Being a Phoenix native, Mexican food is a basic staple in my diet. I don't think I go by one week withough indulging my whim for comfort food and end up with your basic Sonoran-style combo plate. These go a long way with me and I find my cravings satisfied.
That being said, there are tons of really good and really bad restaurants serving Sonoran style Mexican food. Every neighborhood has at least one little operation here and there that can get you a green corn tamale or a machaca enchilada in short order. However, sometimes the Sonoran style of cooking wears thin.
Every time someone asks about great Mexican food in the Phoenix metro area, inevitably, two choices are made: Barrio Cafe and Los Sombreros. I have never been to them and decided to check Los Sombreros out. My friend Dave wanted to try it as well. It was a Friday night, so I had warned him that there might be a wait.
We ended up parking on a side street about two blocks away from the restaurant which sits on Scottsdale Road. I feared the worst, but when we arrived at the host station, we were immediately seated at an elevated table overlooking the outdoor courtyard and the bar. The place was busy, but the outdoor seating kept the noise down.
We reviewed the menu and I suggested to Dave that we order a soup, a salad, an appetizer and our entrees. We would then split everything and see what we thought. Our waiter, Sergio, was very attentive and was more than happy to answer any questions or make suggestions. So, we ordered everything at once. For our appetizer, Dave and I immediately opted for the Chorizo Fundido ($7.95). For the soup, I chose the Tortilla Soup ($5.95) and Dave selected the Jicama Salad ($5.95) for the salad tasting. Entrees selected were the Beef Chile Rellenos for me ($13.95) and the Chicken Enchiladas for Dave ($12.95).
The best part was that this was not just another Sonoran Mexican restaurant. There were no listings for combination dinners and things like fajitas on the menu. The description of dishes made it clear that this was going to be something very special.
Our drinks and chips arrived. The chips were accompanied by two sauces. The first was a chunky tomato salsa that was mild and sweet. The second was a thin, smoky and slightly sweet sauce that was simply excellent. The chips were crisp and fresh.
Our soup and salad arrived. We decided to split them so we could both try. First for me was the soup. A large both of broth held a large chicken breast that had been cut in half and allowed to soak up some of the broth while it cooked. This was topped with crispy tortilla strips and fresh vegetables and reminded me a bit of having soup at a Vietnamese restaurant with the fresh veggies being added to the mix. My first bite (or slurp) had me in heaven. The broth was perfection. Perfectly seasoned, hot, and rich. This was a nice change from the often gloppy broth you get with tortilla soup which had been thickened with cornstarch. It was a clean, fresh, bountiful soup. This was a big winner for both Dave and myself.
Next up, the salad. The presentation was gorgeous. Matchstick cuts of jicama were piled on a large plate with a little romain lettuce, with slices of juicy Valencia oranges resting on top. The whole thing was drizzled with a tart, spicy and delicious chile lime dressing. It was an amazing mix of tastes. This salad was inspired and we were the benefactors of that inspiration. Dave and I raved to everyone about that salad.
Just as we finished our soup and salad, the chorizo fundido arrived. A cast iron serving skilled was presented and you could see the cheese still bubbling with the large chunks of chorizo being hidden underneath. The scent was intoxicating. We dove in immediately. We pulled the cheese and the chorizo apart and savored the flavors. It was great. The suprise for me was that underneath all of that wonderful cheese and sausage was a nice layer of sauteed peppers and onions. My cholesterol jumped 80 points with each mouthful, but I wasn't going to let any of this go to waste. Dave was clearly pleased as well since he said little during the eating of the fundido as he was busy enjoying each bite.
We waited a bit and Sergio was kind enough to bring us a pitcher of Diet Coke. Big points to any member of a waitstaff that does this. Then, our entrees arrived.
In front of me was a dish I was not expecting at all. The Beef Chile Rellenos were two large chiles stuffed to the gills with shredded beef and then were placed in a small pool of rich broth, while topped with some minced onion, peppers, tortilla strips and Oaxaca Creme, a spicy version of creme fraische. I will admit that I was a bit confused about the dish. The problem was not with Los Sombreros, but with me. Chile Rellenos for me were large green chiles stuffed with chicken or cheese and then dipped in an egg batter and fried until golden brown. In this version, there was no batter and no frying. So, I took my first bite. It was excellent. I didn't need the cheese or the egg batter. The chiles were not overcooked but still had some crispness to them and the flavor of the beef, the broth, the chile and the creme were exceptional.
Dave was busy eating his enchiladas and was pleased that, like my rellenos, they were not standard stock. The enchiladas were covered with a Salsa Verde. Dave said the tortillas were not mushy which gave the dish a nice texture. He described the dish as a great mix of flavors and said the enchiladas were not overpowering in flavor, but quite satisfying in taste. I had a taste and I would agree that these were very good enchiladas.
One of the nice things about Los Sombreros was the fact that you get two chose two side our of four for your meal. You can get black beans, refried beans, rice, or sauteed vegetables. Dave and I both chose the rice and refried beans. The rice was okay. I was hoping it would be different or rich, but it was rice with seasonings. It wasn't bad, just okay. The beans, on the other hand, were outstanding. They were rich and creamy and probably some of the best refried beans I have ever had. This probably means they were cooked with lard and so my cholesterol took another jump with each bite.
At the end of the meal, Sergio offered us dessert. There simply was no room for a dessert and the offered dessert of pecan pie (which I am sure would have been tasty) just wasn't what I would be looking for as a dessert option following this meal.
Dave and I were giddy as we walked back to the car. Los Sombreros was a big hit for both of us. We felt the cost of the meal ($54.68 including tax) was a great value considering the quality of the food. What I was most happy about was that the restaurant turned out not to be just another Sonoran-style place featuring tacos and tostadas.
We already have plenty of those in Phoenix metro.
2534 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Notes: Sit outside in the courtyard if at all possible.