(This review had its genesis in an email to RavenMoon, about what I did over the weekend. I've expanded it a bit, RM; thanks for the inspiration!)
On Saturday, Gina and I had a belated Valentine's Day dinner at Bien Shur (Blue Mountain in the Tewa languange of Sandia Pueblo) http://www.bienshur.com/index.htm , the new place that Pat and Terry Keene (owners of the almost-universally acclaimed Portobello restaurant and Artichoke Cafe) opened in the new Sandia Casino.
The restaurant was pretty amazing. After navigating through a ring maze of parking lots, you pull up to a massive new casino and wander all the way to the back, pull open a door and . . . you're whisked away to a wonderful place. The space is very pleasant: tall ceilings and lovely, calm modern decor interposed with framed prints of old photographs of the Sandia Pueblo. The (no smoking) restaurant has a spectacular view of the north part of the Sandias; you would never know that utter casino chaos lurks just feet outside the restaurant door (which provides quite a shock when you get up to use the can and get dragged back into the bell-jangling, smokey, real world of the indian casino).
The menu was pretty much "new American grill," and it worked well. The chow was very good - very creative sides, especially. We started with a poblano/cotija cheese soup that was subtle and wonderful, and some creamy pistachio-encrusted goat cheese cakes over spicy fennel and greens. I had a coriander-rubbed lamb with interesting potato/feta/olive cakes, creamed chard and an exciting relish of pickled chayote; Gina had a filet mignon with a blackberry/chile glaze, baby spinach and an amazing roast corn tamale. She had a couple of glasses of the quite acceptable Kenwood Lodi Zin while I - the noble designated driver - suffered along with just iced tea and later coffee. For dessert (they have a new dessert menu - different from the one on the link below) Gina had the edaily special cinnamon ice cream, while I finished up with an enormous plate of banana cream pie (made with carmelized bananas, white chocolate cream, and a chocolate graham cracker crust). The price was fair - all that came to just $117, including the appropriate $20 tip.
Downside: The service wasn't so great - everybody was friendly, but they weren't really on the ball. Wait- and bus-staff were not really attentive (next time, PLEASE fill up my tea glass before I oafishly shake ice down my front trying to get at the dregs) and didn't bring proper silverware to cut meats (they had it available, as we saw others with steak knives); also the table was set with a profoundly bent fork. Since this was presumably the restaurant's best crew (it was Saturday night), poor training may be to blame. As I said, though, the staff were all friendly and nice, and happy to serve once you got their attention . . . they just were not as on the ball as one would expect at a restaurant of this caliber and in this price range.
I've never been big on the Keenes' Artichoke Cafe, and I downright disliked Portobello. But I'd go back to Bien Shur tomorrow. And the day after that. And I intend to bring my friends and relatives. If the management can just make the staff a little more attentive, the place would just about be perfect.
If you're in the Albuquerque area, you would do well to check Bien Shur out. (And you SantaFecinos wouldn't even have to enter Albuquerque proper - just zip down I-25, get off at Tramway, and head a quarter-mile east!)
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