Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila
7228 E. First Ave., Scottsdale
You gotta love a restaurant that boasts a full “taco stand.” OK, it’s not an actual stand but a signature section of the menu brimming with more than a dozen tasty tortilla bundles. The boisterous turquoise taquería feels like a day at the beach, and plenty of plates evoke that sunny feeling, too. Shrimp is always an excellent taco-filler choice, be it beer-battered and moistened with sweet-spicy island sauce, or sautéed in fiery guajillo chile sauce cooled a bit with rice. You don’t often see ono tacos around town, and here, they come Tecate beer-battered with Baja sauce and chunky mango salsa, or marinated in sweet tamarind and grilled with
roasted garlic, lemon and pineapple. The grilled salmon taco is tumbled with crisp sautéed vegetables, while a meaty seared ahi version arrives decorated with slaw and avocado salsa. It can be challenging to pick a favorite, so thankfully, diners can choose combos – any two tacos, any three tacos, or for a real party, any 10 tacos. For a full-blown fiesta, sample some of Cien Agave’s 100 pure blue agave tequilas.
7277 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale (W Scottsdale Hotel)
This flashy restaurant-slash-bar attracts the pretty party crowds – diners who like their sushi to be as dolled-up as they are. Yet one of the most satisfying bites here is also one of the simplest, in which the flavor of Sushi Roku’s always excellent-quality fish shines through. Mini seafood tacos are a fun, tempura-style twist on the Mexican favorite, and a delight to eat in the summer heat, especially when chased with an ice cold, fruity sake instead of the usual cerveza. Fillings vary with what’s available at the market, but you can always count on seared albacore and Mahi Mahi. If you sit at the sushi bar, you can ask the sushi master to surprise you. He might turn out yellowtail or shrimp tacos tucked into crispy tempura shells and dressed with diced tomato and sweet, citrusy yuzu guacamole. We like to pair our plates with a Kikusui “Chrysanthemum water” from Niigata, Japan – a clean, crisp sake kissed with a sweet aroma of rose, orange and spices.
Vincent on Camelback
3930 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Talented French chef Vincent Guerithault redefines Southwest fusion with an elegant, marvelous lobster chimichanga and a smoked salmon quesadilla that capture the Mexican summer mood. The chimi is wrapped in a flour tortilla, as expected, but Guerithault’s lightly-fried version is more reminiscent of an empanada, with maximum melt-in-your-mouth flakiness. It’s filled with sweet, fresh lobster meat that’s been blanched, then piled atop a rich blend of leeks and heavy cream, finished with goat cheese, and sizzled in shortening to a golden crunch. The finishing touch is cilantro beurre blanc, fashioned with even more cream, plus white wine and vinegar for tang. The smoked salmon quesadilla is composed of just a few premium ingredients: soft, fresh goat cheese blended with zesty, grated horseradish, sour cream and chopped dill. That’s all spread on a skillet-grilled flour tortilla, topped with silky fish, then layered with more tortillas, cheese and fish until it’s four tortillas tall. Magnifique.
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