tlaquepaque while doing some online research for our cross country trip in January, which had us passing through some of my favorite spots in Arizona including Sedona. While I had been to Sedona several times over the years, I hadn’t heard of René, sometimes described as a casual fine dining restaurant, and has been around for more then thirty five years, still winning awards

Located in Tlaquepaque, Sedona’s upscale south-of-the-border shopping center, René is more of an elegant and class dining experience than a casual one, although if you go for lunch (definitely recommended), or the weather is warm, you can dine on the outside patio, where you’ll be faced with a Mexican style courtyard bursting with adorable shops and lavish fountains.

We opted to sit outside since the day was sunny and the patio oh so French in style but with a Southwestern twist. For example, inside, there are paintings by local Southwestern artists. After a few exchanges with the now owner and manager Deborah Leatherwood, who actually started at the restaurant as a server, we had a reservation booked. Despite our busy schedule and the fact that we nearly didn’t have time to fit a meal in at René, are we ever glad we did and not just because the restaurant shares my  name. What a gem of a restaurant find in this romantic “red rock” getaway!!

The lobster salad was out of this world and such a lovely presentation! Maine lobster is tossed with aioli, tarragon, and a hint of lime served in Belgian endive leaves. We paired this with a 2011 Italian Pinot Grigio, which was a perfect match.

While I saw Split Pea Soup on the menu and well, can never pass that up, they also had Gazpacho which is a rarer choice on restaurants I visit frequently. The Zucchini Fritters were unusually prepared and presented — shredded zucchini is blended with feta cheese and dill served with a tomato relish and bisque. It was paired with a South African Chenin Blanc.

While we didn’t order the Saute Brie with French bread and caramelized apples or the Escargots du Chambertin, I thought I’d mention them since they are an example of the French/Swiss influence by the original owner. Modern touches have been added of course to the menu, such as Roasted Rep Pepper Hummus with garlic, cilantro and feta cheese.

In addition to the lobster salad pictured above, you could get a Quinoa Kale Salad with Salmon, the Orzi Salad, a Spinach, Feta, Figs and Pine Nut salad (YUM!!), a Carrot and Arugula Salad or a Shrimp Louie served with tomato, avocado, asparagus and boiled egg.

The Mahi-Mahi wrap positively surprised us — slices of grilled mahi-mahi are wrapped in romaine leaves and served with a mango salsa. This delicious creation is marinated in a citrus cilantro marinade and was perfectly paired with a more full bodied than most Rose of Malbec from Mandoza. Kevin said to trust him and so…we did!

Below, the Spaghetti Squash Primavera sauteed with tricolor peppers, carrots, celery, zucchini, asparagus, red onion and edamame, finished with shaved manchego cheese! This light and healthy number was paired with a crispy and lovely 2012 Santa Barbara Voignier.

If you think this was to-die for, you’re most definitely correct! This massive sized seared scallop sampler was a sweet sea scallop seared to perfection and served over a prickley-pear beurre rouge. Yum!! With this, we had a delicious 2013 Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

If you’re mouth isn’t watering yet, then be prepared for your palate to cave when you see and hear about this Tenderloin of Antelope, which is usually on the dinner menu. The meat is seared and cooked in a whiskey juniper berry sauce, so it seemed likely that a bold red was about to be poured. Kevin decided to pair this with a Tuscan Red — a 100% Sangiovese Gentilly! OH SO GOOD!

Even outside, they managed to create an elegant and luxurious ambiance, even over lunch. Bravo!!

I was planning to feature the below photo first – I mean, after all – does it get more beautiful than this? I opted not to in case “quick readers” thought all too quickly that René was all desserts. Don’t get me wrong….not only was this exquisite dessert a perfect way to end our meal, but it was so stunning, we paused before devouring it because Chef Walter Paulson did such an immaculate job presenting it.

It is a Goat Cheese Cake (graham cracker crust) in case you’re wondering, served with a passion fruit cream sauce, mango and strawberries. It was as delicious as it looked and in fact, I wished we had a fridge in the car as I would have taken a second one to go!!

You can’t beat the overall experience here — the Mexican courtyards, bubbling fountains and ancient stand of sycamores provide an elegant and unique backdrop for a wonderful, relaxing and romantic dining experience inside and out.

Inside, while the artwork may be Southwestern in style, the old world charm and wood beams show its European influence as well.

A painting of René himself.

Happy and gracious servers – even though we had to move our reservation date and time so didn’t have a chance to meet Deborah, the service and attention to detail was top notch! Thanks Kevin –  you completely ACED it every step of the way!!

While we were only there for lunch and didn’t have an opportunity to experience dinner, some call outs on the evening menu include Stuffed Quail stuffed with dungeness crab meat, andouille sauce and boursin cheese, Kalbi Ribs marinated in tamari, onion and garlic, Antelope Carpaccio, a Portobello Bisque with sherry and white truffle oil, a lobster appetizer layered over a grapefruit salsa (WOW!!), Dover Sole from the Netherlands, a Mushroom Streudel (the Swiss influence again), Roasted Duck in a sun-dried cherry sauce (OMG) and a Colorado Rack of Lamb with mango chutney and a mint hollandaise. We must return for dinner next time we’re in Sedona.

Two thumbs up! We loved our dining experience here. It wasn’t just the food that made it so memorable, but our waiter, his exquisite knowledge of wine pairing for each course, the overall service and attention to detail, the ambiance and the flow of the entire meal. Make sure it’s on your must list for your Sedona visit.


René Restaurant at Tlaquepaque

336 Hwy 179

Sedona, AZ 86336
(928) 282-9225


NOTE: we were hosted but I can assure you all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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