The very first fine dining vegan restaurant to grace the Arizona culinary scene opened last month in downtown Glendale. A dinner-only restaurant, Casa Terra showcases seasonally changing, plant forward cuisine with influences from Mexico and the Mediterranean, with an emphasis on flavors from Italy, Spain and Morocco.
Casa Terraâ€™s founder and executive chef Jason Wyrick is no stranger to serving outstanding vegan food in the Valley. Since 2006, Wyrick has been operating locally The Vegan Taste, the countryâ€™s longest running, fully plant-based meal delivery service.
When asked why he decided to open Casa Terra, Wyrick says, â€œIâ€™ve done a lot in my career as a chef, and the one thing that truly inspires me is exploring vegan cuisine and sharing it with people.â€
Wyrickâ€™s path to becoming a vegan chef began when he lost more than 100 pounds and reversed his diabetes by switching to a vegan diet. Since then, he became the first vegan chef to instruct at the famed Le Cordon Bleu program at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He has traveled the globe teaching cooking classes, and he is an accomplished author, including a New York Times best-seller.
Wyrick has infused his passion for history, culture, and compassionate eating into this new venture. While the cuisine at Casa Terra is elevated to a fine dining standard, the atmosphere and experience are warm and welcoming, focusing on the social aspect of enjoying an amazing meal. The menu showcases vibrant, exciting, full of flavor dishes that appeal to vegans and non-vegans alike.
According to Wyrick, he has filled a void in the Valleyâ€™s dining scene. â€œFor the past decade, Iâ€™ve had countless requests to open a restaurant. Iâ€™ve realized for a while that despite being one of the largest cities in the country with a burgeoning food scene, Phoenix doesnâ€™t have a plant forward fine dining restaurant, and we needed one. Casa Terra had to be the next step in my culinary journey.â€
With a wide variety of small plates, wood-fired pizzas and sharable entrees, the menu is designed to encourage the exploration of a variety of dishes. Casa Terra features an expo kitchen where guests can view the preparation of scratch made wood fired pizzas, pasta, tortillas and cheese.
Tapas-style dishes include jicama crudo with escabeche, avocado puree, orange segments, garlic chips, lemon zest and basil-chile oil, and tapas tacos with handmade tortillas, pibil mushrooms, smoked seitan, and almond and chile de arbol salsa. Guests can choose from various pizza options, such as salted agave and local apple with fleur de sel, Aleppo chile, salted ricotta, pomegranate seeds and herbs. The carnitas pizza with mojo pepita sauce is topped with almond queso fresco ricotta, tequila shallots and chile threads. Heartier entrees are also available, such as the housemade gnocchi with sweet potato, Merquez sausage and preserved lemon pesto, and the smoked mushroom cazuela featuring trumpet and oyster mushrooms, cazuela sauce, arroz, split peas, apples, garlic chips, cippolini pico and mole Amarillo.
The restaurant offers a modest, thoughtfully curated, rotating wine list that is specifically designed to pair well with the food, as well as some fun, creative cocktails. A fine dining experience would not be complete without a decadent dessert, and Casa Terra does not disappoint those with a sweet tooth. Indulge in a coconut flan with mezcal-apricot preserves, citrus zest, mole and candied pine nuts, or a Mexican chocolate torte with espresso ganache, gold leaf, spiked cream and raspberry coulis.
An intimate and cozy dining space, Casa Terra only seats 50 guests. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m. Casa Terra is located in the heart of historic downtown Glendale.
By Holly Harmon
Photos Courtesy of Tylon Blas