Our food critic, Chris Malloy, knows his stuff when it comes to restaurants across the metro Phoenix — and he's been busy lately. From butter-soft beef short ribs to a hole-in-the-wall torta shop to kimchi pasta in a bustling Asian shopping market, Malloy knows where to direct his readers.
Whether you need a restaurant recommendation for the weekend, or just trying to add to your must-eat list, or just on the hunt for some fantastic food photography (thanks goes to Jackie Mercandetti for that one), we have a few places around town to share with you.
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7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale
La Hacienda is one of the many immodestly priced eateries in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. It is old, but newly renovated. Completed at the end of summer 2018, an extensive remodeling has enhanced La Hacienda’s lounge, stone patio, and high-end Mexican menu. The tequila cellar, sporting more than 240 bottles, has been tricked out with more mezcal and fringe spirits. And the food, brainstormed by Richard Sandoval (the globe-trotting chef with his name on the menu) and Forest Hamrick (the day-to-day executive chef), has a few progressive additions that might miss with the hotel guests from Wisconsin, but should intrigue locals. For example, the Caldo de pollo has little of the wintry vibes native to chicken soup, even though chipotles give the broth some early dusk. Big pieces of chicken, creamy avocado swaths, barely cooked zucchini, and fragrant masa molded into mushroom-cap shapes (chochoyotes) come together as a vivid whole, like the swirling brushstrokes of a painting.
845 West Southern Avenue
Tortas Manny is a new, no-frills shop on Seventh and Southern avenues that makes a good, solid torta. The rolls are soft and a little sweet. Their fillings are hearty but not so brawny that they dwarf the bread. There are nine tortas on the menu: eight with meat, one perfunctory vegetarian option. Tortas Manny produces the kind of tortas that are soft everywhere except the interior, toasted to a thin layer of crispness. The roll is yielding, missing the slight chew that some telera rolls have, amplifying the pillowy nature via avocados and tomatoes if you answer “yes” when asked if you want everything on your sandwich. This torta shop, you will see on its big yellow menu, has far more than Mexican-style sandwiches. Burros, enchiladas, quesadillas, a healthy range of desserts, and a few interesting starters highlight. Also: tacos.
1135 South Dobson Road, Mesa
Danny Jeong opened Korean fusion restaurant Katsu last fall, his fourth restaurant in Asiana Market since its 2018 expansion. Since moving from Korea in 1997, Jeong, 45, has cooked in Italian and Korean eateries in many places. More recently, before moving to Arizona for the Asiana project, he opened restaurants in San Diego’s H-Mart. At Katsu, Jeong plates some traditional dishes, others marked by intercultural hybridity. His limited menu — four pastas, bulgogi, tteokbokki, chicken wings, omelets, and katsu — is part Japanese, part Korean, one tiny bit Italian. You can order standard Japanese katsu. You can order tteokbokki, Korean rice cakes, alla carbonara. Don't miss the kimchi pasta, essentially carbonara (with changes and flourishes) tossed with kimchi; the noodles are pervaded with comforting flavor; the sauce is shamelessly abundant and richly creamy, with a current of chile heat to lap your tonsils and aromatic green onions to soothe your soul.