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Los Sombreros(Scottsdale) Valentine's Day

Well...recognizing that Valentine's is probably the worst day of the year to judge a restaurant....here's our experience last night.

Last year we had also gone to Los Sombreros on Valentine's. We had a lovely meal at a relaxed pace and the quality of the food, despite the fixed menu was no different than any other night we've been there.

Last night we arrived 5 minutes early for our relatively early 6:30 reservation. The patio was mostly empty and the restaurant was half empty. There was a looming dark cloud and lightening off in the distance.

We were offered any table on the patio. We indicated we preferred to sit inside but were told that wasn't an option at the moment. I asked about all the empty tables but was told they were four tops and unavailable to us. Keeping my thoughts to myself that it's valentines and how many four tops were they going to sit tonight anyhow, we indicated we'd wait for one of the few two tops rather than risk getting rained on on the patio.

After about 15 minutes we were sat inside. We weren't in the chairs for sixty seconds when someone appeared to take our drink orders and indicated that when he returned with the drinks he'd take the entire order at that point(a fixed four course menu was being offered for the evening).

A minute later he appeared with our drinks and did indeed want our order at that time, which we went ahead and placed.

A minute later our first course Cream of Cauliflower soup arrived(no choice here). This was a very thick soup...with very little cauliflower taste. The garnish was tortilla strips, diced bell peppers, a bit of perhaps jalepeno or serrano(something with a kick). Tasted like cream with the garnish. Neither of us finished this.

We had just put our spoons down with the next course arrived. I had a crab cake and my husband had a fig and cheese salad(forget which mexican cheese it was). The crab cake was OK...had a spicy remoulade with it. Lots of filler and not lump crab. The salad had a nice vinaigrette on mixed greens. Very few slices of dried figs.

Again we had barely finished when our entrees arrived(so again the course arrived while the dirty dishes from the previous course were still on the table). I had the Shrimp with Mango salsa. I cannot tell you how many times I've had Shrimp at Los Sombreros...and never been disappointed. Particularly a favorite of mine was whenever it was offered with green mole. Last night the shrimp were actually overcooked! This was a first here...rubbery, dry and just yuck. The salsa had mango and bell peppers in some sort of sauce that tasted like sweet sour. Again, I didn't finish this. My husband had Carne Asada in mole amarillo. The steak itself was fine and well cooked...the mole was nothing special and was rather bland.

For dessert I had a corn cake which was OK and he had the Damiana infused flan. We've had that there before and it was consistent wtih previous visits and was definitely the best thing we had last night(though served too cold for my personal preference).

From start to finish our dinner lasted 35 minutes...for four courses. Our fault in part for accepting the courses as rapidly as they were coming but we also figured sending them back to wait, given the way the evening was going, wasn''t going to do anything to improve either the service or the quality fo the food. At 7:30 the restaurant was still half empty. We walked out around 7:45 and the patio had completely cleared out(due to the weather which had now arrived). Which perplexes me even more why the rushed service pace?? There wasn't anyone waiting for tables which were sitting empty anyhow.

We were really disappointed. This was the first time we've been since Jeff Smedstead left. We'll give it one more shot since it was Valentine's day and probably not a fair night to judge them(despite last year's success!). Hopefully this isn't how things are there these days...if so I'll definitely miss visiting as it was one of our very favorite places in town to eat....

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  1. Wow! Why did Smedstead leave? Wasn't he chef and owner? That was my favorite restaurant in the Phoenix area. Too bad.

    1. Dinner service that far out of whack (even for V-day) doesn't bode well future visits there - it's clear they are more concerned with their revenue than their food.

      1. Sounds like things have really fallen off at LS. Guess I'll have to be happy with my memories, especially now after my cellphone with the picture of the Lamb Shank Adobo was lifted from my car.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GroovinGourmet

          now that is sad....and these reports are discouraging. I will try it at least once more myself when I am next in PHX, but sigh....such good memories too.

        2. That's exactly why it's not a good idea to go out to dinner on Valentine's Day. Restaurants prepare a lot of whatever they think will be simple to make ahead and you don't get the normal choices, and service is often rushed. I once spent 12 hours straight on Valentine's Day in a restaurant making about 200 layered desserts that we would never have served on a normal day. My husband and I usually do our Valentine's dinner on an alternate night before or after the actual day.

          Sarah C

          1. I agree and admit it was a bad night to judge them as I noted: "Well...recognizing that Valentine's is probably the worst day of the year to judge a restaurant...". Last year was the first time we'd been out in years for the holiday but we had such a good experience we decided to try them again this year. I'm making a special dinner for us Saturday when I'm not working and have time to prepare.

            That's why I want to try one more time before writing them off...but comparing apples to apples, last year's fixed menu VDay experience to this year's, it was a definite turn for the worse. Hopefully that won't be the case with the regular menu on a "regular" evening.

            We're going to try and get back there soon. In the meantime I'll be curious to hear what other's experiences are there these days and see if this was a fluke or the new norm....

            1. Went to Los Sombreros last night hoping that all would be the same, trying to impress some friends from out of town.

              Unfortunately not so. I have been visiting Scottsdale often for the past few years and "discovered" Los Sombreros via CH. Instantly fell in love- incredible flavors, fun atmosphere, great food you can't find just anywhere.

              Last night was a different story. The service, was a bad mix of unattentive and rushed, not relaxed how I remember it. It took forever for our drinks to come out, and my house margarita was one of the worst I have ever had. I could easily replicate it at home. Saw on the menu it used sour mix instead of lime juice, and that you needed to "upgrade" for $3 more to a marg with a different tequila to get lime juice. Not sure if this was the case before, but sour mix should not be on the menu of a restaurant of this supposed caliber.

              Chips/salsa/guac were good and as remembered.

              I had the Mole Poblano, which seemed to be the "winner" of the table. There was nothing overtly wrong with it, but not the wallop of flavors I had hoped for. Unfortunately have not had it before so I have no point of comparison. One of my friends had the Puerco en Chipotle, which was "fine" but she discovered several overly tough parts, and the flavors were flat. I recommended this dish highly to her; it is one of my favorites. It was nothing special last night. My other friend had the Crab enchiladas which he said were soggy.

              We were in and out of there in about 30 minutes, and it was not the same enjoyable experience I recall. Will have to start searching for a new place like this in the Phoenix area- have been to Barrio once and recall it being okay but not what Los Sombreros once was.

              1. I was there recently & was very underwhelmed. I didn't know the chef had left. Maybe that explains it. I'm a carnitas freak and had heard all these good reviews of the carnitas dish there & just didn't get it. Dry & tasteless. Edible I mean but nothing to get excited about.

                1. ccL1111 maybe we should start a Carnitas Thread......

                  My favorite Carnitas are @ Brennan's Mexican Cantina on Scottsdale Rd and T-bird. Slow cooked, juicy flavorful...served w/ either flour of corn tortillas, fresh cilantro, pinto beans, sliced avocado, lime, and chopped onion....along w/ a side of their warm salty chips, homemade salsa and a house margarita...you can't go wrong.
                  Don't let the smoky bar room fool you Brennan's makes some of the best reasonably priced Mexican specialties around (not gourmet...great bar food!)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ciaogal

                    Nice! I will be heading there as soon as I possibly can! Thanks ciaogal!! And I'm up for searching the valley for carnitas for sure!

                  2. These recent reviews make me sad.

                    The original Valentine's review here was mine and obviously it was a negative experience. I was afraid then, because we had dined there on Valentine's in the past, that it was an omen of an overall change and based on these last two reviews seems like it may have been. We haven't had a chance to get back since Vday to see for ourselves but more if more comments indicating it's has in fact really gone downhill continue we probably won't bother.

                    Los Sombreros was such a Phoenix gem. I'm really sad this isn't the case anymore.

                    1. I just wanted to add a link to a report on Sala in Atlanta, which is where the Los Sombreros former chef ended up...in case any of you travel there: