Skip navigation
Kembara_Chilled Pho Salad.jpg

Chef Angelo Sosa opens Asian street food concept Kembara in Phoenix

The restaurant is his latest collaboration with partner and restaurant developer Mark Stone

On Dec. 7, chef Angelo Sosa and restaurant developer Mark Stone opened the doors to Kembara at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort + Spa. The new restaurant concept reflects the duo’s shared interest and career odysseys traveling through Asia, and it pulls inspiration from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, and more, as seen in both the setting and the menu.

Sosa’s resume spans more than 25 years in professional kitchens and includes multiple turns on “Top Chef.” He’s worked with big names like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, Stephen Starr, and Masaharu Morimoto, and honed his Asian cooking skills at restaurants like Spice Market, Buddakan, and Morimoto NYC. He has also opened his own concepts, including fast-casual Asian restaurant Xie Xie in New York, as well as Añejo Tequileria y Restaurante in New York and Death by Tequila in Encinitas, Calif.

Stone worked with Masaharu Morimoto for more than a decade, and also worked on projects like John Tesar’s Michelin-starred Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando and Grande Lakes in Florida.

This is the duo’s second restaurant in Phoenix, following last year’s opening of Tia Carmen, a southwestern restaurant that is also located at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort + Spa.

Kembara is 4,715 square feet and seats 270 guests, with capacity for 150 in the dining room, 20 at the bar, and another 100 on the patio. There are also two private dining rooms, with seating for 16 and 28 people.

The space was designed by Thomas Schoos, who designed Tia Carmen and also worked on Morimoto in Napa and Mexico City and Margot in Los Angeles. The restaurant is meant to evoke the energetic vibes of Asia’s night markets, with details like an illuminated moon gate at the entrance, colorful whooping crane wallpaper, hand-painted murals, and neon rope lights suspended from the ceiling. The kitchen opens to the dining room, so guests can witness the culinary team at work.

Kembara’s menu embraces Asian street food culture and harnesses what Sosa calls his “trinity of flavors,” finding balance between sweet, sour, and salty elements. Many dishes feature a unique take on classic preparations.

Chicken larb (Thai salad with minced chicken) draws inspiration from Laos and Thailand, while the lamb spring roll channels Indian samosas. Chilled pho salad is a riff on the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, but adapted to Arizona’s hot climate, and black pepper Maine lobster is an ode to the classic Singaporean dish.

Kembara also offers a fully vegetarian menu with original dishes and modified takes on existing dishes.

Though Phoenix is far from the countries that inspired Kembara’s concept, Sosa has embraced the local environment and stocked the menu with products that grow in the region.

“Most people think Arizona is just desert, but what’s beautiful about this state, and how it plays into the food scene, is that there are so many micro-climates here which offer up a plethora of unique opportunities for chefs and mixologists,” Sosa said. “You could go an hour and a half north of Phoenix and you can be foraging for fresh juniper — and juniper berries can be astringent, but also sweet and beautiful. You’re able to source great produce of different types thanks to the diversity in micro-climates.”

The bar features one of the largest Asian spirits collections in the region, with plenty of Japanese whiskies, shochu and baijiu, as well as a robust selection of sakes and a cocktail menu that spotlights Asian ingredients.

Drawing on their own lives and travels, Kembara is a personal project for Sosa and Stone, but it seems their partnership is just getting started. Sosa shared that the duo is working on a concept in Indian Wells, Calif. — details and name yet to be disclosed —that is slated for spring 2024.

TAGS: Chefs
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.