Old-fash­ioned, up­dated

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW - Alex Heard

Bour­bon Grill is a nice place to find your­self on a cold win­ter night, a propo­si­tion I tested by go­ing there last Satur­day, when that big, windy snow­storm blew through Santa Fe. The in­te­rior is warm and invit­ing, with glow­ing lights re­flect­ing off dark wood fur­ni­ture. As you en­ter, you’ll see the main din­ing rooms off to your right, a big, curv­ing bar in front of you, and a more ca­sual setup of chairs and booths to the left, in a room that has sev­eral wall-mounted TVs. We took a booth sit­u­ated near a kiva fire­place that was burn­ing piñon. It was ex­actly what we needed to shake off the chill.

It’s ev­i­dent that Bour­bon Grill is procur­ing high-qual­ity beef and that the restau­rant knows what to do with it.

The restau­rant oc­cu­pies the build­ing that for years was home to Steak­smith, and its food comes from a sim­i­lar tra­di­tion. The main menu is dom­i­nated by steaks, seafood, sal­ads, and side dishes that go with steaks and seafood. There’s also a bar menu that fea­tures fin­ger foods like mango-bour­bon jalapeño chicken wings, shrimp and cod ce­viche, and teriyaki steak skew­ers. You can spend a lot here with­out try­ing very hard: The 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye costs $49.95, and chateaubriand for two costs $99.95. But there are more af­ford­able op­tions, es­pe­cially on the bar menu: An or­der of three shrimp ta­cos costs $11.95, and a steak sand­wich is $12.95.

We started with a couple of clas­sic East­ern seaboard ap­pe­tiz­ers: jumbo shrimp cock­tail and jumbo lump crab cakes. The shrimp were good — large, not rub­bery, and ac­com­pa­nied by a nice cock­tail sauce that car­ried a suf­fi­cient horse­rad­ish kick. There were only five shrimp, though, which means we were pay­ing more than three dol­lars for each one. As is of­ten the case with restau­rant crab cakes served far in­land, the in­sides of the ones at Bour­bon Grill were a well-mixed blend of crab, cracker or bread crumbs, and herbs. Each of the two cakes had nicely browned ex­te­ri­ors and enough crab in­side for the dis­tinc­tive bite of the crab­meat to come through.

Next we tried three en­trees and a soup-salad combo. One was a vege­tar­ian que­sadilla that con­sisted of two flour tor­tillas sand­wich­ing a bland and damp blend of mush­rooms, onion, cheese, and zuc­chini. It was ac­com­pa­nied by plops of a spicy salsa that worked fine and a very oniony gua­camole that seemed a lit­tle stale. I had fish and chips — long strips of some kind of white fish (the menu doesn’t iden­tify it) with a good, crispy coat­ing. The only prob­lem was the ra­tio of fish (small) to chips (large). The fries here are typ­i­cal and or­di­nary.

One per­son in our group tried the small (8-ounce) filet mignon and liked it a lot — it was a good piece of meat, nicely seared, and cooked ex­actly as he’d or­dered it. An­other per­son tried a green-chile stew made with beef in­stead of pork — she liked the spice level, which was hot with­out be­ing over­whelm­ing — and a house salad whose blend of in­gre­di­ents turns up of­ten at Bour­bon Grill: am­ple mixed greens tossed with things like car­rot strips, cherry toma­toes, onions, cu­cum­ber, and sprouts. The menu prom­ises “hand­crafted dress­ings” on the sal­ads. One we sam­pled, the bour­bon blue cheese, didn’t have any blue cheese chunks or carry the taste of bour­bon and seemed like a typ­i­cal creamy blue cheese dress­ing.

On a sec­ond visit, my friend started with a bour­bon old fash­ioned, a blend of bour­bon, bit­ters, a lit­tle sweet­ener, or­ange peel, and crushed cher­ries. This was a good drink; not too sweet or loaded with fruit. We shared an­other seafood ap­pe­tizer, a plate of pretty good raw oys­ters. Af­ter that, we both went for the beef: I or­dered the small (14-ounce) prime rib, while my friend tried the 16-ounce bone-in rib-eye. No com­plaints about ei­ther of th­ese — it’s ev­i­dent that Bour­bon Grill is procur­ing high-qual­ity beef and that the restau­rant knows what to do with it. Both were served with so-so baked pota­toes and the fa­mil­iar green sal­ads.

Over­all, what you get at this restau­rant is a very old-school ex­pe­ri­ence that can definitely add up. If retro is what you seek, you’ll find it here. Peo­ple look­ing for a steak­house with a more mod­ern menu and cre­ative dishes will likely be dis­ap­pointed.

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