Why try to come up with a new concept when you can resurrect and refresh a time-honored Valley favorite?
La Hacienda at The Fairmont Scottsdale was an iconic fine dining destination before it unexpectedly closed back in 2008, a high-profile victim of the recession. It was one of only two upscale Mexican restaurants in North America to receive an elite AAA Four Diamond Award, and was a special occasion spot for locals and tourists alike.
As of today, the restaurant is back in business -- it's a soft opening, mind you -- with acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval at the helm, a brand-new modern Mexican menu, and updated ambiance.
Mexico City-born Sandoval is considered a pioneer of modern Mexican cuisine, and owns more than a dozen eateries around the globe, including Isla in Las Vegas, Maya in New York and Dubai, and Pampano in New York, Mexico, and Acapulco.
He's collaborating with chef de cuisine Forest Hamrick, a well-traveled fan of Mexican culture who has been with the resort since 2003, and earned La Hacienda the AAA Four Diamond Award for three consecutive years during his tenure.
Their contemporary Mexican menu offers sophisticated interpretations of traditional dishes. Appetizers include ceviche, pork carnitas sopes, and -- huitlacoche alert! -- tamal de huitlacoche with goat cheese, zucchini, chile guajillo sauce, and huitlacoche (corn smut), which is often called Mexican truffle. There's also roasted corn soup with cream and a huitlacoche dumpling.
Entrees ($12 to $28) are mostly meat-centric, such as costilla de res (braised beef short rib, vegetable escabeche, crema fresca potato puree, and habanero-guava sauce) or filet mignon tampiquena with cactus salad, guacamole, poblano-potato gratin, and a mole cheese enchilada.
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However, there are a few seafood options as well, including lobster and black bean tacos, pistachio and ancho chile-crusted tuna with sweet potato, green apple salad, and mole verde, and huachinango a la Veracruzana (red snapped dressed up with caper and olive-studded tomato sauce).
Look for 110 kinds of tequila, as well as two holdovers from the olden days at La Hacienda: suckling pig as a weekly special, and flaming coffee served tableside.
The restaurant retains its original Spanish-style architecture, although the furnishings and lighting have been updated to give it a more urban feel.