Trío de Mexico
In this city, you never know when you’ll find a promising restaurant tucked away in an unexpected spot. Tres Colores is a good example: It’s in the Fashion Outlets of Santa Fe, which you can reach either by taking one of the exits off I-25 or going far south on Cerrillos Road, well past the Santa Fe Auto Park. Lately there’s been major road work out there, so be prepared for possible orange-barrel confusion.
The outlet mall sits in a windswept part of town, and when you duck inside Tres Colores — tucked between a Puma store and an empty commercial suite — you get the homey feeling of entering a quiet, colorful refuge. It’s a roomy place, with sturdy wood chairs and tables evenly spaced on a beige-tile floor. Overhead, a huge, blue-trimmed skylight gives the interior a bright glow, and there are family-restaurant touches here and there, including hand-painted wall murals, a cabinet full of Mexican clay figurines, and an old-fashioned tamale cart. Added bonus: The food is usually pretty good, so when you’re out that way, Tres Colores is worth trying. I wish there were a clone of it closer to downtown.
The menu is labeled “Cuisine of Southern Mexico,” which in practice seems to mean that Tres Colores serves a few dishes that feature mole (including mole chicken enchiladas), a shrimp salad, and a Veracruz-style posole with chicken, shredded cabbage, lime, and radish. Beyond that, mostly what you’ll see is a range of familiar Mexican and New Mexican offerings — carne asada tacos, tamales, burritos, tostadas, chilaquiles, flautas — along with tortas, hamburgers, and salads. There’s a menu for kids (it includes French toast and a quesadilla), specialty drinks like Mexican hot chocolate and rice horchata, and a six-item breakfast menu, with both breakfast and lunch/ dinner food available at any time Tres Colores is open.
On a recent visit, we sampled things from both sides of the aisle, starting with Mexican hot chocolate that was disappointing (it was thin and had a weak chocolate taste) and an order of guacamole that was worth cheering about. Good, fresh avocados were mixed with tomato, onion (chopped very finely), cilantro, and jalapeño, and the portion was generous — enough for two people to work through a basket of tortilla chips and have guac left over to slather on entrees.
The two breakfast selections we ordered were a mixed bag. We both found the vegetarian breakfast burrito a bit bland — the main ingredients, wrapped inside a large flour tortilla, were scrambled eggs, unremarkable roasted potato chunks, onion, squash, and bell peppers, with bright-yellow cheddar cheese melted on top. I liked a house specialty called huevos à la Tres Colores — eggs scrambled with tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños and grouped with sides of black beans and roasted potatoes. The beans were better than the potatoes, which could use more seasoning.
Another strength at Tres Colores are the tamales, which are billed as being house-made and certainly seem like it. We tried two — chicken mole and green chile vegetable — and both had a good filling-to-masa ratio. The mole used here is tasty and chocolatey enough, but not very spicy.
During a second trip, I tried a Cubana sandwich, which combines what the menu calls “sub-bun bread” (which turns out to mean white bread in a round, rather than oblong shape), roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and thin smears of refried black beans, relish, and chipotle spread. This is a just-OK sandwich that could use some fine-tuning; one thing that would help is better bread. The bun is big, dry, and dull.
We also tried the mole chicken enchiladas — which were fine, and appeared to use exactly the same sauce that we saw on the tamales — and a trio of asada tacos, which combine soft corn tortillas, grilled marinated beef, salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo. The essential element here is the carne, and this tasted more like chopped roast beef than anything grilled and spicy. Fix that, and these humble tacos would exist on a higher plane.
The takeaway is that Tres Colores probably isn’t good enough yet to become your go-to Mexican restaurant. But it’s using high-quality ingredients with more than the usual amount of care.