Restau­rant Re­view

Pasatiempo - - CONTENT - Lau­rel Glad­den

Anasazi Restau­rant

You don’t see “cu­cum­ber chloro­phyll,” gar­lic “sheets,” smoked chick­peas, or ash bread on many menus around town.

Chef Edgar Beas joined the kitchen team at Anasazi Restau­rant ear­lier this year, in ad­vance of the ho­tel’s 25th an­niver­sary. His cur­ricu­lum vi­tae is rather im­pres­sive, in­clud­ing for­mal train­ing in Spain and stints in highly lauded restau­rants in San Fran­cisco and Menlo Park. “I be­lieve that uti­liz­ing in­gre­di­ents na­tive to the South­west is a beau­ti­ful way to cel­e­brate the Inn’s sense of place,” Beas has said. “I aim to show­case na­tive tech­niques and cook­ing styles, but in a mod­ern, artis­tic, and pro­gres­sive way.”

Age-old and re­gional el­e­ments cer­tainly make ap­pear­ances on the menu, from the airy, but­tery, chile-dusted pork rinds served as bar snacks and the cock­tail-hour-ap­pro­pri­ate gordi­tas stuffed with chichar­rones, beans, cab­bage, and crumbly white cheese to the de­li­ciously sweet-and-spicy co­chinita pi­bil tacos served at lunch. (Don’t ne­glect to swipe yours through the tongue-tin­gling ha­banero sauce on the plate.) There’s a vaguely dis­con­cert­ing preva­lence of seafood for our land­locked lo­cale, with oys­ters, soft-shell crab, and hal­ibut cur­rently mak­ing ap­pear­ances. But in­trigu­ing fla­vor com­bi­na­tions, un­com­mon in­gre­di­ents, and art­ful plat­ing ra­di­ate self-as­sur­ance. You don’t see “cu­cum­ber chloro­phyll,” gar­lic “sheets,” smoked chick­peas, or ash bread on many menus around town.

The din­ing room has had a bit of a face-lift as well: Walls have been light­ened; heavy wooden chairs have been re­placed with more mod­ern, stream­lined ones up­hol­stered with creamy leather and li­nen; and the cock­tail area has ex­panded into the front por­tion of the din­ing room, of­fer­ing chicly light-hued arm­chairs and couches. Mu­sic leans more to­ward trancy ’90s lounge rather than pan flutes and drums. Rem­i­nis­cent of a Euro­pean side­walk café, the pa­tio is a lovely place for lunch, cock­tails, and peo­ple-watch­ing, es­pe­cially now that tourist sea­son is in full swing.

You might ini­tially be taken aback by some of the pric­ing, but the restau­rant is in one of the most highly es­teemed ho­tels in Santa Fe, so an ad­just­ment of ex­pec­ta­tions helps. That said, if you’re go­ing to pay $22 for a sandwich, you’d prob­a­bly ap­pre­ci­ate it if the plate in­cluded some­thing other than the sandwich it­self — a small salad or some house-made chips, for ex­am­ple.

For the most part, the ser­vice brigade was thor­oughly and ap­pro­pri­ately at­ten­tive, po­lite, for­mal, and speedy. One evening, how­ever, our main server was dis­con­cert­ingly, at times ag­gra­vat­ingly slow and had a folksy, joc­u­lar de­meanor that was off-puttingly ca­sual and out of place — more Ap­ple­bee’s than Anasazi.

The high points: Along with some earthy porci­nis and braised ba­con, sub­limely del­i­cate hal­ibut swims in a sweet-corn-based sauce that’s mys­te­ri­ously light in tex­ture but rich in fla­vor. The duck was in­cred­i­bly ten­der, juicy, and just the right amount of gamey. The Parisi­enne gnoc­chi is a less-saucy vari­a­tion on those beloved pasta pil­lows with a nutty, golden crust, fruity and bright kumquats and shishi­tos, and but­ton­like dabs of queso fresco pro­vid­ing a rich, creamy tang. The roasted bras­si­cas — in this case, mostly Ro­manesco — were salty in the best way (prob­a­bly from the not-oth­er­wise-ap­par­ent egg yolk bot­targa). Looking like tiny pine trees, they were tum­bled with smoked gar­ban­zos that had a fas­ci­nat­ing woody aroma and fla­vor — so much so that I didn’t miss the crisp pork jowl the menu had promised. These are all im­pres­sive strides. But even leg­endary thor­ough­breds were foals once, still get­ting their foot­ing, and here, the kitchen oc­ca­sion­ally still stum­bles. Our gor­geous, chunky strip loin steak was dras­ti­cally over­cooked; we re­quested medium rare and were given some­thing on the well-done side of medium (and more’s the pity, since this dish is the prici­est on the menu). I was in­trigued by the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of pick­led straw­ber­ries, but the morels be­side them were shriv­eled, and the sauce was dis­tract­ingly, unc­tu­ously bro­ken. Des­ic­cated sweet­breads tossed in with an oth­er­wise lovely, vi­brant salad of baby beets sug­gested a lack of re­spect for in­gre­di­ents. The serv­ing size of the hal­ibut is mod­est, and its plat­ing in the small cen­ter bowl of an over­sized fly­ing-saucer-es­que plate made it look all the more stingy. The chilled scal­lop ap­pe­tizer in­cluded av­o­cado, crème fraîche, and the afore­men­tioned chloro­phyll, and to me it begged for more bright­ness and acid­ity. But the kitchen may have been aim­ing for sub­tlety, and I can re­spect that.

Desserts range from clas­si­cal to in­no­va­tive and are gen­er­ally gor­geous. A stack of al­most-too-del­i­cate chur­ros can be dipped with de­light in a deep, dark choco­late or a but­ter­scotchy salted ca­jeta. Nes­tled amid flow­ers and petals, the hazel­nut gâteau looked like a fairy-tale dessert, with a top layer fash­ioned from eye-catch­ingly hot-pink prickly pear. It lived up to the prom­ise of be­ing “aer­ated” but was given an earthly ground­ing by the herbal lau­rel ice cream, whiskey cream, and gin­ger “snow.” The par­fait of chilly, milky frozen yo­gurt had touches of bright­ness from Meyer le­mon and hi­bis­cus, and penny-sized poppy-seed sablés lent a wel­come cookie crunch. At the end of a meal, beau­ti­ful, sweet gems like these can go a long, long way to­ward smooth­ing over any rough patches that came be­fore.

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