By Alison Bailin Batz
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
– Vince Lombardi
How on Earth does a quote from a long-ago football coach (albeit a legendary one) relate to the Scottsdale dining and drinking scene?
Because if the team behind Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ signature restaurant, La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval, rested on its award-winning laurels, we would not have the excellence that is their brand, space and menu refresh today.
Unveiled in late September, the La Hacienda interior and exterior facelift comes from Testani Design, a female-owned business headquartered in Scottsdale that is known for its projects in the hospitality industry and lauded for work with luxury resorts as well as Tarbell’s and several Fox Restaurant Concept designs.
“The leadership at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Testani were committed to making sure the heritage and history of this local dining landmark is honored while bringing the design and menu forward. We were determined to make sure La Hacienda continues to be the top-ranked Mexican restaurant in Arizona for another generation,” says Fairmont Scottsdale general manager Jack Miller.
Testani expanded the lounge and bar area extensively, added high-top communal tables along with comfortable indoor and outdoor lounge seating areas. The design includes a new tequila display shelving unit and a focal agave wall expertly crafted by a local artisan. The use of light-colored stucco walls, blackened steel details, crafted leather seating and newly renovated restrooms all add to the warmth and modern interpretation of the space. Many of the light fixtures, seating and accessories were curated from Casamidy, a high-end furniture and accessory outlet in Mexico.
La Hacienda took great care in updating the menu, ensuring the most popular menu items remained, including the Lobster Tacos, Filet a la Parilla, Tableside Guacamole and Flaming Coffees.
“To help develop the newer recipes and features, our in-house chef Forest Hamrick and chef Richard Sandoval, who is a native of Mexico City himself, recently spent time visiting several hot, new restaurants across Mexico for inspiration,” Miller says.
The visit resulted in a new menu selection of Mexican Barbacoa favorites, including Pescado Zarandeado – barbecued sea bass with charred aioli, heirloom tomato and avocado, and Short Rib Barbacoa – a tamarind mustard barbecue with gremolata and poblano yogurt. Another stunner is the Baller Pork Chop, which take up an entire adult-size plate and is accompanied by three moles, or sauces, including a traditional chocolatey-tasting mole as well as a tomatillo and a traditional red sauce.
The new cocktail menu is similarly stunning. “Our beverage director, Matt Doerr, poured – literally and figuratively – over the development of a new cocktail menu for months, and it resulted in 21 new options for guests,” Miller says.
The cocktail menu is divided into five categories: smoked cocktails, margaritas, shandys (aka beer cocktails), agave-infused cocktails and non-agave (or more traditional) options.
In addition, La Hacienda continues the tradition of an in-house Tequila Goddess, whose job is to help guests navigate their way through the more than 200 tequilas on the menu. To make it easy, the venue now offers seven tequila flight options, each of which is brought tableside by the Tequila Goddess and explained in detail in a way that appeals to both tequila newbies and connoisseurs.
Of course, there is also an impressive list of wines by the glass and bottle (with several from Latin countries) and beers by the bottle. So there are plenty of ways to say “Cheers” at La Hacienda, and plenty to cheer about.