I was the very lucky guest at a fabulous meal last evening and need to tell all who care about wonderful food that the reports of La Hacienda's imminent closing are not true. La Hacienda is the Mexican fine dining restaurant at Scottsdale's Fairmont Princess Resort and has been reported as closing April 1, 2008. Dinner on May 10, 2008 was one of the best meals I have ever eaten so the reports are patently untrue. According to the manager, closing La Hacienda has been postponed indefinitely.
My hosts knew the drill so our driver brought us to the back of the resort, near the spa,to eliminate the long walk from the front parking lot. We began our meal with drinks at the bar. Delicious, not-too-sweet prickly pear margaritas set the tone for the rest of the evening. There is a very large tequila selection available. For dinner, we were seated in the rotunda, a couple of steps up from the main dining room and this was another "knew the drill" because it resembled a gracious private dining room instead of a restaurant. Kudos to the large, comfortable chairs! Too often restaurant chairs feel like they're designed to discourage lingering; these encourage a leisurely meal and we oblidged by being the last patrons to leave. On a cool night, the fireplace is lighted and I would choose to spend the entire night here, wrapped in the heavy linen tablecloth.
Each item we chose for our meal was better than the last choice. Of course, plates were swapped, tastes exchanged and no clear winner emerged. To a morsel, everything was delicious and often unexpected. For starters, we shared the beef tartare and a couple of the smoky, sweet spicy stuffed chiles.
•Tartar de Res Oaxaqueno, Beef Tartar with Roasted Garlic, Oaxacan Chile and Quail Egg
•Chile Ancho en Nogada, Wood Roasted Chicken and Dried Fruits, Pomegranate Sauce
We wiped these plates clean with the delicious flour tortillas and rolls that were accompanied by a vegetable butter, salsa and refried bean dip. This sounds plebian but the combination worked perfectly.
•Chamorro Estillo "Barbacoa", Braised Beef Short Rib in Banana Leaf, Natural Mushroom Stew -- this is the verbatim menu description but does not do justice to the very large and meltingly tender beef that arrived with a spicy mushroom sauce. I love beef short ribs and this was on a very short list of the all-time best.
•Costilla de Cordero, Adobo Spiced Loin of Lamb, Grilled Lamb Ribs, Goat Cheese Tamal and Hibiscus Mole. The lamb was my choice because of the promised myriad flavor combinations and it surpassed my hopes. Ordered medium-rare, the loin was perfectly cooked and we sucked the rib bones clean. The goat cheese tamale was declared a "Do Again" by the whole table.
•Callo de Hacha Sartenada, Seared Scallops, Tempura Avocado with Shrimp Picadillo and Garlic Aioli. This was the unanimous choice by the men who completely cleaned every morsel. Deep-fried avocado was unexpectedly delicious - both soft and crisp simultaneously. Scallops were perfectly cooked, something that doesn't always happen in a restaurant. This dish was another home run.
Our non-wine drinker chose beer to accompany while the rest of us drank Cakebread Cellars 2005 Cabernet. Note: we'd hired a driver for the evening so there was no fear of enjoying a second bottle.
What I laughingly call Karoke Coffee (Keoki) was both a visual treat and the best rendition I have ever tasted. I will not describe the pyrotechnics because it would take away the magic of seeing it for the first time. Think firecrackers! But I will tell you that sharing two (for the four of us) was a great idea. These are large as well as sinfully delicious; probably quite lethal too.
A lovely slice of chocolate torte appeared, as if by magic, and we savored this unexpected and unordered treat. (OK, so it was my birthday and I'm pretty certain that someone tipped off the waiter) Waddling off to meet our car, everyone was in agreement that La Hacienda should remain O-P-E-N for the foreseeable future as one of Phoenix's treasures.