We've all had the carry-out blues from time to time. Even the best plans to package what rightfully should be enjoyed in a full-service setting can lead to soggy burritos, dripping cardboard edges and dry proteins. With New Mexico's restaurants still on dining-room lockout due to COVID-19 public health orders, shifting from ready-made to almost ready seems like an innovative way to combat the problems.
315 Restaurant & Wine Bar (314 Old Santa Fe Trail, 986-9190) has been keeping some of its workers in the kitchen by offering a selection of frozen items. This is not your standard chipboard box from Joe Whatshisname's. We've tried three varieties from chef Louis Moskow, and our favorites so far are the duck and foie gras with cherry emulsion.
Packaging is simple and effective plastic bags with zipper closures, brought curbside complete with well-marked and well-sealed ramekins of each sauce. Next to that cherry bomb, our other favorite was the bright orange harissa that came for lamb ravioli and has a spunky, acid flavor with a subtle hotness.
Plating at home has also become a social media worthy endeavor. These dumplings and their creative sauces will up the ante—they look way better than that Amy's frozen lasagna with the cellophane off. They'll make you feel fancy at the Zoom cocktail hour you have planned, or just, you know, Thursday. We also like that it's easy to prepare half the dish and save the other half for another day, say for when your nighttime pajamas and daytime work outfit turn out to be the same clothes.
Our first foray was not long after the Next Level Dumpling menu took off, and we went home with a dozen each of the duck potstickers and scallop and scallion with black truffle aioli ($15 each.) The online order system was easy to use and the food came out within just a few minutes of our call upon arrival.
While 315 hasn't done much frozen food, the to-go dumplings dictated their own best strategy.
"The dumplings need to practice social distancing or else they are going to stick together," chef and proprietor Moskow says.
We missed the online cooking instructions on Round 1, and that resulted in a flawed first effort at steaming the potstickers, but a second try with salted boiling water produced much better results. Now, Moskow says, the restaurant adds printed instructions with every order for people like us.
Patrons can expect small batches from a rotating list of ingredients. Morel hunters on the mountains are coming back to town with bounty, so mushroom and pea shoot dumplings are likely on deck. Watch for maybe some salmon, too, he says.
The to-go menu also features frozen French onion soup and has a recent addition of beef bourgogne by the pint, served with potato gnocchi ($15). And don't forget the desert.
While patrons seemed to be enjoying huckleberry tarts when 315 first launched the menu, the dessert plan has been forced to shift. A break-in about two weeks ago led thieves to make off with a weird assortment of pantry and fridge items—the irreplaceable huckleberries among them, Moskow reports. Now it's strawberry rhubarb for as long as he can find the ingredients (some, even, from his mother's garden).
"It really throws you off your game," he says, noting the crew is still discovering items that went missing, including an entire barrel of Worcestershire sauce and a block of white chocolate.
The restaurant is open on a short 1 to 4 pm weekday schedule for now. And even after the expected reopening of the dining room some time this summer, Moskow says the Next Level Dumplings might stay on offer.
"We have some days that are nothing and some that are busier than we think we could be, and some days people order all gluten-free everything and then the next day nobody wants it," he says. "There's no rhyme or reason, which is standard for the restaurant business."
Order online at 315santafe.com