By Judi King Claybaugh
Mexico-born chef Luis Milan promises one thing about the restaurant, La Sala Tequila Cantina, which opened Nov 18.
“We are not like the Sonoran Mexican food restaurants that are so prevalent in this area,” Milan said. “You won’t find enchiladas and rice and beans on our menu. Our food is different with a smoky, spicy flavor and unique dishes which could be described as modern Latin cuisine.”
La Sala Tequila Cantina is the newest from the owners of The Living Room, Rock Lobster and Humble Pie. La Sala, which means “living room” in Spanish, shares a kitchen with its sister restaurant, The Living Room. It’s the final addition to its five-month expansion project.
Born in Cananea, Mexico, Milan, moved to Arizona when he was 18. He then traveled to Europe to obtain his culinary training at the famed École Supérieure de Cuisine Française in Paris, then to Barcelona to train in Mediterranean cuisine. Upon returning to Arizona, Milan honed his culinary skills at Zinc-a French Bistro in Scottsdale, as well as at several Latin and Italian restaurants before opening his own Mexican restaurant, Sol Diablo, near ASU.
Milan said that before opening La Sala, he traveled through central Mexico trying regional variations of the cuisines to bring to the restaurant. He merges the styles, which use only fresh ingredients and locally sourced products.
“The secret to our amazing corn tortillas is that we make them by hand each morning, using freshly ground corn masa made only from Heirloom blue and yellow corn,” Milan said.
“We start at 7 each morning mixing the masa and pressing the tortillas so they will be fresh and delicious for our customers.”
Tableside guacamole is another unique feature of La Sala.
“Some of the choices of extras include pomegranates, onion, lime, grapefruit, jalapenos and raisins,” he said.
“We will be expanding our menu as we go, and we will listen to the customers as to what they like and would like to see at La Sala.”
Entrees include rockfish with seared chili gnocchi, peas and citrus butter sauce ($28), hanger steak with grilled red mojo, fingerling potatoes and spring onion ($32), and lamb with grilled asparagus, chili hummus, crispy garbanzos and chimichurri ($36).
The taco platters come with three made-to-order corn tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo and Mexican slaw ranging from $10 to $12 and include carne asada, chipotle brisket, chicken, carnitas, veggie and fried or grilled rockfish and rock shrimp.
The eight starters ($2 to $12) include the typical queso and chips and salsa but also branch out to incorporate more unusual fare such as Hamachi ceviche with aji Amarillo, radish and avocado, Mexico City empanadas with mesquite grilled chicken and tomato broth, and street corn, which is grilled pinwheels with cotija mayo, Tajin and lime juice.
Yucatan pozole—a thick stew made with pork, hominy and cilantro—($8.50), and beet salad with Mexican crema agave nectar and pistachio vinaigrette ($10), add sophistication to the soup and salad menu.
La Sala also features an extensive and impressive wine and beer menu, along with bar specialties such as its award-winning margarita, and specialties like the Dia de los Muertos and blistered pineapple cinnamon from its tequila and mezcal offerings.