Get your chile on…
This is one of those places that I wish I had found years ago. I intend to make up for that oversight. And how!
We ambled into Cocina Azúl after our Friday night Fourth Street Crawl’s target of the evening came up closed. We had seen the place when we last visuted the New Mexico Tea Company, just across the street. Everyone in the place was chowing down with beaming smiles on their faces. After we ate, I know why.
Cocina Azúl writes
“A culinary truce with New Mexican fare at Cocina Azul’s Mountain Road location. Cocina Azul plates simmering portions of hearty New Mexican dishes alongside American classics, such as half-pound Angus beef burgers, inside a cozy dining room with bright windows that paint a vibrant, full-motion portrait of the bustling world outside. Slathered on items throughout the menu, Cocina Azul’s New Mexican red and green chilies are made daily from Owner Frank Barela Sr’s specialty recipe, which calls for soaking chili pods in spices, before blending and straining them to achieve a satiny texture that is both smooth and creamy, like the slick façade of Butter Mountain.
“Frank Barela Sr.’s famous carne adovada enchilada satisfies with generous portions, and Arellana’s guaco sopaipilla burger sandwiches a half pound of Angus beef and a dollop of guacamole between two decadently fried sopapilla pastries. With marinated pork and potato helpings commingling in savory gravy, a bowl of red-chili stew (prompts diners to boldly sip, greedily gulp, and daintily dab napkins over chili-drenched eyebrows).”
How do you benchmark a New Mexican restaurant? Simple. Order Carne Adovada and sopaipillas. Jane had a Carne Adovada enchilada (flat) with calabacitas and I had a Carne Adovada plate with calabacitas (we were both off of rice and beans for the duration of the second phase of our highly successful Dukan Diet).
The pork was beautifully marinated, tender, delicious, and smothered in some of the very best red in town. This red is pure pods with no adulterants, is complex and dark, and medium on the heat scale. Like a good wine, it has good nose and good finish. Exemplary stuff.
We started with a basket of yellow corn tortilla chips and some red (tomato-based) salsa that was also exemplary. Delicious and incendiary. Not complimentary, but easily wotth the three bucks. I will get it on every future visit, and probably will never tire of it.
The sopaipillas are large, fluffy, not oily, and slightly sweet. The honey is real. The tortillas are thick and tasty, not like the flimsy supermarket kind. Both accompaniments are fine.
This is very fine food served by knowledgeable, helpful, and charming servers. Diana is a gem, and knows her stuff. She pays attention.
You need to try this place. I guarantee that you will be back. I surely will.
What others are saying
” It didn’t take Cocina Azul long to earn significant acclaim. Guests quickly discerned the differentiators which single out the truly special restaurants from their competitors. Perhaps first and foremost is the service which might be best described as familial. Quite literally, Frank and Evelyn Barela, the affable owners and their staff, treat their guests as they would treat family members, exuding warmth and hospitality. Secondly, the food is prepared from time-tested and traditional family recipes bolstered by contemporary nuances that give it upscale qualities. Those recipes don’t call for dumbed-down chile. This is chile natives like me respect as much for its flavor as for its piquancy.”
“If you are ever in the Old Town area you will need to make time to head over the Cocina Azul. It is located on the SE corner of 12th and Mountain. I had eaten there with my family and was so impressed that I made an executive decision to cancel one of our other manlunch locations with a Cocina Azul visit.
“Upon entering the establishment, you are greeted with smiles from the staff! That day, Evelyn Barela, co-owner with her husband Frank, greeted me with a hug and welcomed the rest of the Manlunch crew. Evelyn brought us Chile con queso. They place their wonderful queso in a fried tortilla bowl with chips surrounded around the tortilla bowl. The cheese is perfectly melted with just the right amount of spices to give it a kick.
“I had the two carne adovada burritos with rice and papitas. The rice was perfect and the papitas were just like the ones my Mom used to make; crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The carne adovada was tender and cooked perfectly! The one thing I have come to appreciate about Cocina Azul is they make their red chile with pods, not powder! For those of us who grew up eating lots of chile at home, nothing compares to red chile made with the pods.”
YouTube video of Cocina Azúl