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SFR Restaurant Guide: 10 Best

2012-2013

October 16, 2012, 12:00 am
By SFR



$            Inexpensive; most entrées under $10
$$          Moderate; most entrées under $20
$$$        Expensive; most entrées under $30
$$$$      Very expensive; most entrées under $40



315 Restaurant & Wine Bar

Parisian cote de boeuf for two: dry-aged prime bone-in ribeye with creamed spinach and roasted garlic tater tots

 

Don’t be surprised if you order a table for two and are seated at one for three instead at 315. That extra space is reserved for your own personal, bistro-style blackboard which points out the day’s specials. Heading into its 18th year, the creation of executive chef Louis Moskow continues to deliver with appetizers like their signature beignet batter-dipped, flash-fried squash blossoms served on a pool of goat cheese fondue and tomato coulis ($12); entrées like the flawlessly pan-roasted white sea bass enhanced by a touch of saffron butter ($26); and the pièce de résistance, seared duck breast with stone fruit ($26). Far from despicable, the signature dish is perfectly cooked, giving the skin a hint of a crunch, and balanced by a bed of caramelized baby carrots, fresh peas and fava beans. It comes with a side of delightful zucchini griddlecakes to boot. Best part is, all entrées are easily paired with a selection from the bistro’s seasonally driven global wine list. Room for dessert, Pierre? The apricot crumble tart served with a scoop of house-made cinnamon ice cream will have your taste buds screaming “ooh la la!” at first bite. Think of it as a true experience sans that pesky TSA pat-down and, well, all those Parisians. (Enrique Limón)

315 Old Santa Fe Trail, 986-9190
Dinner daily.  $$$


La Boca

Morcilla con duraznos (blood sausage with peaches)

 

Since founding La Boca in 2006, chef and owner James Campbell Caruso has continually served up excellent food, helping lead the charge to rely on local producers for many of his ingredients. La Boca is Spanish for “the mouth,” and that’s what Campbell Caruso’s cooking is all about: pleasing diners’ palates with a range of inventive dining options. Although La Boca has a concerted focus on Spanish cuisine, some plates reach far beyond Spanish favorites like paella and gazpacho, incorporating flavors of the entire Mediterranean in dishes such as the “tapas trio,” which includes a cumin-scented hummus, red pepper-almond spread and goat cheese with raisins, capers and spinach, served with hearty triangles of toasted flatbread. La Boca’s wine list is informed and thoughtful, designed to pair with lunchtime sandwiches as perfectly as it accompanies the sinfully rich dinnertime morcilla, or grilled blood sausage. La Boca’s small space makes for an intimate meal, and service is almost always excellent, but reservations are a good idea. Weekend brunch, complete with churros con chocolate, also makes for a special treat. (Alexa Schirtzinger)

72 W Marcy St., 982-3433
Lunch and dinner daily; brunch Saturdays and Sundays.  $$$


Luminaria

Spice-crusted tuna with pequillo pepper salsa and Turkish anchovies

 

Look: we know that by the time you’re reading this, it’s October. But if you can still finagle a seat on Luminaria’s spacious yet intimate patio, you’ve successfully set the groundwork for the most romantic dinner of your life. Once seated cozily by the adobe fireplace, you’ll receive a lesson in attentive but unobtrusive service. The wine list is thoughtfully selected and highlights organically grown bottles for every palate; expect your server (who has introduced both herself and her various assistants by name) to refill glasses promptly. Executive Chef Brett Sparman continues Luminaria’s tradition of consciously delicious cuisine, with many ingredients sourced locally and prepared simply. That’s not to say Luminaria’s dishes are simplistic; they’re anything but. A grilled romaine salad offers an innovative take on the Caesar; beef tenderloin from Harris Ranch is served in sizable portions, with a sophisticated spice rub that marries New Mexican red chile with flavors of Mexican mole and woodsmoke. For just a taste, try the daily “cena pronto,” a $29 prix fixe served from 5-6:30 pm daily. (AS)

Inn & Spa at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 984-7915
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $$$


Mu Du Noodles

Front: Halibut wrapped in collard greens with cabbage, seaweed and red peppers; back: daikon cakes

 

Mu Du Noodles is “treat yourself” food. It may land on the pricey side (appetizer, main course and dessert set me back $48), but with its local ingredients and simple preparation, Mu Du presents itself as one of the best destinations in town for Asian fusion cuisine. The menu is laudably small (nine main dishes, with a small array of shifting specials that mirror what’s currently fresh at the farmers market), and this commitment brings excellent results. Each of the main dishes is prepared with care, and it shows in the flavor. The beef jantaboon is particularly fantastic—the spicy Angus beef is perfectly marinated and prepared, the vegetables are fresh and light, and the broth with fresh noodles is remarkably complex and satiating. There’s a—forgive the apparent contradiction—simplicity in Chef Mu Jing Lau’s food. The flavors are bold, front-forward and rich, but they also have a pleasant aftertaste, or some other accompanying sensation—a sweetness that builds beautifully to spiciness or a tenderness that gives way to rich umami. Even the less Asian-inspired dishes (mostly the desserts) have that same balance. And on the subject of dessert, do try the lemon panna cotta. It may seem counter-intuitive after a meal of such bold flavors, but there’s a delectable subtlety to it—a certain incomprehensible loveliness that leaves one floating out the door rather than walking. (Corey Johnson)

1494 Cerrillos Road, 983-1411
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. $$



The Ranch House

Grilled Atlantic salmon with creamed corn, spinach and oven-dried tomato compote

 

For the barbecue savvy, the Southwest can be tough, as it lacks its own distinctive style of the illustrious smoked meat process. However, the Ranch House (a revamped and scaled-up expansion of local favorite Josh’s Barbecue) is seeking to change that by creating a new and distinctive variety of ’cue—New Mexican style. And yes, that occasionally means putting green chile on things, but don’t let that deter you—The Ranch House may have the best barbecue in the state, let alone Santa Fe. The entire restaurant smells like their smoker (a good sign for BBQ fans), which is both a blessing and a curse if you go in hungry. And please, do go in hungry, because for the price, their portions are gigantic. It’s hard to find a dish that isn’t served with green chile cornbread, a side of beans or delectable french fries. The menu is filled with perfectly smoked pulled pork, brisket and other tantalizing meats, and each standard barbecue offering is absolutely stunning. The standout among this pantheon of slow-cooked excellence is the baby back ribs: Glazed with a red chile honey sauce, they fall off the bone and right into your eager stomach. The glaze is unique, delicious and as close to perfect as one can expect—sweet, hot and smoky in all of the right places. Another triumph is the green chile brisket burrito, which is filled to the brim with beautifully smoked brisket, topped with green chile sauce and cheese and served with some of The Ranch House’s commendably tasty barbecue sauce. Ask for extra napkins. You’ll need them. (CJ)

2571 Cristo’s Road, 424-8900
Lunch and dinner daily. $$



Restaurant Martín

Black plum parfait

 

Famed restaurant critic Gael Greene once said, “Great food is like great sex. The more you have, the more you want.” Chef Martín Rios of Inn of the Anasazi and Old House at Eldorado fame has taken the quote to heart and has conjured up a “progressive American cuisine” menu worthy of a first date, or a seal-the-deal third. “Our goal was to offer a non-stuffy restaurant where we concentrate on service and quality of food,” Rios says. The result is evident in spades in items like the daily soup and sandwich combos ($9), as well as à la carte options like the Atlantic salmon BLT ($15) served on an artisanal sourdough bread lightly smothered with caper lemon aioli and stuffed with salmon, butter lettuce, bacon and avocado—not to mention a to-die-for duck confit quesadilla ($12). “It’s bomb,” my server commented—and boy, he wasn’t kidding. Inspired by the oldies jams playing from the establishment’s speakers, I foolishly rushed in and gorged on the sandwich’s accompanying sweet potato fries (which come with a cool personal mini squeeze-bottle of chipotle-infused house ketchup) and, by the time the quesadilla rolled in with its rajas, caramelized onions, chorizo and generous asadero cheese, I dubbed it my Calendar Girl. The black plum semifreddo that followed, covered in an almond dukkah and served with house-made lemon buttermilk ice cream, was heavenly. A true Earth Angel, if you will. (EL)

526 Galisteo St., 820-0919
Dinner Tuesday-Sunday; lunch Wednesday-Friday and Sunday. $$$



Shohko Café

Steamed lobster with lemon; salmon sashimi with avocado

 

Shohko Café is as close to a perfect eating experience as one can have in this town. The care and pride shown in their cooking more than justify the price of a nice night out. Shohko features a wide array of fresh sushi and sashimi, as well as a rather extensive cooked menu of tempura, noodles, teriyaki and the like. If you like Japanese food at all, there will be something here that you will love. If you love sushi, you’ll leave loving it more. And if you adore sashimi, teriyaki or tempura, you’ll be in heaven. In fact, it’s rather difficult to find a dish at Shohko that isn’t worth ordering. Go in, find the menu, close your eyes and point. Order that. Seriously (unless you’re allergic to certain foods). The beef teriyaki is a safe choice on an adventurous menu, but it’s a delicious standout (with one of the best teriyaki sauces I’ve tasted). Hungry for a mountain of fried seafood? Try the seafood tempura tower—but be prepared to share. Shohko’s green chile tempura is another fascinating exercise, as it is unroasted and it retains all of the subtle, vegetal qualities of raw chile. Sometimes it’s necessary to say, “Damn the expense; we’re going to have a nice night out.” If you’re ever feeling that, it’s time to visit Shohko Café. (CJ)

321 Johnson St., 982-9708
Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner Monday-Saturday. $$$



Tanti Luce 221

Pesto-crusted diver scallops with spicy polenta, wilted greens and red bell pepper oil

 

Ask executive chef Tom Kerpon how long he’s been cooking, and he’s quick to answer “over 100 years.” That experience—inflated or not—comes forth in every morsel at Tanti Luce. Think of it as a twofer: one part of the establishment is Bar 221—famous for elevating the concept of bar food. You’ll find no bowls of Chex Mix here; think braised pork belly ($10), lobster crisps ($15) and the Kobe beef hot dog ($10) described in the menu as “the Cristal of hot dogs.” On the restaurant end, Kerpon assembled a lineup of southern European-influenced dishes like roasted Tuscan halibut ($27) and braised buffalo short rib Barolo ($28). A definite standout is the pesto-crusted diver scallops ($24), served with wilted greens and a drizzle of red pepper oil. “There’s nothing wrong with grilling them, but I pan-sear ours,” Kerpon says of the “little sea nuggets of goodness,” adding that they’re the biggest sellers after the other two aforementioned entrees. A veteran on the scene, the chef gauges his success by the measure of leftover food that makes it back to the kitchen. “If I see a good amount there, I’ll ask the waiter or busser if something went wrong.” On the flip side, his biggest reward is seeing diners’ plates come back Cascade clean. “Like yours,” he says, staring at my plate with nary a crumble of pesto crust left. “That’s pretty cool.” (EL)

221 Shelby St., 988-2355
Dinner daily.  $$$



Terra Restaurant

Four Seasons Rancho Encantado Signature Sundae: house-made churros, tequila caramel sauce and dulce de leche ice cream

 

Terra has a tradition of enduring excellence. The restaurant’s menu is inventive and varied, and traditionally lowbrow items—such as chorizo mac & cheese—receive as much attention and expertise as a garlic lamb demi-glace or a compressed watermelon salad. Many ingredients owe their freshness to Terra’s own in-house garden, and the chile-rubbed braised beef short ribs are simply out of this world. Terra also offers an extensive wine and cocktail list, and patio tables—as well as many indoor dining tables—offer stunning, west-facing views of Santa Fe, Tesuque and beyond. That means that if you book the right reservation time, you’ll be watching as the sun sets over northern New Mexico while indulging in Terra’s extraordinary cuisine. You will, in short, be happy. (AS)


Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, 198 State Road 592, 946-5700
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. $$$$



Vinaigrette

Clockwise from front: The Omega with seared ahi tuna; Rockstar carrot cake; Salacho: dressed-up taco salad; Vine-ripened tomato Caprese; Carrot-ginger soup

 

Vinaigrette owner Erin Wade once told SFR that positive change must “come from a place of being appealing and fun and joyful.” Fittingly, her restaurant is all of these things. Wade herself harvests many of the ingredients that make up Vinaigrette’s trademark salads. (There are sandwiches, soups and sides as well, but salads are Vinaigrette’s chief focus.) But Vinaigrette also redefines “salad” in a way that’s both appealing and fun—a seasonal “Appeasemint” (say it aloud) pairs snow peas, cabbage and peanuts with a mint (get it?) vinaigrette; the classic “Eat Your Peas,” with peas, bacon and Asiago cheese, is so hearty and delicious that you’ll feel like you couldn’t eat another bite. (But it pairs so well with the diver scallops, and it’s only a salad, so why not add some protein?) Vinaigrette’s atmosphere is casual and welcoming, with charmingly rustic décor. Eating healthy, locally grown food in a cheerful setting, surrounded by lovely people—sounds like positive change, right there. (AS)

709 Don Cubero Alley, 820-9205
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. $$



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