Last week was Santa Fe’s turn on the New Mexico Restaurant Week roster. Fifty-four restaurants prepared special, prix fixe, bargain menus in order to lure customers during the promotional scheme, aimed at generating traffic during a traditionally slow part of the season. It’s a great event, with some cringe-worthy moments.
New Mexico has an abundance of talented chefs and dedicated restaurateurs—any action that encourages more people to experience the diversity and delight of our restaurants is worth supporting.
The prix fixe format is a great way to sample expensive fare at an affordable price.
The braised local short ribs and truffled gnocchi at Amavi were a decadent combination and offered big flavor and elegance at a price point. The cinnamon and the mission fig ice creams were luscious, complex, evolving seductions.
Terra served an impossibly delicate ravioli and full-bodied mushroom soup with flavor that blossomed like, well, fungi. The roasted lamb chops and lamb shank tamale were balanced, tender, lovingly plated, museum-worthy specimens. Pastry chef Kaitlin Ojeda’s dulce de leche churros and pear tart should be aggressively protected state secrets.
Satellite radio must die. Why do restaurants meticulously prepare wonderful dishes from fine ingredients and then fail to pay any attention at all to the sounds their customers are forced to ingest along with the food?
Too many restaurants prepared bargain menus with bargain ingredients that are prepped in advance. Obviously, turning out high volume at a lower price demands some planning and adjustments, but failing to put your best foot forward means a lot of potential regular customers won’t come back.
At Castle Ranch Steakhouse, the prix fixe courses could be matched with a “wine pairing” for an additional $12. I opted in and was asked what wines I’d like. I’d call that a wine special, not a pairing. But it matched the décor and the saltines that came with the soup.
Amavi served a five onion soup that tasted like dishwater. If I had to guess at a culprit, I’d suspect stock that arrived on a truck.
There was no fear of the food (including the fresh-made bread) being undersalted at Terra. Someone in the kitchen has a heavy hand.
Finally, I wonder about how successfully the event is promoted. The staff at Terra suggested, anecdotally, that business had been great for restaurant week. But other restaurants I went to were appallingly slow. At Castle Ranch Steakhouse, I could hear the waiter breathing all the way across the gigantic dining room. Or I could have, if it hadn’t been for that damned satellite radio.
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