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Frescas and Pozole at Distrito

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Welcome to Brunched, where Chow Bella samples local restaurants' offerings for our favorite meal. (Hey, you get to sleep in and eat breakfast -- what's not to like?)

See also: Iron Chef Jose Garces of Distrito at The Saguaro What: Distrito at the Saguaro Hotel Where: 4000 N. Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale, 480-308-1100 When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday How much: Appetizers, salads and soups, $7-$10; tacos and tortas, $9-$14, Brunch entrees and specialties, $8-$16

Mood: With its huge floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Scottsdale's lush Civic Center Mall, this open, airy space has always had loads of potential. And now, for the first time ever, it looks and feels just right -- modern, comfortable and kitschy in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. The Day-of-the-Dead theme (which comes dangerously close to design cliché these days) works here, as does the almost-cheesy bar marquee featuring beverage options. I love the pink, green and gold color scheme, the glitter-topped cocktail tables and the Mexican background music

Food: Although Distrito's premise is Mexico City street food, brunch selections -- more often than not -- are familiar dishes given an upscale twist.

Lemon-y guacamole, sprinkled with cotija and served with warm and crunchy house-made chips, is ultra-simple and impossible to leave alone. Meanwhile pozole verde, chock full of hominy, clams, chorizo and chewy bits of pork belly, ranks among the best I've ever had, the broth so rich I could drink it by itself.

Hearty eaters may quibble about the portion size of the carne asado, sliced and neatly arranged over a lustrous puddle of mole, sprinkled with sesame seed and served with warm corn tortillas. But they probably won't fuss about its dark, earthy taste. The Distrito Skillet might suit them better -- a gratifying compilation of house-smoked brisket, roasted potatoes, caramelized onion, black beans, poblano peppers and chile de arbol. This one's got "Hangover Cure" written all over it.

Eggs Bendict is made in every possible permutation these days, but Distrito's version is a real standout, contrasting the salty, peasant quality of house-smoked Mexican chorizo with the elegance of black truffle hollandaise and toasted brioche.

Torrijas -- French toast soaked in three milks like Tres Leches cake and topped with fresh berries and Chantilly cream -- is so airy and sweet it could serve as dessert. But who'd want to miss a real dessert of frutas con crema, mango and orange liqueur panna cotta with pineapple ceviche and mini pineapple cakes? Hmm?

Drink: Premium tequilas and tequila flights, mezcal flights, frutas frescas (fresh fruit drinks), margaritas (try the pineapple) and a DIY Paloma, which involves a shot of tequila and a bottle of Jarritos grapefruit soda.

Bottom Line: Never mind that celebrity chef Jose Garces is seldom in the house. He's left the place in the capable hands of chef de cuisine Pete Balodimas. The food's first-rate, the servers are charming, and the Saturday brunch option is awesome. I know what you're thinking: Who wants to take a chance on a spot that's undergone two or three identity crises already? You do.


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