In Dining Out, Travel/Arizona

Great Mexican Food abounds in these parts but the crown jewel of south of the border cuisine is La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Known as the “Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine” Sandoval has put a fresh twist on classic Mexican recipes using the freshest indigenous ingredients.

Guests are welcomed by glowing fires on the patio and are wowed by the expansive collection of over 200 varieties of tequila prominently displayed at the bar. It may be a little intimidating, but Katie, La Hacienda’s resident Tequila Goddess will happily educate and entice you, answering any questions you have about tequila and her knowledge is impressive.

My husband and I recently visited La Hacienda and left with a warm giddy feeling, the result of lots of tequila (of course), but also excellent food and superb service. We started our evening with a couple cocktails and appetizers. The guacamole at La Hacienda is NOT to be missed available in several varieties and prepared table side in an authentic molcajete. The Pomegranate blends the ruby arils with avocado, mango, jicama, chamoy, tajin and candied pepitas; the Lobster adds a bit of luxury with the succulent meat, al pastor, pineapple, onion and cilantro; the Bacon guac is a blend of salty, smokiness with salsa verde, corn, poblano and queso fresco. But I’m a guacamole purist so we opted for the Traditional, which blends perfectly ripened avocados, tomato, serrano chiles, cilantro and onion. It’s the perfect mix of smooth and chunky, a slight warmth from the chiles and brightness from the limes and cilantro, but the true star is the creamy avocado. The chips it comes with are warm and perfectly salted and crisp. La Ha truly boasts the BEST guac in town.

I also highly recommend the Chorizo and Potato Empanadas. The filling was a little spicy with the chorizo, the cheese and potato inside melded together in creamy cheesey perfection. The pastry encasing that deliciousness is excellent, perfectly flaky and buttery. The empanadas are served with a vibrant tomatillo salsa which cut through the spice and richness with a bit of freshness and the pomegranate arils on top sparkled like jewels while adding tiny bursts of tart sweetness. All these flavors complimented each other and made for one incredible appetizer.

When it came time to select entrees I was a bit overwhelmed because everything sounds delicious. Our friendly server, Julio knew the menu by heart and readily gave his recommendations while assuring us that we couldn’t go wrong with anything we ordered. I chose the Costilla de Res, short ribs expertly cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection and served with ancho chile mashed potatoes, mole rojo, baby carrots and an heirloom tomato salad. I am a sucker for short ribs and will order them if they are on the menu. These fell apart with just the slightest prodding of my fork and the smooth, slightly spicy mashed potatoes made the perfect accompaniment. The entire dish had an incredible depth of flavor and richness without being too heavy. This was unlike any short rib dish I’ve had, complex yet comforting.

My husband took Julio’s suggestion and ordered the Filet a la Parilla. A beef tenderloin cooked to your preference served atop Oaxaca cheese enchiladas, with a pasilla chile gastrique. When his dish arrived I had to remind myself how much I loved short ribs because I immediately wanted to trade plates. His was gorgeous and smelled incredible. Julio said it was his all-time favorite thing on the menu and I could definitely see why. Thankfully my husband gave me a bite. The steak was perfectly cooked to medium rare, it had a nice grilled taste and those enchiladas, so cheesy with wonderfully chewy corn tortillas and a luscious sauce. I was happy with my dish but I will likely order this the next time we visit La Hacienda.

I know it sounds impossible but save room for dessert flaming coffees. They are a MUST at La Ha. We had the house favorites – Cinnamon Churros and the “Signature” Coconut Tres Leches Cake. The churros were surprisingly light, crisp on the outside and airy on the inside they come with three dipping sauces served in edible chocolate cups. My friend Isabel, from Tasty AZ swears the tres leches cake is her favorite dessert and now it’s mine too! The vanilla cake is soaked in sweet milk and envelopes a center of coconut flan. It’s as pretty to look at as it is delicious to eat!

Now, about those flaming coffees. Everything I mentioned above is MUST TRY, but don’t even think about visiting La Hacienda without ordering a flaming coffee. The experience alone is worth a visit and I can go on and on about how delicious these are. There are several options available, each unique with the addition of different liquers but all are prepared in a table side spectacle. Lots of drama with orange flames shooting up to the ceiling and crackling with cinnamon and cocoa. It’s a dazzling little show that ends with a delightfully strong, and decadent drink.

Dining at La Hacienda is an incredible experience. Warmth radiates through all aspects, from the rich ambiance and friendly faces to the exquisite dishes and impressive collection of tequilas and spirits. Mexican food was already a favorite but our visit somehow left us with a new found appreciation and greater love for the cuisine. There is truly something special there. Viva La Hacienda.



Disclaimer: My husband and I enjoyed this meal at La Hacienda as part of a hosted media dinner. All opinions within this post are entirely my own.  

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