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Joseph's of Santa Fe

finlero Jan 25, 2014 11:05 AM

I recently had the chance to get over to Joseph's of Santa Fe with a few chow-philic friends. I'd never been to Joseph's Table up in Taos, but I'd heard consistently favorable things about it, and was excited to try the Santa Fe incarnation of it. The meal wasn't quite a revelation, but it was very good top to bottom, and reasonable value for the price point as well, with the arguable exception of its wine list.

Located in the former Azur space near Sanbusco, the place is small, cozy, and welcoming, and although the staff seemed a little green, they had been trained well and were totally personable and knowledgeable.

The menu is unpretentious, upscale farm-to-table New American, using as many local ingredients as possible. As is so often the case at a restaurant like this, the starters seemed substantially more interesting, focused, and delicious than the mains. Standouts were a raw vegetable salad with a truffle vinaigrette and grilled polenta with chicken liver mousse. The entrees were fine, if remarkably large and a little overly blunt. My confit-style duck dish had two giant duck legs, which was particularly weird given the slightly smaller than average starter portions. Neither my entree nor tastes of anyone else's quite knocked my socks off, but they were all competently prepared, and the flavors were fresh and thoughtfully integrated. Desserts were above average, but nothing I'd expressly seek out again; a standout was the "cloud cake", a giant, fluffy Italian meringue cake in a caramel sauce, garnished with grapefruit and tarragon.

Overall, the prices are high, but far from exorbitant; all but one entree fell somewhere in the 20s. On the other hand, I thought the CA- and France-heavy wine list was kind of bizarrely chosen in terms of price, starting high but petering out short of the stratosphere. They have a few cheap (in all senses of the word) bottles in the 30s, the sweet spot seems to be around $80, and almost nothing on the list is above $150. Our Sinskey pinot noir ($78 at about a 100% markup) was possibly the highlight of the meal, but come on, it's not like it would require bending over backwards to offer a few more $30 or $40 bottles that don't suck. They also have a nice, short craft beer menu which would go really well with the bold food flavors.

Despite no hard liquor license, I was pleased to see they have a bar menu, the rarest of rarities in Santa Fe, including a great looking burger, as well as duck fat fries, all $14 or less.

So although I don't see myself becoming an uber-regular, Joseph's is a nice upscale addition to the city, and I'll definitely be glad to get back from time to time, especially with out-of-town guests.

  1. tenacity Jan 25, 2014 02:01 PM

    Awesome summary, finlero. Thank you!

    1 Reply
    1. re: tenacity
      s
      sherry3 Feb 28, 2014 11:59 AM

      We have eaten at Restaurant Martin two or three times in the last year and they have really taken it up a notch. Their menu is season and interesting without being too trendy. Give it another try!

    2. sandiasingh Jan 26, 2014 07:15 AM

      Someone was asking about this recently on here. This is the first thorough review. Thanks, especially for the tip on the bar menu. Wish more places like this were open for lunch.

      1. n
        ninrn Jan 27, 2014 04:28 PM

        Thanks for the thoughtful review, finlero. Can you (or anyone) tell me how Joseph's compares with Restaurant Martin? I haven't been to either but need somewhere to go for dinner with a visiting friend. Prefer a kind of imaginative menu with fresh ingredients, but how things taste is most important. Another thought was the new izakaya-style Japanese restaurant at Ten Thousand Waves, but online reviews are so mixed.

        9 Replies
        1. re: ninrn
          finlero Jan 27, 2014 05:29 PM

          Joseph's and Martin are definitely birds of a feather in terms of price point and aesthetic, and I'm glad they're both around. At this point, though, my vote would go to Joseph's.

          It's been over a year since I've been to Martin, but I remember it as trying a little harder (too hard, IMHO) to have a trendy menu, while perhaps falling a little short on deliciousness. Joseph's has a more conventional menu of straight-ahead New American (local ingredients with a lot of low-fuss European preparations), but the flavors worked a little better for me than I remember them working at Martin.

          To me, Martin has a nominally less interesting wine list, but it's better balanced across the price spectrum, especially in terms of decent options south of 50 bucks. To my knowledge, neither restaurant has a hard liquor license.

          1. re: finlero
            n
            ninrn Jan 28, 2014 11:04 AM

            Thanks! This is helpful.

            1. re: finlero
              sandiasingh Jan 29, 2014 06:44 AM

              P.S. We actually have a conversation going here--wow! How refreshing!

              Not to get too off topic, but someone posted a while back about Duel Brewery in Santa Fe. Any of you been there? We're planning to go on Saturday. We love good local beer and German food.

              1. re: sandiasingh
                finlero Jan 29, 2014 08:05 AM

                I've been several times, it's quite good:

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922454

                The place seems a little disorganized, but both the beer and food are good and a little unusual for NM.

                1. re: finlero
                  sandiasingh Jan 29, 2014 03:03 PM

                  Does that mean the service is bad?

                  1. re: sandiasingh
                    finlero Jan 29, 2014 04:05 PM

                    Not bad, per se, just not 100% ready for prime time in terms of how the place is managed.

                    One time I was there they were out of several of their flagship beers and had "guest taps" from Blue Corn Brewery; I've never had an especially good beer from BCB, so this was a bit of a disappointment. Another time the bartender had to change a keg, but couldn't figure out how, so he had to call an off-duty staffer to figure out how to do it.

                    Anyway, nothing crazy, and the people who run it seem pleasant enough. I'm sure they'll find a rhythm over time.

                    1. re: finlero
                      sandiasingh Jan 30, 2014 07:00 AM

                      Great to know, fin. Thank you so much. Will report back.

                      1. re: finlero
                        sandiasingh Feb 11, 2014 05:57 AM

                        Went to Duel Brewery the other day and the food was good. Pretty basic, but good quality. The beer was outstanding. We had just come from the Goya exhibit and I had a Goya Imperial Stout which was wonderful. The owner stopped by our table and said the beer was created about four years ago, long before the exhibit came. Other beers on his menu are named after painters as well. In fact, his own paintings hang in the bar.

                        Overall I'd say go for the beer but the food is just fine too. A real neighborhood place with some live entertainment.

              2. re: ninrn
                sandiasingh Jan 29, 2014 06:41 AM

                I haven't been to Joseph's yet, but went to Martin's shortly after he opened. Was not impressed and have not been back. The food was mediocre and it was loud and chaotic. Not my cup of tea.

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