Valentine’s Day 2010—The Best Dining Experience I Have Ever Had in New Mexico…..
February 14, 2010
We travel to Truth or Consequences from Corrales often to take in the warm mineral baths, usually at La Paloma. Fine food is scarce in T or C, so, armed with recommendations from a local T or C artist, I made advance reservations at Cafe BellaLuca for dinner at 8:30 on Valentine’s Day. We did not expect the treat that was to befall us.
As we were seated in the very handsome dining room, our server, Jacklyn, placed a menu in front of us describing that days special dinner, and expertly described each dish.
The Prix Fixe Dinner Menu: A Romantic and Aphrodisiac-Inspired Feast
- Seductively Spicy Head on Prawn Salad — cocky marinated prawn served on a bed of lightly dressed lams breath with a citrus ginger vinaigrette
- Oyster Beignet — Tempura batter served with a mustard remoulade
- Crispy Skin Maple Leaf Duck Breast — balsamic poached strawberry sauce, Yukon and purple fingerling potatoes, blistered grape tomato and cipollini onions
- Menage a Trois of Desserts — Pomagranate Granita, Raspberry Black Currant Creme Brulee, Chocolate Covered Strawberry
This special meal was, without any doubt, the very best meal I have ever had in New Mexico — perfect in every way. In particular, the Oysters Beignet were far superior to any oyster preparation I have had anywhere (more about these below). And I grew up eating oysters and crabs near the Chesapeake Bay. The prawns were huge and perfectly grilled. Ugly beasts, but they have delightfully sweet flesh.
The Oysters Beignet brought an Oh-My-God look of sheer delight to Jane’s face, the likes of which I have seldom seen (in a restaurant, that is). The tempura batter was very light, and expertly fried to a light golden brown exterior leaving the interior smooth and silky. The oysters embedded inside this coating were perfect: not toughened by the heat, but moist and tasty. The batter provided a perfect barrier between the oyster and the mustard remoulade. A explosion of superb tastes the likes of which I have rarely experienced.
The duck breast was cooked to my exact specifications — between medium and medium-rare, and the skin was crisp. The balsamic strawberry sauce was both unusual and fabulous, and the poached strawberry adorned the center of the plate. The potatos and tomato/onion sides were fabulous.
Desserts were unbelievably good.
The plating was a work of art. Next time I won’t forget my camera. The service was impeccable — Jacklyn provided on-the-spot service without being intrusive. We need more servers like her — adds much to the overall experience.
This review is a special edition describing the special meal. We will surely return often, ordering from the menu, and will write a separate review then. If we can get past a special feast like this one, that is.
Cafe BellaLuca is owned by Chef Byron Harrel-Mackenzie and his lovely wife, Jessica Mackenzie. Byron has a deft kitchen hand and a fine and original sense of inventiveness. He is a magician, and BellaLuca is his stage. BellaLuca has been open for a bit longer than two years. Byron came to our table as we were finishing dessert, and we chatted for quite some time. He worked for a while at The Indigo Crow down the street from us in Corrales, and he helped them define their mission and menu. Corraaleños’ loss is T or C’s gain.