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Dec 9, 2010 01:17 PM

Santa Fe report

Long weekend in Santa Fe with, as usual, many restaurants.

Absolute favorite dinner was Max's. The service was terrible, but the food was outstanding. Fifteen minutes after being seated, still no waiter. Signaled person behind a counter, as no server would let me catch their eye. Turns out it was Max, who was super apologetic, implied that she has talked to the servers about this very problem and got us water and complimentary wine aperitifs. The amuse was a parsnip puree over chocolate ganache and almonds. Sounds awful, but was heavenly. Starters were 2 hour egg (with 2 kinds of polenta and black truffle) and Mixed green salad with wonderful aged, stinky goat and almonds. Both perfectly done. Mains were venison (elk) 2 ways --sous vide tenderloin and osso bucco style elk in streudel pastry-- and suckling pig taster that was incredible--tenderloin, confit with super crispy crust, and braised shoulder wrapped in chard. Fantastic. So good. Dreaming about it. Dessert was a chocolate globe, that then had warm hazelnut "soup" poured over it which opened up the top and revealed more chocolate and hazelnuts. Great presentation and taste. After dessert was another pair of small white chocolate globes filled with liquid passion fruit inside and apple and lime dusting on top. The meal was wonderful. The waiter was incredibly untrained and the entire staff didn't seem to crack a smile. But the food was so good and Max so gracious (she realizes she has a service issue) that we had a great time anyways.

Other good meals at Santacafe--wonderful pork chop with a marsala/apple cider glaze stood out; Restaurant Martin--chowhub was reluctant to share his delicious risotto with truffles, bay scallops, parmesan. My lump blue crab starter was yummy; Inn at the Anasazi restaurant was good also although the short ribs were missing a little something, some zippiness. Wonderfully tender and no fat in sight.

Lunch outings included the Shed (always like the enchiladas), the Blue Corn Cafe (good carne adovado) and a place in Taos called Graham's Grill that has a sandwich which was fantastic (Southwestern Chicken Club). Heart be still. I think it was the green chile and chipotle mayo that did the trick.

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  1. Agree with on virtually everything said. Max is the new favorite in town for my household. A few months ago the fall menu had a Pig Three Ways (they called it something much more elegant, fwiw.) that was way beyond the "goodness" suggested by the menu description.

    We've not had service problems there and we're often there when the place is operating at capacity (it IS quite small).

    Another dish that really blew me away was a Scallop dish with a single ravioli with a foie gras stuffing and a small amount of a broth-like sauce. Flavors were amazing and beautifully complimented the other items on the plate.

    Surprised about your statement that Max is a woman... I always thought that Max was a "he". The talent at Max (imo) is the Executive Chef/Partner, Mark Connell.

    Over the years many really talented chefs have passed through Santa Fe kitchens before going elsewhere. Author Deborah Madison comes to mind and Boston's Ming Tsai who did time in the SantaCafe kitchen 10+ years ago.

    We'll be lucky if we can keep Connell for a few years. He is very big-city (and media) worthy.

    Max's website: