First Taste

First Taste: Call Her Martina Calls You Back

The Elite Quesibirria at Call Her Martina in Scottsdale.
The Elite Quesibirria at Call Her Martina in Scottsdale. Tirion Morris
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

The Scottsdale Waterfront is overflowing with flashy restaurants with large patios, twinkling string lights, and canal views. But hiding on the other side of the shopping center, across from the multi-story parking lot, is a modern Mexican restaurant with a menu that demands attention.

Call Her Martina opened in April. From the outside, it looks like any other strip mall joint, wedged in between a men's salon and a poke bar. But inside, the space has been expertly designed. Large black and white pictures of old-time movie stars decorate the walls. Back-lit mirrors reflect the swanky dining room with its white tiles and black leather tables. Neon signs glow with phrases like "Martina Mi Amor."

click to enlarge
Neon signs light up the entryway and dining room at Call Her Martina in Scottsdale.
Tirion Morris
The modern decor catches your attention, but the real show is the people watching. During an early Saturday evening dinner, the crowd shifts. At first, casual customers who've spent the day at the neighboring Scottsdale Fashion Square mall arrive, Zara shopping bags in tow.

click to enlarge
The When She Went To Tulum cocktail is made with mezcal and coconut liqueur.
Tirion Morris
But as the night draws on, summer dresses make way for club outfits. Sneakers are swapped for heels, and the fashion-forward Scottsdale crowd comes out in full force. Music blares and the line between restaurant and nightclub blurs.

Friendly servers dressed in all black whirl around the room, delivering brightly colored cocktails and dishes to hungry customers.

As we sat down, a trio of brightly colored salsas arrived at the table. While this dish hints at the customary free chips and salsa served at many Mexican restaurants, the presentation is new. Instead of chips, the dish includes a stack of crispy, round tostadas that taste more like an Indian papadum than a tortilla. Break each round into shards and dip into red, green, and orange salsas. Somehow, despite their vastly different appearances, the salsas all taste quite similar, like garlic and charred tomatoes.
click to enlarge
A trio of salsas arrives at the table as customers sit down.
Tirion Morris

Next, our server brings the cocktails. Decorated with edible flowers and artfully-added splashes of bitters, the drinks are gorgeous.

click to enlarge
The Maria Bonita cocktail is a mix between a margarita and a pisco sour.
Tirion Morris
The Maria Bonita, a pink drink served in a coupe, features tequila, pomegranate liqueur, agave, and lemon. It's topped off with a sweet egg-white foam and a floating flower. While the ingredients hint at the flavors of a margarita, the creamy topping and lemon make this drink reminiscent of a pisco sour, refreshing and smooth.

For those who love a good piña colada, When She Went to Tulum is another hit. Members of the Moreno family, who own the new restaurant, remembered a drink they enjoyed while visiting the Mexican beach town. They worked closely with cocktail expert Miguel Mora to recreate the drink, getting each element perfect.

Made with mezcal, coconut liqueur, pineapple amaro, falernum, lemon, and agave, this drink truly tastes of the tropics. It's light and boozy, served on the rocks, and topped with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint. While not creamy, thanks to coconut liqueur rather than cream or milk, this drink still manages to taste rich and decadent, a perfect cooling antidote to the spicy and savory bites on the menu.

Our food order starts to arrive, first with the Ribeye Chicharron Guac ($21). After enjoying the chips and salsa, more tostadas weren't really necessary. But luckily this guac is good enough to eat with a fork. Fresh, bright green avocados blend with red onion and a topping of cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds. To the side, a pile of plump beef cubes are speckled with salt crystals, begging to be scooped up with a big bite of avocado. The hot, salty steak contrasts with the cool, creamy guac and bright pops of pomegranate for an extremely satisfying bite.

click to enlarge
The Ribeye Chicharon Guac is a great way to taste the steak without shelling out for the entree.
Tirion Morris
After the appetizers, the menu is split up into multiple sections, including fresh seafood, tacos and tostadas, and entrees. With main dishes of ribeye and grilled octopus coming in at $65 each, we stuck to the smaller plates.

The Elite Quesabirria ($14) consisted of two tacos filled with juicy birria and multiple tiny mugs of sides. One contained a rich consume for dipping, another had a small amount of smooth, cheese-topped refried beans, and lastly, salsa macha, a chile oil. The tacos were greasy in a cheesy, indulgent way, best dipped in the accompaniments.

When ordering the Tuna Fresco Tostada ($15), our server asked, "just one?" Um, yes?

click to enlarge
The Tuna Fresco Tostada at Call Her Martina.
Tirion Morris
And so it arrived, a black plate with one tostada, a thin coating of raw tuna, and a whole lot of mayo. The fish itself was fresh and soft. I skipped eating yet another tostada.

As the booming music droned on, we shouted across the table about options for dessert. After an animated recommendation from our server, we ordered the flan. This is your can't-miss dish.

click to enlarge
Don't miss the flan for dessert.
Tirion Morris
A triangle of creamy custard sits atop a black plate and a pool of rich golden caramel. One edge of the flan is decorated with shards of hard caramel, edible flower petals, and the star of the show, mint. The flan itself is rich, creamy, sweet, and smooth. But a bite with a tiny mint leaf transforms the traditional dessert into an explosion of flavor. The fresh herb sets off the caramel, heightens the coolness, and proves to be an unexpected, perfect pairing.

Call Her Martina strikes the perfect balance for its location in Scottsdale. The restaurant is modern, trendy, and filled with loud music and stylish customers. But overall, the food is what stands out. A modern take on Mexican food showcases familiar flavors and breathes new life into classic dishes. Customers would not be remiss to stop by for some cocktails, guac, and, of course, that devastatingly good flan.

Whether you live in the Valley, or you're just passing through, make a trip to Scottsdale, skip the flashy storefronts, and seek out this spot. Call Her Martina calls you back.

Call Her Martina

7135 East Camelback Road, #165, Scottsdale
480-687-8592
callhermartina.com
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.