Sunday, April 5, 2009

Geronimo Restaurant Santa Fe Review

NOTE: SINCE THIS REVIEW, SANTA FE'S TOP CHEF MARTIN RIOS HAS LEFT GERONIMO. HIS NEXT RESTAURANT, LOWER KEY AND PRICED, WITHOUT GERONIMO'S HIGH OVERHEAD, WILL SOON OPEN. I'D GO WHERE HE'S COOKING!

LOCALS FEAR THE QUALITY AT GERONIMO WILL DROP WITH HIS ABSENCE. CHEF ERIC DESTEFANO, WHO RECENTLY TRIED TO REVITALIZE THE LESSER QUALITY COYOTE CAFE, HAS RETURNED TO HEAD GERONIMO. HO-HUM. 8/4/09

Geronimo is refreshing, in a welcoming casual way, that’s a breath of crisp fresh mountain air. On tourist filled Canyon Road, it is all too easy to walk by its simple exterior, and miss this elegant gem.

Step in, and straight ahead, there’s an altar-like setting with stunning ivory moose antlers, over the fireplace. Georgia O’Keefe fans might be reminded of her cow skull motif-you are near her gallery; farther away is Abiquiu , her spiritual home. Yes Dorothy, you are in O’Keefe Country now. The green plant is a touch of life, of spring, and set off by the red,high backed leather chairs. Red and green, just like the chiles.

Geronimo seats 100 guests. Scattering among four dining areas, people aren’t crowded. As we walk in, an alert staffer recognized us from poking our heads in the day before for a sample menu, a very good sign of attentiveness. We are immediately taken to a table in the back dining room, walking past an attractively simple black and white dining room along the way. Deer (or elk) antler chandeliers abound-a nice rustic touch. Lighting is soft enough to be wrinkle-kind, and bright enough to easily read the menu.. Our room has white adobe style walls and ceiling, round wood ceiling supports. Below, rich maroon benches face similar chairs. Light jazz plays in the background, segueing into ‘40’s music with clarinet, supplied by satellite radio.The superb service sets Geronimo apart from so many restaurants we’ve dined in-it’s like a Michelin one star in that respect. Water glasses are efficiently topped up by respectfully attentive servers. As soon as we sit, the sourdough bread, with flecks of cheese and mildly spiced with green chile, arrives. The butter is artfully topped with a tiny rosemary leaf. There is no long wait to take our order, as we compared this to the Compound’s initially less attentive staff, and it’s less noisy as well. A problem about the menu…Two greeters, and later one server, proudly claim, “ The Menu Changes daily.” Oh, really? That having been said, the menu for Friday did NOT vary one iota from the menu for Saturday, except for a different date at the top!! Hmmm. I pulled their Oct 20, 2008 menu off the web, from 5 months ago, and except for one appetizer, and just 4 main courses, it was the same for the other apps and mains! Ahem, guys…Printing the current date atop a menu is NOT evidence of any such menu that truthfully “changes every day”. Bogus claim-rebuked by Geronimo’s own evidence.. When pressed, our server admitted that “what really might change monthly are some vegetables, even the Elk is on almost year round, and most things change with the seasons. You know, root veggies phase out as spring fresh veggies appear”. It's also wasteful of paper-you the customer is paying for this "impressive" touch.

The choices for Friday, and identically Saturday’s evening menu include: Appetizers: Sweet Corn Chowder with American caviar, Maine lobster potato souffle and bacon powder (($14),; Spicy Dungeness Crab Cakes with butternut squash, lemon preserve, and French pickled-cucumber jalapeno remoulade (18); and Spice-Rubbed Semi-boneless Quail with white bean puree, chorizo, spring garlic and a dried black cherry citrus gastrique.
Main courses include: fiery Sweet chile and Honey Grilled Mexican White Prawns with jasmine almond rice cakes, frisee red onion salad (35); Peppery Elk Tenderloin and Applewood Smoked Bacon, wth roasted garlic mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas and brandied mushroom sauce (41); grilled Colorado Lamb Rack with spinach, garlic confit (44). These items, and the specials are served with a Southwestern style, perfect for Santa Fe. This is more authentic and inspired than that of its neighbor, The Compound.

Chef/Partner Martin Rios, formerly of the Old House, and Inn of the Ansazi in Santa Fe, trained in New York and abroad in savory and in pastry work. Unlike certain other Santa Fe chefs, he doesn’t rest on his laurels.

My partner's tenderly prepared Pan Seared Pesto topped Alaskan Halibut, is served with butternut squash, white asparagus and crisp vegetables with a light crystallized ginger sauce (~30). Wonderfully prepared, lightly crisped with a touch of “heat”, she finished the fish before I could get a second bite!

The server recommended I have the Natural Sonoma Duck Breast, with lavender truffle glaze, a wonderful sweet potato tart slice, with roasted grapes, white asparagus and bok choy in a foie gras emulsion, with a bonus good sized piece of lightly seared crisp and tender foie gras terrine on top (29). This exceeded my expectations, with its beauty, its combination of elements that synergistically created one of the best duck preparations I’ve ever had. The duck is tender with crisp skin, devoid of excess fat, artfully sliced, topped with microgreens, and layered over white and green vegetables. Our Malbec wine goes well with both dishes.

There is a good assortment of desserts-we chose (my memory is not ideal) a new one with pecan crunch cake, champagne gelée (think Jello- made by angels) and a honey crisp cookie, ad strawberry sorbet. The strawberries are kept in basil and sugar, and there’s a green mint-basil syrup. Very tasty! Local foodies in Santa Fe said this is “the best of the best” from Albuquerque through Santa Fe and up to Taos, and we agree in that this matches or exceeds the quality in any USA city. Next visit, we’ll try Santacafe and one or two others. Wish we could have tried Coyote Cafe years ago, when Mark Miller was on premises, the reputation has allegedly since plummeted, trading glitz for quality. One local “foodie” said “The Compound ain’t what she used to be 1-3 years ago. Geronimo’s now trounces the Compound. If you lower your expectations from Geronimo’s, you’ll then be ok with the Compound.” Ouch!
The Compound still has very nice general American food, lacks a Southwestern culinary identity, and is worth a lunch visit for lunch, while shopping on Canyon Road. Geronimo’s is more attractive, with a nicer casual Southwestern elegance. The dress at both spots is nicer casual. Conversations at Geronimos indicated tourists slightly outnumbered locals on our visit, whereas tourists are the bulk of the Compound’s diners. Your mileage may vary. I recommend trying Geronimo’s first, then the Compound later, and let me know your experience.

As we were leaving Geronimo’s, we asked for a copy of the evening’s menu. It arrived as a scroll, wrapped with a gold ribbon. That’s above and beyond-that’s Geronimo. We’re hooked on Geronimo, just as the Santa Fe folks.
Geronimo Restaurant, 724 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM, 505- 982-1500

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We ate there last month, and the menu still has not changed much from what you mentioned.

It's good, pricey and reasonable value. Our Santa Fe friends also said this is much better than The Compound, so we did not go there.

Anonymous said...

FYI The menu had completely changed with the return of Eric DiStefano.. It's Asian fusion now.
Also it's "Geronimo" their isn't an " 's " at the end.

Foodie Blogroll