Aug. 24, 2017

Top 10 Restaurants

November 2, 2016, 12:00 am

Restaurant of the year

Arroyo Vino

Slow roasted autumn squash with Greek yogurt, Brussels sprouts, ras el hanout and Morrocan granola
Nestled in the bosom of the hi-tone Las Campanas development, Arroyo Vino has a built-in audience of well-heeled patrons who can afford to be regulars. But this luxe farm-to-table restaurant should be on anyone’s short list for a spectacular splurge, and its millennial chef Colin Shane proves his salt with artful presentation that delivers a big wow factor; a summer salad of heirloom tomatoes from the garden ($18) is showered with a confetti of edible flower petals, while fried squash blossoms ($18) are stippled with Calabrian chile and surrounded by an emerald green aureole of nasturtium pesto. The food is expertly prepared and creatively composed, with an emphasis on incorporating ingredients from an ever-growing garden out the side door of the dining room. A duo of Pekin duck ($32) matched a seared pressé of shredded duck confit with a dark, lacquered section of tender breast, while medallions of beef tenderloin ($42) were nearly upstaged by a bone marrow flan. The restaurant is attached to a wine shop with more than 800 choices (at lower than usual restaurant prices) which makes the very short by-the-glass list seem stingy by comparison. But the attentive, informed and gracious service makes visitors feel pampered. Save this one for your next celebration—or make dinner a celebration in itself. (Gwyneth Doland)

218 Camino La Tierra, 983-2100
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday

Twitter: @arroyovino
Instagram: @arroyovino

Back Street Bistro

Assortment of homemade cookies and brownies with tea
They’re not kidding with the “back” part. David Jacoby’s soup, sandwich and pie destination does not have curb appeal, yet there’s plenty of make-do parking nearby and its reliable service and creative consistency keep it full. Whether it’s the classic Hungarian mushroom with paprika that’s always on the soup board or a seasonal plan like creamy sweet onion, the soups never disappoint. How hungry are you? Get a bowl for around $6.50 or a smaller portion for $4.75, depending on the soup. The matzo ball chicken is epic. The cold gazpacho or potato leek will have you tipping the bowl to your lips at the end. Jacoby is faithful about updating his daily soups blog, and also providing seasonal desserts that please. This winter, watch for the return of Kahlúa cream chocolate silk pie. For a heavier meal, try a generous Reuben ($5.75-$8.95) or turkey sandwich ($5.75-$8.75) from his deli menu. Meet for lunch in comfortable quarters with a rotating art gallery on the walls. Bring cash. Back here, they don’t accept plastic. (Julie Ann Grimm)

513 Camino de los Marquez, 982-3500
Lunch Monday-Saturday

La Choza

Marinated fish tacos with shredded cabbage, avocado and tropical pico de gallo; sopaipillas
“Legendary” is not a word we use lightly. Yet it’s one of the only adjectives that gets close to describing what La Choza means to Santa Fe. Translated as “the shack,” it’s kinfolk to downtown’s Shed, and here you’ll find the true meaning of local yum. Whatever combination of enchiladas, tacos, taquitos or burritos you choose, get an extra side of carne adovada in which to dip your honey-drenched sopaipilla. This is how we do it. For something off the beaten path, try the spicy fish tacos ($14-$18), loaded with chunks of marinated whitefish, grated cabbage and tropical pico de gallo, served with just enough rice. The wait for tables can be long on a Friday night, but once you kick back on a lobby banco with a signature Choza red margarita ($8.50), the minutes don’t drag on. With an already expanded kitchen and upgraded parking lot, watch for construction soon that will enclose the “patio room” and add even more seating. It’s totally worth writing home about. (JAG)

905 Alarid St., 982-0909
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday

Il Piatto

Locally farmed New York steak with green peppercorn sauce, whipped potatoes, radicchio and endives

For over 20 years, Il Piatto’s rustically appointed Marcy Street location has been dishing out the goods with high-quality ingredients and creative interpretations of Italian classics. From the phenomenal grilled calamari ($14) or charcuterie for two ($22) on the appetizer list to unique versions of old standbys such as pumpkin ravioli ($15/$23) and squid ink spaghetti ($16/$25), chef Matt Yohalem and crew have fine-tuned their menu into one of the very best in town. Specials change daily and make use of locally sourced ingredients while the preparation of permanent entree items such as the New Mexico pork chop pepperonata, a tender on-the-bone cut slathered in melted mozzarella ($34), or pan-seared salmon piccata with croquettes and veggies ($33) has become a mind-blowingly delicious science. They’ve got dessert specials as well, with fan favorites like tiramisu or warm bread pudding ($5.75). Let’s not forget about the daily half-off appetizers and glasses of wine for their 4:30-6 pm and post-9 pm happy hours. Looking for something truly special and innovative? You’ve found it. (Alex De Vore)

95 W Marcy St., 984-1091
Lunch Monday-Saturday; Dinner daily

Twitter: @ilPiattoSantaFe
Instagram:  @ilpiattosantafe

Jambo Café

Spiced taro root-encrusted ono served with organic quinoa and asparagus, topped with sweet basil coconut sauce

In many ways, Jambo represents the best of Santa Fe: creative, curious, colorful, diverse and fun. Hidden in a strip mall between Petco and Hobby Lobby, this African-Caribbean fusion restaurant’s cheery orange dining room is draped with twinkle lights and humming with the chatter of a perfect cross-section of the city: municipal workers still wearing their lanyards, seniors out for a ladies’ lunch, college students out exploring. The flavors of coastal Kenya emerge in dishes like East African coconut lentil stew ($10.95) and Lamu coconut pili pili shrimp ($15.95). It’s a treat to try traditional African mainstays like the simple, polenta-like ugali ($2.95) and roti, a buttery Indian-influenced flatbread ($2.95), both of which are useful in scooping up a trio of flavors on the combination plate ($14.95): moist, rich curried chicken, sweetly spiced coconut lentils and an earthy goat stew. The island spice coconut peanut chicken stew over basmati coconut rice ($12.95) is positively addictive. Globe-trot all over the menu—you can’t make a wrong turn. (GD)

2010 Cerrillos Road, 473-1269
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday

Twitter: @JamboSF

Joseph’s of Santa Fe

Charcuterie with housemade head cheese; chicken liver mousse; duck rillette; beet cured salmon; Peruvian potato terrine; three milk manchego; olive tapenade
Chef Joseph Wrede’s masterful—and might we add, obviously well-loved—hand is known for reinventing Southwestern classics. At his restaurant, we fell for the impeccably plated pork and pineapple tamale ($16), where thick chunks of pork are wrapped in an almost crispy layer of masa scattered with tomatillo crudo and adjoined by blocks of fried cotija cheese for a refreshing reformation. But he dips into other old-world territory, with a semi-deconstructed take on ratatouille ($18) that piles crispy kale, sweet and chewy tomatoes and zucchini, among other vegetables, with a little punch packed by goat’s milk gnudi (we didn’t know either: cheese dumplings that resemble gnocchi). The chicken roulade ($27) merges kale, mushrooms, corn, fava beans and a basil spaetzle with lemon butter that adds just the right citrus zing. Part of what makes the classic charms so embraceable is a highly accessible bar menu that takes an equal share of innovation and flavor—duck fat fries with house-made ketchup and aioli ($9) and enchiladas made with pumpkin, kale and porcini mushrooms ($16) stood out. Dark wood tempered by velvety curtains and a motif of angels recurring in the décor, and densely pillowed bench seating on the patio, add to the feel of a place that welcomes old and new friends alike. (Elizabeth Miller)

428 Agua Fría St., 982-1272
Dinner daily

Twitter: @JosephsOfSantaF
Instagram: @josephsofsantafe

Paper Dosa

Peach and avocado salad with watermelon radish, cilantro vinaigrette and pumpkin seeds

Restaurants have the capacity to transport you to another time and place—to a dream made real in your mouth. The world of South Indian cuisine you enter at Paper Dosa is serene, even though the restaurant is almost always packed (tip: They don’t take reservations. If you can’t get a table, sit at the bar). And this global taste vacation comes at prices that won’t compromise your long-term travel savings. An oceanic grey-green covers the walls of the year-old establishment and its depth is complimented by white geometric mandala-esque patterns that sit over the restaurant’s archways. For starters, consider the peach and avocado salad on a bed of buttery lettuce, tossed in cilantro vinaigrette and topped with pumpkin seeds ($9) that delivers a color pop of beauty and has great crunch. The dosas, which are like giant crepes made from fermented lentil flour, come either with a pile of something yummy on the side, like a mound of soft potatoes and onions in the traditional masala, or already filled, sort of like an Indian quesadilla. The spicy basil dosa ($11) is prepared the latter way and its filling is a complex, spicy, pesto-like concoction. And all of this washes down superbly with two glasses of Broadbent vinho verde ($7 apiece). Huge portions, flavors that surprise and delight, and a ton of aesthetic bang—we think we found our new birthday spot. And every day is someone’s birthday. (Maria Egolf-Romero)

551 W Cordova Road, 930-5521
Dinner Tuesday-Sunday

Twitter: @paper_dosa
Instagram: @paperdosa

Rowley Farmhouse Ales

Warm prosciutto pear sandwich with grilled Bosc pear, goat cheese on toasted brioche with fries; Notorious BdG ale
As we sat at the table, someone cracked a joke and I lost my grip on the piece of fried chicken that I had been lovingly tearing into. My heart dropped as it headed toward the ground, but my hand bolted out to catch it like some kind of restaurant ninja, and then I knew: This was a meal worth risking something for. Rowley’s has been open for just a few weeks as of publication of this guide, but the fine food from chef Jeff Kaplan and the beverage selection and new brews from John Rowley are so promising that we’re sticking our necks out. Situated just a stone’s throw from Cerrillos Road in a place that obviously has room to grow, diners find not just the delightful chicken (served with a glorious housemade Belgian Liège waffle and barrel-aged maple syrup infused with local Colkegan whiskey, $16), but also a choose-your-own BLT with Zoe’s bacon and fennel pollen-dusted roasted salmon on whole grain bread ($18). Kaplan made 50 gallons of the whiskey syrup. And as of this writing, the first of the Rowley beers is also on tap (a dangerously tasty Bière de Garde called Notorious BdG ) along with over a dozen other unique brews found nowhere else in the city. Order up. (JAG)

1405 Maclovia St., 428-0719
Lunch and dinner daily

State Capital Kitchen

Potato gnocchi with basil beurre blanc; tomato pate; fennel; house cured tesa

Was a spoon or a fork the right tool to attack the creamy and crispy polenta ($14) with a 63-degree egg and wild mushrooms? Both seemed the appropriate response, as we were soon scraping the bottom of the dish. Delights continued as an heirloom tomato salad comes with not just arugula, but the tasty greens of nasturtium as well, and instead of dressing, it’s topped with olive oil sorbet ($12). In addition to the kitchen’s fixed-ish menu of the evening, don’t miss the “American dim sum” cart that offered spring rolls and mango shots on our visit. While small plates are the hero here, bravo for entrees such as the local lamb shank and chop served on a chewy bed of Israeli couscous with hunks of apricot ($33). Whether you like your cheese at the beginning or the end of your meal, select your own from a board that changes daily and is accented with a spoonful of honey whisked with balsamic vinegar and dried fruit ($12). With no single-digit wines offered by the glass on our visit, this might be the place to splurge on a bottle. They popped the cork on the new venture just before the publication of last year’s restaurant guide, and we hope they’re here for years to come— exploding like a passion fruit dessert ball ($3). Pay attention. (JAG)

500 Sandoval St., 467-8237
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday

Twitter: @S_C_KitchenNM

The Teahouse

Polenta Catalan with two poached eggs, roasted veggies, polenta and romesco sauce
Simple shines at the Teahouse, where menu items pare down to just a few ingredients and let those few work their magic. And there is, indeed, magic in burrata with beets ($9), and marinated and grilled artichokes with goat cheese ($10). Polenta makes a starring appearance in this fall’s lineup, and we selected the polenta Catalan ($13.95), which pairs steaks of the cornmeal dough with grilled vegetables, topped with just a little black pepper and laid over a Romesco sauce that’s all the right kinds of warm—taste as well as texture. The Italian chicken pot pie ($13.95), topped with a polenta crust, was dense with thick pieces of chicken and held up with pleasant firmness and surprisingly strong notes of rosemary.

Of course, we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves, diving in to the main course. While delectable menu items abound for three meals out of the day (and the Benedicts selection astounds), the establishment’s namesake drink is a veritable world tour of styles and tastes not to be missed. Venture out with a pu-erh ($6), an aged tea that time turns to buttery smoothness, or steer toward the mountain oolong ($6). Enjoy it all at their expansive and pleasant outdoor seating, or snug into a corner in their cozy interior spaces that beg for sweaters and a mug in hand. (EM)

821 Canyon Road, 992-0972
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

Twitter: @Teahouse821
Instagram: @teahouse821


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