Scottsdale’s waterfront is full of flashy restaurants with large patios, twinkling fairy lights, and canal views. But tucked away on the other side of the mall, across from the multi-story parking lot, is a modern Mexican restaurant with a menu that begs for attention.
Call Her Martina opened in April. From the outside, it looks like any other mall joint, wedged between a gentleman’s lounge and a poke bar. But inside, the space has been expertly designed. Large black and white images of movie stars of yesteryear decorate the walls. Backlit mirrors reflect the chic dining room with its white tiles and black leather tables. Neon signs glow with phrases like “Martina Mi Amor.”
The modern decor catches your eye, but the real spectacle is the people watching. At an early Saturday night dinner, the crowd moves. At first, casual shoppers who have spent the day at the nearby Scottsdale Fashion Square mall arrive, bags of Zara shopping in tow.
But as the night wears on, sundresses give way to clubwear. Sneakers are replaced by heels, and Scottsdale’s fashion-forward crowd comes out in full force. The music blares and the boundary between restaurant and nightclub blurs.
Friendly waiters dressed in black swirl around the room, delivering cocktails and brightly colored dishes to hungry customers.
As we sat down, a trio of brightly colored salsas came to the table. Although this dish alludes to the usual free fries and salsa served in many Mexican restaurants, the presentation is novel. Instead of fries, the dish features a stack of round, crispy tostadas that taste more like an Indian papadum than a tortilla. Break each puck into pieces and dip them in red, green and orange salsas. Somehow, despite their very different appearances, salsas all taste quite similar, like garlic and charred tomatoes.
Then our waiter brings the cocktails. Decorated with edible flowers and splashes of artfully added bitters, the drinks are gorgeous.
The Maria Bonita, a pink drink served in a coupe, includes tequila, pomegranate liqueur, agave and lemon. It is topped with a soft egg white mousse and a floating flower. While the ingredients evoke the flavors of a margarita, the creamy topping and lemon make this drink reminiscent of a pisco sour, refreshing and creamy.
For those who love a good piña colada, When She Went to Tulum is another hit. Members of the Moreno family, owners of the new restaurant, recalled a drink they enjoyed while visiting the Mexican beach town. They worked closely with cocktail expert Miguel Mora to recreate the drink, getting every element perfect.
Made with mezcal, coconut liqueur, pineapple amaro, falernum, lemon and agave, this drink really tastes like the tropics. It is light and alcoholic, served over ice and garnished with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint. Although not creamy, thanks to the coconut liqueur rather than cream or milk, this drink still manages to taste rich and decadent, a perfect refreshing antidote to the spicy and salty bites on the menu. .
Our food order begins to arrive, first with the Ribeye Chicharron Guac ($21). After enjoying the fries and salsa, more tostadas weren’t really needed. But luckily, this guac is good enough to eat with a fork. Fresh, bright green avocados mix with red onion and a garnish of coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds. On the side, a pile of plump beef cubes are sprinkled with salt crystals, just begging to be scooped up with a big bite of avocado. The warm, savory steak contrasts with the cool, creamy guac and bright pops of pomegranate for a supremely satisfying bite.
After appetizers, the menu is divided into several sections, including fresh seafood, tacos and tostadas, and main courses. With mains of ribeye and grilled octopus at $65 each, we settled for the smaller plates.
The Elite Quesabirria ($14) consisted of two tacos filled with juicy birria and several small side dish cups. One contained a rich drink for dipping, another had a small amount of smooth, cheese-topped refried beans, and finally, salsa macha, a chilli oil. The tacos were greasy in a cheesy and indulgent way, best drenched in the sides.
When ordering the Tuna Fresco Tostada ($15), our server asked, “just one?” Um yes ?
And so it came, a black plate with a tostada, a thin layer of raw tuna and lots of mayonnaise. The fish itself was fresh and soft. I skipped to eat yet another tostada.
As the booming music buzzed, we shouted across the table about options for dessert. After a lively recommendation from our server, we ordered the flan. This is your go-to dish.
A triangle of creamy custard sits on a black plate and a pool of rich golden caramel. One edge of the flan is decorated with shards of hard caramel, edible flower petals and the star of the show, mint. The flan itself is rich, creamy, sweet and smooth. But a bite with a little mint leaf turns the traditional dessert into an explosion of flavors. The fresh grass enhances the caramel, enhances the freshness and turns out to be an unexpected and perfect match.
Call Her Martina strikes the perfect balance for its Scottsdale location. The restaurant is modern, trendy and filled with loud music and stylish patrons. But overall the food is what stands out. A modern take on Mexican cuisine showcases familiar flavors and breathes new life into classic dishes. Patrons would be sure to stop in for cocktails, guac and, of course, that terribly good flan.
Whether you live in the valley or are just passing through, take a trip to Scottsdale, skip the flashy storefronts, and look for this place. Call Her Martina calls you back.
Call her Martina
7135 East Camelback Road, #165, Scottsdale