We timed May’s dinner just right as it was at the tail end of Spring Restaurant Week in Phoenix. We rated our visit to Distrito an A+ all the way! Opened in 2011 by Iron Chef Jose Garces, the decor was fun and spunky with shiny multicolored table tops, walls decorated with either tiny fuzzy balls or ribbon in a lattice work design, the bar with butterflies encased in glass, and overhead lights decorated with wooden clothespins. The decor felt very modern yet with a retro inspiration. Some of the chairs reminded me of the old kitchen table chairs like my grandma had with metal frames and brightly colored chair pads, but yet comfortable and stylish. They have a nice patio seating area for when the weather is beautiful and a nice view of the Scottsdale Mall area and a great happy hour until 7 everyday (yes, even on Saturday!)
We made the best of happy hour and started with cocktails at the bar while waiting for everyone to arrive with Blood Orange Margaritas, traditional Margs, red Sangria, Pineapple Margarita, and a surprising Jalapeno Cucumber Cilantro Margarita. Yes, there are real jalapenos muddled into this marg and it gives it quite a spicy bite but it will keep you from sucking it down like juice. The Sangria was very tasty but many of us are a little partial to our own amazing recipe that we got from Rita’s Kitchen at Camelback Inn. My one suggestion for Distrito’s Sangria would be for larger pieces of fruit so you avoid the innevitable rogue piece that gets sucked into the straw and then shoots into your mouth like a pilot ejecting from a fighter plane. Except for the Michelada, which only had a few fans, we immensly enjoyed all the cocktails at Distrito.
Then we moved on to the dinner. Since it was restaurant week, we picked from a set menu of three different courses. Distrito describes their cuisine as celebrating the “wonderfully diverse street food of Mexico City, known […] as Distrito Federal and Mexican Barbacoa, or barbeque” and is served in small plate or family style. This was perfect for the DDs since we love to share and try everything. Even better is that the dishes come out as they are prepared rather than everything all at once so we could taste, enjoy, and visit while new dishes came staggering out. For the first course we had fresh Guacamole with cojita cheese (which is made right at the guacamole and salsa bar) and freshly made tortilla chips; Tortilla Soup with tomato, chicken, a creamy pasilla chile broth, queso fresco and avocado (divine!); and Angelica’s Fresa which had spinach, strawberries, melon, cabrales, poppy seeds, red onion, all topped with a serrano-balsamic vinaigrette. So refreshing and delish! Last but not least we tried the special of Octopus with Romaine. I was hestiant to try it since I have never enjoyed Octopus but at Ann’s insistence, I tried a bite and was pleasantly surprised. The warm octopus was neither rubbery or slimy and the crunch of the romaine plus the hint of spice in the sauce made it rather enjoyable. I think I finally found a place the knows how to cook octopus!
Even with small plates, when you are sampling a little bit of everything, it catches up to you fast. We were starting to get full and suddenly realized we still had two courses and a side to go! So we buckled down and did our duty even to the dismay of our rapidly filling tummies. The second course had some big shoes to fill and it delivered and then some. It included Enchilada de Pollo with queso chihuahua, epazote and a red chile sauce; Nachos Ignacio (p.s. NOT a small plate) with black beans, tomato, queso mixto, jalapeno, radish, and chile de arbol; Tacos de Pollo (my absolute favorite!) with chicken ropa vieja, queso fresco, crema, and topped with shredded radish; and last but not least…Camarones Ceviche with shrimp, spicy tomato, avocado, and plantain chip.
Whew! It was like an amazing flavor bonanza and almost enough to make your head spin. So many flavors, our tastebuds were doing a little dance of joy. Hold on little taste buds, we still have another round…
Third Course and rounding the bases towards home. Carne en Adobo which is blackangus beef brisket and dry adobo that was so tender you could cut it easily with a fork; the also tender and tasty Conchinita Pibil – berkshire pork shoulder with achiote-pineapple BBQ; Tacos de Mahi Mahi (winner!) with Chipotle Remoulade, avocado, red cabbage and lime; Tacos de Carnitas – pulled pork, black beans, and pineapple salsa; and the vegetarian option of Huarache de Hongos which was like a flatbread of forest mushrooms, huitlachoche sauce, queso mixto, black truffle and corn shoot.
As if this wasn’t enough, you also order a side. Ugh, make room! We sampled the Frijoles Charros which are pinto beans with tomato and bacon; Platano y Crema which are the best darn plantains I have ever had with a black bean puree and queso fresco; and Esquites which gives you many of the flavors of Mexican corn on the cob without the mess. I mean seriously, finally somebody didn’t subject their customers to the embarrasing mess of devoring Elote in public view and instead put all the goodness of sweet corn, queso fresco, chipotle, and lime into a glass. Genius! Kelly ordered the Ejotes which is green beans with confit cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic lemon vinaigrette but by the time they came out we were so full she had to get the whole order to-go. In fact, there was quite a lot of food left over that we took home with us to enjoy all over again the next day.
Now we should have stopped there but another diner we met told us we couldn’t leave without trying their churros, so naturally we are glutton for punishment and got one order to split. That was about all that we could do but well worth it. The warm churros are perfectly seasoned with cinnamon sugar and served with a spicy Valrhona Chocolate sauce and cajeta crema, which seemed similar to dulce de leche.
The service was terrific and it was obvious that our waiter Keith and his colleagues were both knowledgeable about the dishes as well as proud of their work. The ambiance, decor, service, cocktails, and food all hit a home run for us and the Double Ds rated this an A++ visit to a great new restaurant in AZ!