Poetry on a Plate…
September 04, 2009
In New Mexico, every now and then you should eschew our wonderful chile-based cuisine and reach for the sky. Last night we celebrated my wife’s birthday anniversary with such a reach at the Artichoke Cafe. Artichoke lived up to its highly touted reputation, and then some. In short, we had a nearly perfect dining experience.
I started with Seafood Fritto Misto: calamari, shrimp, bay scallops and a Meyer lemon and green olive pesto aioli. The seafood was perfectly deep fried and remained tasty. No hint of oiliness. In addition to the pesto aioli, the plate had a dish of fresh horseradish cocktail sauce which, to me, however good it is (and it was) does not belong with Fritto Misto. It does belong with the Jumbo Prawn Cocktal, which my sister ordered, and which she declared to be great. The birthday girl ordered the Roasted Beets Salad with watercress, frisee, baby greens, asparagus, red radishes, English peas, tossed with a lemon-Parmesan vinaigrette and topped with Grana Padano cheese. Superb. She also tried the Deviled Egg garnished with jalapeno relish and declared this a non-contender.
Visiting Sister tried Spaghetti Primavera Le Cirque — English peas, snap peas, broccolini, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms and zucchini in a Parmesan cream sauce over whole wheat spaghetti garnished with tomato concasse with basil, garlic and pine nuts. Complex and wonderful. The BG had Veal Scaloppini served with a three cheese white polenta cake, baby arugula salad and a mixed olive, cherry tomato-caper sauce with fresh sage. Excellent combination, but the polenta outshone the veal.
The real hit of the evening was my Grilled Rack of Lamb Chops served with cress and a Yukon gold potato quiche and leek fondue, topped with a fig-brandy demi-glace. This is pure poetry on a plate. Lamb just doesn’t come any better in this town. This was doubtless the best tasting lamb I’ve had since I was in Iceland. The combination is extraordinary — you need to try it to believe me. Insanely great.
NOTE: The current menu describes the rack as”Roasted Rack of Lamb — pistachio crust, couscous with garbanzo bean, kalamata olive and feta cheese, sauteed spinach, cucumber-mint tsatsiki, zinfandel sauce.” Sounds good, but untested by my buds.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
All three of us had the Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte with pistachio creme Anglaise and raspberry coulis for desert. Dense with exceptional flavor (I am a chocoholic).
The room is quite beautiful; the service was spot on. You will rarely find a place of this quality in Duke City. Artichoke is as good as, or better than, most of the fine restaurants in Santa Fe that we have been to. And the drive is easier.
This place has cracked my local top five list. We shall certainly return before the BG’s next anniversary. [BTW, in case you’re curious: My nationwide — nay, worldwide — number one is The Inn at Little Washington. No contest. ]
Others are Saying…
See Gil Garduño ‘s review of Artichoke Cafe.