29 nov amuse year round up

As 2019 draws to a close, Amuse Bouche decided to look back at the restaurants we reviewed in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. Some were uniformly beloved by our critics — from aperitif to digestif. Others weren’t perfect on the nights we showed up, but worth a look. From the humble to the high falutin’, they all make up our local food scene. — Tracy Mobley-Martinez, Pasatiempo editor


Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3236, rosewoodhotels.com

The Anasazi’s bar and dinner menus offer a wide variety of choices that range from downright poor to meh to surprisingly good. You’ll find the usual regional suspects here — like chips, salsa, guacamole, nachos, burgers, and Cobb salad — along with roast chicken, lamb, and salmon. But the most interesting and creative dishes are born of the kitchen’s alchemical effort to merge traditional Southwest and East Coast ingredients and sensibilities. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s wonderful. Recommended: green chile buffalo burger ($20); seafood pozole ($25); spring pea ravioli ($32). — Patricia West-Barker, June 21

CAMPO At Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm,

4803 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque,

Driving down the long lane to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, you’ll see planted fields of lavender and hoop-house gardens. The farm on the premises is part of the “field to fork” ethos of Campo, the restaurant established in 2017 at Los Poblanos by executive chef Jonathan Perno. A native New Mexican and five-time James Beard award nominee, Perno celebrates the cycle of the seasons with his rotating menus, and the restaurant, in a converted dairy barn, is rustic but elegant. With food this good in environs this idyllic, you may never want to leave the Rio Grande Valley. Recommended: smoked brisket and egg ($15); Caprese salad ($13); Shepherd’s Lamb mole rojo ($40); milk-braised New Mexico pork loin ($33); grilled asparagus with lonzino ($8); fritto misto ($9); honey cake ($11). — Pasatiempo staff, April 26


In Plaza Galeria, 66 E. San Francisco St., No. 10, 646-945-5000,


Steamed or fried dumplings and buns take center stage at Dumpling Tea & Dim Sum. The wrappers are thin, fresh, and formed by hand in the middle of the dining room. The pork filling — flavored with ginger, onion, sesame oil, and soy sauce — is savory and satisfyingly juicy. Recommended: pork steamed dumplings ($7.99); steamed pork buns ($9.99); Dan Dan noodles ($9.99); gold coin cucumber salad ($5.50). — P.W.B., May 24


415 W. Santa Clara Bridge Road, Española

505-753-3016, lacocinanewmexico.com

La Cocina, a family-owned and operated Española institution for 49 years, serves well-prepared American comfort food and generous portions of traditional Northern New Mexican dishes, including enchiladas, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, tamales, sopapillas, carnitas, and fajitas. The sides — refried beans, posole, guacamole, onion rings, calabacitas, and flour tortillas — are among the best of their kind. The house green chile that tops many dishes — more chunky than saucy — is particularly flavorful. Recommended: guacamole and chicharone burrito ($14.75); chicken fried steak ($9.99); Pollo Estilo La Cocina ($11.95); Classic La Cocina Burger ($13.45). — P.W.B., July 26


7 Tesuque Road, just past the Santa Fe Opera off U.S. 84/285, 800-462-2635, tesuquecasino.com/dining

You’d be forgiven for expecting the typical casino-dining experience at Cottonwood Kitchen, the spacious, swanky restaurant at the recently opened Tesuque Casino. But the primary similarities between this restaurant and its kin are its discounts and specials, including a killer Lounge Social Hour and deals for Player’s Club members. The menu ranges from stalwart salads to spins on typical bar food and more upscale dishes like roast chicken, seafood, and prime rib, and while some dishes are a bust, others are creative, colorful, and deliciously memorable. Much like the gambling floor itself, the patio has one of the most stunning views in town. Recommended: Buffalo chicken tenders ($15); “meat candy” ($12); French dip ($15); Santa Fe nachos ($14); prime rib ($32). — Laurel Gladden, July 5


317 Aztec St., 505-666-1577

Cuchara del Inca exhibits a deft hand in the kitchen, preparing classic Peruvian cuisine with fresh, high-quality ingredients and pride in the country’s culinary traditions. Wash it all down with housemade chicha morada or a cup of organic Peruvian coffee (both $3). Recommended: yuca frita ($8); causa de pollo ($8); lomo saltado ($15); ceviche ($12). — P.W.B., April 12


135 W. Palace Ave., Suite 101

505-982-9525, fiestaoaxacasf.com

Whether you believe in magic or not, something very akin to it is going on in the kitchen at Fiesta Oaxaca, the delightfully colorful Mexican restaurant that occupies a spot near the corner of Grant and Palace avenues. The sunny disposition of chef Alberto Lopez — who grew up in Oaxaca — is quite apparent in the dining room décor, the cheerful (if sometimes overwhelmed) staff, and the food itself, from start to finish. Recommended: chips and guacamole ($9); enchiladas suizas ($13); mole negro ($14); mole de tamarindo ($14); chile en nogada ($19); mocha tres leches cake ($7). — L.G., May 3


4500 Central Ave. SE,Albuquerque, 505-268-6478, loyolasfamilyrestaurant.com

Loyola’s Family Restaurant has a striking, almost cartoonish silhouette that brings to mind Albuquerque’s Route 66 heyday, when tail-finned cruisers sailed down the now more mundanely named Central Avenue. Opened by Loyola Baca 30-something years ago and now run by Baca’s daughter, it’s the sort of place where the vibe is pure urban Mayberry, all the employees act as though they know you, and the food (including breakfast all day) is prepared with tender, loving care. Recommended: chips and salsa ($2.95); Sarah’s Special ($10.19); Super Burrito ($11.99); Pobrecito ($7.29); biscuits and gravy ($8.59 with an egg); pancakes ($2.15-$5.35); cinnamon roll ($4.99 with a cup of coffee); bowl of green chile with beans ($6.99). — L.G., June 7


At the Inn and Spa at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-984-7915, hotelloretto.com

Luminaria’s patio, tucked behind the Loretto Chapel, is one of the prettiest and most private outdoor dining destinations in Santa Fe. The menu offers a range of contemporary Southwest-inspired dishes, along with tried-and-true standards like burgers, Caesar salad, fish tacos, chicken or grilled sandwiches, and enchiladas. Some presentations are more successful than others. Those that don’t meet the mark could be greatly improved with more attention from the kitchen; those that work best demonstrate a creative, seasonal approach to local and regional ingredients. Recommended: mussels and chorizo ($18); blistered shishito peppers ($14); Juicy Lucy burger ($18); braised peppered short rib ($37); chocolate torchon ($10). — P.W.B., Aug. 9


1291 San Felipe Ave., Suite 2

505-204-7869, madamematisse.com

Madame Matisse, native Parisian chef Eric De Margerie’s petite café in a small, light-industrial space on a Cerrillos Road side street, has a captivating counter full of practically perfect pastries and a menu featuring French classics from onion soup and quiche Lorraine to croque madame — with some nods to Americanism and the Southwest in between. Ambience is a bit lacking, but service is friendly, quick, attentive, and professional, and the food is flavorful and largely quite enjoyable. Recommended: croissant ($2.50); cinnamon twist ($3.50); apricot Danish ($3.50); butter cookies ($7); Florentine omelet ($10.50); Nutella crêpe ($8.50); onion soup ($6.50); spinach-mushroom quiche ($10.50).

— L.G., Sept. 13


231 Washington Ave., 505-984-1788, santacafe.com

Earlier this year, Santacafé, the beloved dining establishment that had held court at 231 Washington Avenue for some 36 years, passed into new hands, namely those of local restaurateur and mixologist Quinn Stephenson — and Santa Fe gourmands held their collective breath. Stephenson and his executive chef Dale Kester have, for the most part, pulled it off. The soul of Santacafé is alive and well — very much revitalized and refreshingly, delicately, thoughtfully changed. The ambience is as minimalist and upscale as ever, the palette still soothing and spare — just in a 21st-century way. Nearly all of the dishes, most of them classic or Asian-inspired, are exceptional. Service is spot on: polite, patient, professional, and friendly in a matter befitting a restaurant of this stature. Recommended: calamari (of course) ($14); ahi appetizer ($24); dumplings ($14-$16); avocado tartine ($12); lobster rolls ($24); chicken thighs ($28); lamb chops ($38). — L.G., Oct. 25


229-A Johnson St., 505-467-8379, santarepacafe.com

Most of us won’t be jetting off to Venezuela anytime soon, but if you’re interested in exploring the South American nation culinarily, you’re in luck. At Santarepa Café, a sweet little Venezuelan restaurant occupying a colorful Johnson Street bungalow, proprietress Isabel Mendoza offers an opportunity to get a gustatory glimpse of Venezuela, no plane ticket required. Recommended: la favorita; la vegana; reina pepiada arepas ($9); “domino” empanada ($4.50); fried plantains ($5.50); quesillo ($5.50); cheese cachapas (available solo and in the $13.50 sampler plate).

— L.G., Aug. 2


225 Johnson St., 505-982-6734, sassellasantafe.com

Sassella, which opened next to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in July, aims to raise the bar for Italian food in Santa Fe. Under the culinary direction of executive chef/partner Cristian Pontiggia, it offers a variety of classic, mostly northern Italian dishes punctuated with innovative approaches to traditional ingredients, some of which are more successful than others. The restaurant has energy and ambition, and shows great promise of reaching its fine-dining goals. You could spend years exploring the extraordinary resources of the bar. Recommended: Negroni flight ($18), affettati misti ($18); Caesar a modo mio ($18); penne al barbera ($23 ); lamb shank Milano ($38); nocciole e cacao ($14 ). — P.W.B., Oct. 11

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(1) comment

Margit Pearson

Santarepa Cafe has the best arepas I have every eaten and I lived in Venezuela and ate them all over the country I cant help but get one every time I am downtown.

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