The Scottsdale Waterfront area is filled with flashy restaurants with large patios, twinkling lights, and views of the canal. But hiding on the other side of the mall, across from the multi-storey car park, is a modern Mexican restaurant with a menu that commands attention.
Call Her Martina opened in April. From the outside, it looks like any other mall, crammed between a men’s salon and a book bar. But inside, the space is expertly designed. Large black and white portraits of old movie stars adorn the walls. Backlit mirrors reflect the luxurious dining room with its white tiles and black leather tables. Neon signs glow with phrases like “Martina me Amor.”
The modern decor catches your eye, but the real show is people watching. During an early Saturday evening dinner, the crowd turns. First, casual customers who spent the day at the adjacent Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping center arrive, and their Zara shopping bags.
But as night approaches, summer dresses give way to club wear. Sneakers are swapped out for heels, and the fashion-oriented Scottsdale crowd is out in full force. Music erupts and blurs the line between restaurant and nightclub.
Cute all-black servers circulate around the room, serving cocktails and brightly colored plates to hungry customers.
When we sat down, three brightly colored salsas arrived at the table. While this dish hints at the traditional free chips and salsa served in many Mexican restaurants, the presentation is fresh. Instead of chips, the dish includes a stack of crunchy, round tostadas that taste more like Indian papadum than tortillas. Divide each round into fragments and dip in the red, green and orange sauces. Somehow, despite their vastly different appearances, the sauces are all quite the same, as are garlic and charred tomatoes.
Next, our server brings the cocktails. Decorated with edible flowers and brilliantly added bitterness spots, the drinks are exquisite.
Maria Bonita, a pink drink served in a coupe, features tequila, pomegranate liqueur, agave and lemon. It is topped with sweet white foam and a floating flower. While the ingredients hint at the flavors of the margarita, the creamy and lemony toppings make this drink reminiscent of the sour, refreshing and smooth aroma of pisco.
For those who love a good piña colada, When I Went to Tulum is another hit. Members of the Moreno family, who own 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, perfecting every ingredient.
Made with mezcal, coconut liqueur, amaro pineapple, falernum, lemon, and agave, this drink truly tastes of the tropics. It’s light and subtle, served on the rocks, and topped with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint. Although it’s not creamy, thanks to coconut liqueur instead of cream or milk, this drink still manages to taste rich and decadent, and is the perfect cooling antidote to the hot and savory meals on the menu.
Our food order starts arriving, first with Ribeye Chicharron Guac ($21). After enjoying the chips and salsa, no more tostada was really necessary. But luckily this jack is good enough to eat with a fork. A mixture of fresh green avocado, red onion, coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds. On the side, a pile of beef cubes brimming with salt crystals, begging to be sliced up with a big bite of avocado. The hot and savory steak is contrasted with the creamy, luscious jack sauce of pomegranate for a very satisfying bite.
After the appetizers, the menu is divided into multiple sections, including fresh seafood, tacos, tostadas, and entrees. With mains of Rib Eye and grilled octopus coming in at $65 each, we stuck with the smaller plates.
Elite Quesabirria ($14) consists of two tacos filled with wild juice and several small cups of sides. One contained a large amount of consumption for dipping, the other had a small amount of ground beans and cheese, and finally, salsa macha, which is Chilean oil. The tacos were greasy in a cheesy and fun way, and best dipped in accompaniments.
When ordering a Tuna Fresco Tostada ($15), our server asked, “Just one?” Ummm yes?
And so it arrived, a black plate with one tostada, a thin layer of raw tuna, and a generous dash of mayonnaise. The fish itself was fresh and soft. I skipped eating another tostada.
With the loud music playing, we shouted across the table about dessert options. After a moving recommendation from our server, we ordered the flan. This is your dish that cannot be missed.
A triangle of creamy custard sits atop a black plate and a basin of rich golden caramel. Single flan edge is accented with hard caramel cut-outs, edible flower petals, and a mint display star. The pie itself is rich, creamy, sweet and smooth. But a bite of tiny mint leaves turns the traditional dessert into an explosion of flavour. Fresh grass caramelizes, increases coolness, and proves to be the perfect unexpected pairing.
Call Her Martina strikes the perfect balance for its Scottsdale location. The restaurant is modern, trendy and full of loud music and elegant clientele. But overall, the food is what stands out. Modern Mexican food showcases familiar flavors and breathes new life into classic dishes. Customers won’t be remiss in stopping by for some cocktails, jacks, and of course that devastatingly good pie.
Whether you live in the valley, or you’re just passing through, take a trip to Scottsdale, skip flashy storefronts, and find this spot. Call her Martina and she’ll call you back.
Call her Martina
7135 East Camelback Rd, #165, Scottsdale