We visited an old college friend in Santa Fe last weekend, and after having heard mixed reviews lately on La Boca, are able to report on the tapas restaurant on Washington Street (which seems generally highly regarded lately, but was disappointing on our last visit) and Santacafe, which has been receiving some negative reports of late.
Our Santa Fe tapas experiences over the past few years have been limited to El Farol. My wife has declared no more El Farol because of the deplorable state of the restrooms.
Saturday lunch at La Boca, we had the Padron pepper special: a good-sized serving that had been lightly blackened under the broiler and served with garlic and coarse salt. Good flavor, but not discernibly different to me from Anaheim chiles. This was my wife's favorite course. Padron peppers are Spanish peppers about an inch long, but the restaurant obtains them from a New Mexico supplier. Quite tasty, and they didn't need to be peeled. Another course was boquerones (white anchovies) which were simply taken out of a jar much (if not exactly) as we order from our Italian wholesaler, and sprinkled with orange zest for $12.00. The portion was small, perhaps a tenth of a jar. This is a dish best eaten at home, as the chef doesn't teach us anything and is running a 15% food cost.
The restaurant was out of the jamon Serrano we ordered. We did not order the chorizos because our server confirmed the fact that they were burned in our last experience was the usual presentation for the restaurant. She recommended canelones with lump crab and scallops with manchego cream. This was another bechamel-based dish, but the addition of the manchego cheese made it seem both interesting and Spanish. The quail the visiting Texan diners at the next table ordered looked like a dish we shouldn't have missed: glazed, dark brown on the outside, pink in the middle. When we return, it will be one of the first we order. Our server also recommended the bruschetta with crimini mushrooms, egg, and white truffle oil. (A fair amount of it at that). This dish was totally worth the $12.
Our server suggested the 2003 Campo Viejo Reserva, Tempranillo, Rioja for $30 to accompany our tapas. While this wine was rustic and awfully dry, it was okay with the tapas, but not the best example of a Rioja.
Sunday was a perfect day to have brunch in the courtyard at Santacafe. We were a party of seven. In our party, we sampled the Eggs Benedict with Avocado and Smoked Salmon on Green Chile Brioche with New Potato Hash and Poblano Chile Hollandaise: A tasty, satisfying dish worth the $14.00; Shrimp Tempura with Watercress and Red Chile Sweet and Sour: three or four shrimp, and not quite as satisfying to the diner as our benedicts were to us. We had two orders of the Crispy Calamari with 4 Chile Lime Dipping Sauce for the table. It reminded us of some of the best we have had in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco. Another diner appreciated the Green Chile Burger with Rosemary Potato Chips. The Hearts of Romain with Southwestern Caesar Dressing and Grilled Chicken Tender Sandwich with Apple Smoked Bacon were also met with approval. There were enthusiastic responses to the Southwestern Corn Chowder, which could be ordered in a smaller size than was listed on the menu.
Wines accompanying the meal were a rose from Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez, Colorado and a delicious Macon Villages that was reasonably priced.