Rumors of a wonderful restaurant in Santa Fe have been trickling north to Colorado for sometime. Finally, with overseas visitors who had never seen the great wild west before, it was the perfect opportunity to make the 5 hour drive to Santa Fe.
There's just so much green chili one can handle, no matter how good it is, so on our last night in town I was waiting with gustatory anticipation for the meal at Restaurant Martin.
Chef Martin Rios opened his namesake restaurant with wife Jennifer about 4 years ago. Our server told us the building was once a house then a "hippy coffee shop" complete with bunk beds! Ok, whatever. But now it's a small, cozy restaurant with no cavernous rooms. The patio outback looked lovely and sometime in warmer weather we will try it.
Our reservation was for 8:00 and the tables had not turned when we arrived. No problem....at least not for me. We didn't want to sit outback in the patio area given it was quite a chilly night. Hard to enjoy a lovely meal with chattering teeth. So we sat in the bar and waited. And waited. But it wasn't like waiting as a captive in an aluminum tube without the captain explaining why the time to push back from the gate came and went 30 minutes ago.
Co-owner/restaurant manager Jennifer Rios and another delight server whose name I didn't get, came by frequently to offer her apologies (what could she really do?) and then offered us something to drink. Finally after 25 minutes, the dawdling diners got up and released the table just about the time I think they were going to be invited into the bar. These things happen, particularly when a restaurant provides a great dining experience. With someone as welcoming as Jennifer, it would be totally out of place to be cross because the table isn't ready.
Once seated, our server Josh - and the kitchen staff - proceeded to pamper us. Instead of a simple amuse, we were served a fabulous dish of chanterelles w/ duck confit, a seared scallop, candied Meyer lemon and butternut squash. I could have gotten up and gone home then totally satisfied and enamored with the creative dish Owner-Chef Martin Rios treated us to.
Not that I would do that.
The menu is concise as it should be since they use seasonal, local products (to the extent possible - scallops are not local to Santa Fe). Not that I really needed a starter after the delicious "amuse plus" we had, I couldn't resist trying the yellow fin tuna tartar with Spicy Ponzu, Black Sesame Paper, Cucumber Mignonette, Haas Avocado, Thai Infused Watermelon. I can still taste the diametrically opposed textures and melange of flavors. Fabulous dish, particularly for $15! Incredibly fresh tuna.
My husband had the Cervena Venison with Point Reyes Blue Cheese Masa, Pickled Blueberries
Black Mole, Micro Shoots, Hibiscus, Navel Oranges. Pickled blueberries? I tasted one....ok, two....and could have eaten a bowl of them. The venison was so tender and flavorful.
One friend followed my lead and had the tuna tartare and she loved it. The other had the chilled spring pea soup. We had seen some beautiful art in Santa Fe, but this was edible art! A beautiful alabaster, deep bowl arrived with Parmesan-Pepper Flan, Blue Lump Crab, Smoked Trout Caviar, Dill Oil, and Blue Corn Crumbs beautifully arranged in the bowl. Josh then poured the bright green soup carefully around the goodies in the bottom of the bowl so as not to disturb the arrangement. The crabmeat peeking through the top of the soup really was tip of the iceberg. Lovely dish for both the eyes and palate.
Now came the main attraction.
The special that night was pork cheeks with scallops (more scallops is fine with me), locally foraged porcini and black barley with a fabulous pork demi. Note - specials in lesser quality restaurants can often be something chef wants to move before he/she has to toss it. But specials in restaurants like this one are just that - special. I didn't get to chat with chef, but no doubt he got his hands on some lovely pork cheeks to go with his fresh porcini, et voila. A dish was created. It was delicious.
One of our friends followed me into pork cheek wonderland. The other chose the same dish as my husband - Ricotta Cavatelli with Maine Lobster, Shitake Mushrooms, Truffles, Basil Leaves, Heirloom Tomatoes, Preserved Lemon, Lobster Nage. Ok, we're talking serious taste sensation. This was not a pasta dish with a mouthful of Maine Lobster tossed in. Nope. Lots of tender lobster that had soaked up the nage. The housemade pasta was perfectly cooked and not mushy at all. If that stays on the menu, it's worth another 5 hour drive to Santa Fe!
With all that wonderful food - including a delicious bottle of Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne - there was no room for dessert, albeit I would love to try the toasted coconut sorbet.
My only comment I can make is the wine list. I felt the wines are a bit pricey without enough lower priced wines. There are some dynamite wines at lower price points they could include. One big suggestion would be to add an Arneis to the white wine list - either Deltetto (preferably their San Michele) or Matteo Correggia. Both of these Roero producers from Piemonte produce a beautiful version of this special wine that would be a perfect pair to Chef's seafood dishes, particularly the tuna tartare and the cavatelli/lobster dish.
Can't wait to go back!
Note - unfortunately, the light is very soft in the restaurant and I didn't have my SLR with me. I don't like to use flash in a restaurant, so my pix don't do justice to the few items I was able to shoot. I pondered whether to post the photo of the pork cheeks because the demi and black barley didn't photograph well, but it was just too good to pass up!
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