I could eat my way around the world. Seriously. Fortunately for me and my tummy, there’s no place like home for a culinary adventure that lets me savor a bounty of global dining traditions. In New Mexico, we offer more than just chile.
Spice of a Different Flavor
Confession: I eat a lot of fiery Santa Fe cuisine. But some days I’d like more than just a capsaicin kick from New Mexico chile. When I crave a kick of a different sort, I picture India, where peppers meet the intricate blend of southern hemisphere spices. Seated under cool leafy trees at Raaga, I can get my fix with an Indian-style mix.
Paddy Rawal’s menu is simply enormous. His palate-pleasing path led from India to stints in Egypt, London and Dubai before creating his cozy Santa Fe café in an Agua Fria courtyard setting. The variety and complexity of choices means that vegetarians and vegans will be as delighted as those who crave an authentic chicken vindaloo.
An amazing number of delicacies can decorate a plate of rice, but discovering all the subtleties on the plate requires multiple returns. And of course there’s the naan — almost a dozen iterations in yummy bread choices. When ordering, it’s up to you to choose your heat index. Offered mild to medium to hell (yes, that’s what the menu says), my chicken palak was just perfect, thanks to waiter Dennis’ suggestion of medium-plus!
After years of dining out with Italian in-laws who know their pasta inside and out, I know that finding the right neighborhood trattoria means finding all the comfort foods of home.
A historic 1880s building gives Andiamo! its neighborly feel. The Mission-style bungalow on Garfield Street offers old-school ambiance and an up-to-the-minute kitchen. And proximity to the Santa Fe Farmers Market means local NM ingredients meld molto bene with authentic Italian imports.
Since I’m always on the hunt for hot, linguine arrabiatta is frequently in my sights but digging into the risotto with truffle oil is a tempting thought. Weekday lunch is a great deal due to its rotating cast of specials and with the Railyard Park across the street, al fresco take-out is a tasty option.
Antony, Take Me to Cleopatra
Okay, his name isn’t Antony, but my hero takes me to Cleopatra Café whenever I ask. With two locations, this Middle Eastern mecca makes a pita pit-stop an easy proposition. The original is in the downtown Design Center and you can’t beat the Zafarano outpost for scoring a quick table.
Service at both spots is fast and friendly, and affordable. Even with a beer, you’ll leave full and your wallet won’t suffer. The menu is a Middle-Eastern mash-up and boasts two different falafels: Lebanese-style with garbanzos or Egyptian with fava beans. Hummus is a staple for any homey feast and though a gyro works lunch-wise, the extra hungry should opt for the Nile Plate, laden with luscious lamb and a generous Greek salad. The Design Center is a fun backdrop for a visit since I can browse the shops after browsing the menu.
At the Zafarano location, I love the Middle Eastern soap operas murmuring from two corner screens and the Saltanah Belly Dancers add their sensuous gyrations at Thursday night performances. And at both spots there’s a mound of soft fresh pita bread.
The Far East is Nearer to The Plaza Than You Think
The multicultural mix of Santa Fe teaches its landlocked youngsters to look out to the world and my little one’s lessons generally lead to dinner decisions that revolve around sushi. I’m grateful her palate picks Shohko Cafe. The dining room’s window-side tables and sushi bar offer a serene oasis for delving into the culinary spectrum of Japan. The family owners of Shoko are always happy to provide a hijiki-to-handroll education.
Pursuing their interest in George Ohsawa’s macrobiotic philosophy, Shohko and Hiro Fukuda began a 40-year legacy with their original Oriental Natural Foods store. Over the years, three beautiful daughters and a detour into the restaurant kitchen resulted in this much-loved and frequently-visited Santa Fe spot.
We always start with seaweed salad and frankly, it’s so good I could eat it daily.. Enoki mushrooms sautéed in sake and butter on the Izakaya Menu (read “Japanese tapas”) are like no mushroom dish you’ve ever eaten. Green chile makes a welcome appearance in the tempura selection, and I love the bento box lunches. The sushi menu? Superb, and by the way, so is the sake menu!
Give the French Their Due
A classic like steak and fries sounds and tastes so much more chic when one orders Steak Frites, don’t you think? And nothing is as quite as classy as the dishes at 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar.
Since 1995, 315 has been serving classic French culinary experiences to savvy diners at its Old Santa Fe Trail location. The flavors bring a French twist to fresh local ingredients and the wine list is one of the area’s largest and most thoughtfully-chosen. Combine those elements with a bar menu crafted for casual nights on the patio and you won’t be disappointed.
The menu is based on the best available in-season, along with some standards that loyal locals have refused to relinquish. It’s hard for me to resist fresh pea shoots and mais oui, no one makes confit like a French-trained chef.
Santa Fe: Serving the World on a Platter
We have it all here! Great weather, beautiful sunsets, world-class art and an array of cuisine in almost every accent. Even our world-famous green chile cheeseburger goes global on occasion. I’ve merely opened the menu, so take it from here and dig in.