Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico's Sesquipedalian Sybarite. 880 Restaurant Reviews, More Than 7000 Visitor Comments…And Counting!

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse – Los Lunas, New Mexico

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse for the best in fine dining in Los Lunas

New Mexico is truly a dichotomous land, a state in which seemingly contrasting qualities exist in symbiotic harmony with each other. While most of those contrasts exist spectacularly in nature, the Land of Enchantment’s architecture is no stranger to contradictions. One such example is the Luna Mansion, a stately manor built in the Southern Colonial architectural style, but whose basic construction material is adobe. The Luna Mansion was built in 1880 by the Santa Fe Railroad Company in exchange for right-of-way through lands owned by the Luna family. In the 1920s, the Luna-Otero family added to the grandeur of the Los Lunas showcase by building a front portico and grand solarium. White Grecian columns bid all visitors welcome.

In the 1970s, the Luna Mansion was transformed into a restaurant, perhaps rankling the ire of Josefita Otero, one of the original family members to dwell in the Mansion. Her apparition, attired in 1920s regalia, began to appear. Several other apparitions, including Cruz, a groundskeeper, are said to haunt the restaurant while others have been seen or felt on the grounds of the estate. Perhaps they continue to visit the Luna Mansion for the food.

One of the first floor dining rooms

While Auld Lang Syne faded with the dawning of 2009, the Luna Mansion was put up for sale by Earl Whittemore who had owned the property for more than three decades. It wasn’t for sale for long. Fittingly, the Mansion was purchased by Pete and Hortencia Torres, longtime owners of the Wittwer House, another historic property converted to a restaurant (the award-winning Teofilo’s Restaurante). Moreover, the Torres family has a restaurant pedigree in Valencia County that goes back more than six decades. Pete’s parents opened the eponymous Pete’s Cafe in 1948. Teofilo’s is directly across Main Street from the Luna Mansion, now a registered national historic landmark.

Under the auspices of the Torres family, the Luna Mansion remains a monument to the way good food used to be served in bygone days before America became a fast food nation, back when hearty portions of delicious cuisine could be enjoyed in a relaxing milieu. Though not by design, the restaurant brings to mind the clean, elegant Harvey House restaurants which introduced a touch of refinement and civility to an untamed frontier while serving good food at reasonable prices throughout the Old West. There’s a Harvey House a few miles south in Belen though it no longer serves food.

Sourdough bread

The Luna Mansion name is now appended by “Landmark Steakhouse,” a recognition of its historic place in the community as well as the Torres family commitment to providing a memorable fine dining experience for their patrons. As the name implies, the specialty of the house is USDA prime beef aged 21 days for flavor and tenderness and hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion. The menu also offers fresh fish, seafood and poultry. Several menu items popularized during the tenure of previous owners have been retained (including one of my favorite desserts) while New Mexican chile inspired items no longer have a place on the daily menu.

The nattily attired and attentive Luna Mansion wait staff is as energetic as any in the Duke City area, but with a small town neighborliness you don’t often find in the big city. They’ll be happy to engage you in small talk or discuss the history of the Mansion if you wish, but they’re also professional enough to leave you alone if that be your preference. Best of all, they’re always on-the-spot with hard-crusted sourdough bread and soft butter as well as ice water or your beverage of choice. The sourdough isn’t baked on the premises, but it’s served warm and is replenished faithfully.

The Maytag Wedge: Crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon

This appetizer menu includes some traditional (some might say anachronistic) steakhouse starters such as shrimp cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller and calamari, but throws in shrimp wontons as a surprising change of pace. These wontons aren’t your typical desiccated dumplings fried to a crackling, crunchy and empty shell. These are roughly the size of a beverage coaster and stuffed with a generous bounty of cream cheese, green onion and shrimp. Best of all, they’re served with a jalapeño sweet and sour sauce that packs a punch. The calamari are small ringlets of squid goodness–not too chewy or too thickly coated. The accompanying cocktail sauce is packed with a potent horseradish.

31 May 2012: The menu also offers a Maytag Wedge constructed from crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu (sic) cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon. As a bleu (or blue) cheese aficionado who routinely asks servers to bring me as much bleu cheese as they can carry, it does my heart good (only figuratively) to see the generous dollops of my favorite salad dressing. Maytag blue cheese has been hand-formed and cave-aged since 1941 and is one of the most flavorful of all bleu (or blue) cheeses. The other salad components are quite good, but it’s the pungent cheese that stars here.

A 24-ounce Porterhouse steak (21 day aged beef hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion

You might not consider Los Lunas (or anywhere in landlocked New Mexico) a destination for seafood, but the Luna Mansion might just change your mind. Daily offerings include two lobster tails, tipping the scales at about a pound, at market price. There’s also a pound or pound and a half of sweet, juicy Alaskan King Crab also at market price. A long-time restaurant favorite is the Mansion Steak, a six ounce filet smothered by crab meat and Béarnaise sauce. Both the filet and the crab are good in their own right, but don’t necessarily combine all their best qualities when paired together.

31 May 2012: The purity of beefy deliciousness is best exemplified by the 24-ounce Porterhouse steak, as good a prime cut of beef as we’ve had in the Albuquerque area. It is prepared to your exacting specifications (at medium, it’s got that pinkish center that ensures juiciness and flavor) and is seasoned with exactly the right amount of sea salt, pepper and garlic. This beauteous beef has marbling for flavor, but not much of the excess fat you cut out and leave on your plate. As with other entrees, steaks are accompanied by your choice of potato (a fully loaded baked potato, French fries or whipped Yukon Gold potatoes). The baked potato is perfectly cooked all the way through and is roughly the size of a child’s football.

Lamb chops with creamed spinach in the background

31 May 2012: Another spectacular plate features four lollipop (what lamb rib chops are called when they’re “Frenched” (when the meat is cut away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed)) lamb chops served with mint sauce. Lamb chops essentially come with a built-in “handle” which makes them easy to pick up and eat (yes, even at a fine dining restaurant). Each lamb chop is pert and petite, but it’s packed with flavor and is very tender. When asked the degree of “doneness” for your chops, it’s best to leave it to the chef’s discretion. Most chefs prepare lamb chops by broiling, grilling or pan-searing them for only a few minutes on each side. At medium, the Luna Mansion lamb chops are moist and delicious.

19 July 2015: The Luna Mansion set the bar very high, hosting the inaugural brunch venture for the discerning and culinary savvy Friends of Gil (FOG).  Ten of us convened at the historical gem to enjoy a sumptuous repast that included a prime rib breakfast burrito.  Engorged with scrambled eggs and grilled prime rib topped with red chile, it’s a Cadillac of breakfast burritos in a neighborhood of Chevys.  This burrito was served with French fries, a surprising departure from the usual hash browns.

Prime Rib Burrito

The menu offers several “sides including creamed spinach, steamed asparagus, sauteed garlic spinach, whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, baked potato and French fries. The creamed spinach is a winner thanks to the infusion of intensely garlicky heavy cream playing off the natural acerbic qualities of the spinach. The cream is a bit on the watery side, but is good enough to sop up with the restaurant’s sourdough bread.

19 July 2015: It’s not every brunch that allows guests to also select from the dinner menu.  The only concession at Luna Mansion is that baked potatoes aren’t available until after five.  If you’re having the pasta, you don’t need another carb anyway.  You might not even miss out on the Mansion’s magnificent meats.  That is if the fettuccine with a red chile cream sauce and sirloin tips is on the menu.  First, the pasta is perfectly prepared if your ideal is neither mushy nor al dente.  The red chile cream sauce is rich and delicious with just enough piquancy to be discernible, but not so much that it tastes like another New Mexican dish showcasing our enchanting chile (great as it is).  The sirloin tips are a highlight, a reminder that the Luna Mansion serves some of the very best steak in the area.

Fettuccine with Red Chile Cream Sauce and Sirloin Tips

31 May 2012: Only three desserts–the Mansion Mud Pie, classic cheesecake and housemade key lime pie–grace the menu, but savvy diners look no further than the Mansion Mud Pie, one of my favorite desserts in the area. The foundation for the pie is a thick Oreo crust which is topped with about two inches of mocha flavored ice cream, a chocolate ganache and whipped cream garnished with almond slivers. This is a pie for the ages, a pie I might haunt the Luna Mansion for someday.

The Mansion Mud Pie, a Luna Mansion specialty

The Luna Mansion has long been one of Valencia county’s culinary crown jewels, but it’s good enough to warrant mention among the most highly regarded fine dining establishments in the metropolitan Duke City area.

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse
Highway 6 & Highway 85
Los Lunas, New Mexico
505-865-7333
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 July 2015
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 23
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Mud Pie, Shrimp Wontons, The Maytag Wedge, Porterhouse, Lamb Chops

Luna Mansion on Urbanspoon

Sara’s Pastries and Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sara's Pastries & Deli

Sara’s Pastries & Deli

Creator!  You who give life to all things and who has made men that they may live happy and multiply.
Multiply also the fruits of the earth, the potatoes and other food that you have
That men may not suffer from hunger and misery.
~Traditional Incan Prayer

As recently as 2010, Albuquerque–which rightfully takes great pride in its acceptance of cultural and culinary diversity–did not have a single Peruvian restaurant. Fast forward three years to March, 2013 and there are three restaurants showcasing to Duke City diners just a modicum of the tremendous diversity and deliciousness offered by Peruvian cuisine. Every one of the three is unique, each highlighting only a segment of the culinary offerings that make Peruvian cuisine one of the great cuisines of the world.  

More than perhaps any of the world’s great cuisines, Peruvian food is impossible to pigeonhole or stereotype. It is the original fusion cuisine, having absorbed culinary influences from streams of immigrants encompassing every great culinary culture and melding them with indigenous ingredients and dishes, many with Incan roots. As a result of this cultural and culinary fusion, the Guinness Book of Records recognizes Peru as the nation with the most local plates, some 491 officially registered dishes in all.

Under glass are some of the most sumptuous pastries, sandwiches and tamales in town

Under glass are some of the most sumptuous pastries, sandwiches and tamales in town

With nearly five-hundred official dishes in the Peruvian culinary repertoire, the comparatively limited menus at Albuquerque’s three Peruvian restaurants barely scratch the surface in offering the cuisine The Wall Street Journal called “the next big thing” in 2012.  It’s a fact not lost on peripatetic gastronomes about whom Frommers Travel Guide’s observed  “travel all the way to Peru just to eat.” 

Although most Duke City diners probably won’t travel to Peru to indulge in gastronomic greatness, most are just a few miles away from one of the city’s three Peruvian treasures.  The antecedent for hopefully several other Peruvian restaurants is the highly acclaimed Pollito Con Papas which, thanks to the best rotisserie chicken in Albuquerque, had to triple its real-estate within a year of its 2011 launch.   Eastsiders might argue that the best rotisserie chicken comes from Taste of Peru, a March, 2013 entry into the local culinary scene.

Roasted Pork Sandwich

Roasted Pork Sandwich

The most centrally-located of Albuquerque’s three Peruvian restaurants is Sara’s Pastries & Deli, ensconced in the increasingly familiar Journal Center Market Place, a strip mall quickly becoming a very popular dining destination. Sara’s neighbors include the nonpareil Torinos @ Home, El Pollo Picante, Twisters Burgers & Burritos and other restaurants. Launched in February, 2013, Sara’s Pastries & Deli fills a niche in offering the delectable and decadent dessert offerings of Peru.

There’s a venerable saying in Peru that translates to something like “Peruvians have two stomachs—one for food and another for dessert.” That idiom illustrates the passion with which Peruvians approach desserts, which, ironically were virtually unknown prior to the arrival of the Spanish. As with the entirety of Peruvian cuisine, desserts are heavily influenced by the streams of immigrants which settled in the country. The resultant cultural and culinary mix is why you shouldn’t be surprised if you see arroz con leche, pastel tres leches or even tiramisu on the dessert menu of a Peruvian restaurant.

Sara04

Tripled Sandwich with Miss Vickie’s Smoked BBQ Chips and Inca Kola

You’ll find those sumptuous delicacies and so much more in the pastry case at Sara’s Pastries & Deli. Under glass, in fact, are some of the most artistic quality pastries you’ll ever see. Perhaps not coincidentally, the walls of the restaurant are festooned with large framed photographs of those pastries. Every pastry is a made-from-scratch masterpiece. So, too, are the alfajores showcased under a domed glass tray. Perhaps the most popular cookie in Peru, alfajores are butter cookies filled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are absolutely addictive! 

Owner Sara Correa, originally from Peru, is the petite whirling dervish in the kitchen responsible for the beautiful deliciousness in her eponymous operation. Visit on a weekend and you might be served by her dainty daughter or her two mesomorphic sons, both of whom can probably bench press the pastry case.  All three are as personable and charming as can be with the ambassadorial qualities every restaurateur wants for the “front of the house.”  You would never guess this is the first restaurant operation for this delightful family.

Peruvian Red Tamale

Peruvian Red Tamale

It would be so easy to bypass the deli offerings and dig right into the desserts, but to do so would mean missing out on some pretty terrific sandwich options.  It did my heart good not to see “proudly offering Boar’s Head products” displayed anywhere.  There’s nothing wrong with Boar’s Head products, but because they’re so ubiquitous, there aren’t as many sandwich surprises in the Duke City as there otherwise might be with a greater variety of (or better still, homemade) cold cuts, cheeses and condiments.

31 March 2013: Sara’s doesn’t rely on a megalithic corporate purveyor of meats for their sandwich offerings.  The meats proffered at Sara’s are homemade fresh daily.  It makes an amazing difference, one easily discernible on the roasted pork sandwich.  The canvas for this towering meatfest is homemade French bread that has a nice crusty exterior and soft innards.  A generous pile of tender and absolutely delicious pork is joined between bread by red onions and habanero peppers with your choice of a signature sauce (habanero, jalapeño or green chile). The piquant peppers lend qualities other than heat, all of them complementary.  The sandwich is served with a side of Miss Vickie’s chips.

Sara06

Peruvian Green Tamale

31 March 2013: If, like me, you find egg salad sandwiches boring, you’ll be made a convert by the Triple (pronounced “treep-lay”) Sandwich.  Four simple, but healthy ingredients: avocados, tomatoes, olive oil and hard-boiled eggs are layered between  multi-grain bread (there’s an extra slice in the middle) with just a smear of mayonnaise.  It’s a surprisingly moist and surprisingly delicious sandwich, layered in such a manner as to bring three times the joy to the hungry diner.  The Triple Sandwich may sound unsophisticated, but it’s not a sandwich this worldly gastronome would ever turn down.

31 March 2013: New Mexicans perusing the menu will likely become excited upon seeing Peruvian red tamales and Peruvian green tamales on the menu.  Alas, red and green don’t mean the same thing in Peru as they mean in the Land of Enchantment.  Red tamales are a traditional Peruvian dish enjoyed most often for Sunday breakfast.  Sara’s rendition is very traditional, fashioned with steamed red Peruvian chile (very different from Hatch or Chimayo red chile) corn masa stuffed with chicken and black olives.  The tamales are surprisingly moist, slightly piquant and imbued with an exotic flavor imparted by the banana leaves in which they are steamed

Peruvian Empanada

Peruvian Empanada

31 March 2013: The Peruvian green tamales are made from steamed cilantro corn masa stuffed with chicken, black olives and Peruvian chile steamed in corn husks.  The cilantro imparts an exotic quality to the corn masa while the Peruvian chile lends just enough piquancy to be noticed.  Very noticeable is the sheer deliciousness of these tamales.  Both the green and red tamales are served with a side of red onions laced with finely chopped habanero peppers.  If you’re missing piquancy with your tamales, this is where you can get it. 

14 July 2015: Most turkey sandwiches in Albuquerque don’t need tryptophan to make diners sleepy.  Not only do most of them sport the ridiculous sobriquet of “Albuquerque Turkey,” most are made with thin, tasteless sliced turkey, the type of which is a true turkey in the most derogatory sense of the term.  At Sara’s the turkey is the regal bird founding father Benjamin Franklin proposed as America’s symbol.  It’s majestic, a blend of white and dark meat roasted on the premises served with lettuce, red onions, habanero and Sara’s signature sauce on a French bread canvas.  The sandwich packs a piquant punch though not so much that it obfuscates the flavor of house roasted turkey.  Fittingly, it’s served with your choice of fruit or Miss Vickie’s jalapeño chips.

Gourmet Turkey Sandwich with Jalapeño Chips

31 March 2013: Also quite dissimilar to the same named offering in New Mexico are Peruvian empanadas.  Sara’s empanadas are baked in pastry dough stuffed with ground beef, onions, raisins and spices and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  They’re mostly savory but are tinged with sweetness imparted by the raisins and powdered sugar.  Your taste buds, however, will gravitate toward the exotic Peruvian spices which really give these empanadas their unique and wonderful flavor.

The dessert menu (nuestros dulces) is a tempting array of delicious treats that will have you making frequent return trips to Sara’s where you’ll find Black Forest Cake, Fruit Napoleon, Classic Peach Cake, Classic Strawberry Cake, Chocolate Mousse, New York Supreme Cheesecake and Tiramisu to name just a few as well as  tarts, cookies and truffles. 

Tres Leches "My Way"

Tres Leches “My Way”

31 March 2013: If the Tres Leches “My Way” is any indication, you’re in for a serious treat–as in some of the best in New Mexico treat.  The tres leches cake, sponge cake soaked in a milk syrup made of three different kinds of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk (or cream) and topped with Italian meringue and sprinkled cinnamon, is in my Kim’s words, “the best I’ve ever had.” Who am I  to argue, especially with my mouth full. 

14 July 2015:   My first sighting of Sara’s caramel cone brought to mind the horn of plenty, also known as a cornucopia, which is represented by a hollow horn filled with the inexhaustible gifts of celebratory fruits.  Sara’s caramel cone is a horn-shaped pastry stuffed with plenty of dulce de leche, a sweet, rich treat similar in taste, texture and consistency to a thick caramel sauce.  Dulce de leche is ubiquitous in Peru where it’s used primarily as a spread or as a filling for pastries.  The caramel cone is a delicious way to enjoy perhaps the best dulce de leche you’ll find in Albuquerque.

Caramel Cone

Sara’s Pastries & Deli is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday from 7:00AM to 4:30PM.  Sara’s is a restaurant which does Peru proud!  Among savvy diners, Sara’s has ascended the ranks to the rarefied air of one of Albuquerque’s very best dining and dessert destinations.

Sara’s Pastries & Deli
7600 Jefferson N.E., Suite C
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 385-8247
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 14 July 2015
1st VISIT: 31 March 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET:Roasted Pork Sandwich, Tripled Sandwich, Green Tamale, Red Tamale, Empanada, Tres Leches “My Way”, Alfajores, Gourmet Turkey Sandwich, Caramel Cones,

Sara's Pastries and Deli on Urbanspoon

Elaine’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Elaine01

Elaine’s on Central Avenue in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill District

“They were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine’s”.
~Big Shot by Billy Joel

For nearly five decades–from 1963 through 2011–“the place to be” in Manhattan’s trendy Upper East Side was Elaine’s, perhaps the city’s most celebrated and revered A-lister’s hangout.  Everyone who was anyone frequented Elaine’s, an eponymous establishment in which luminaries came to see and be seen.  Celebrity habitues included glitterati from stage, screen, television, literature and politics such as Woody Allen, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Mick Jagger, Jacqueline Kennedy, Jack Nicholson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Andy Warhol and Raquel Welch.  Elaine Kaufman was the peripatetic presence around whom the celebrities flocked, the geocentric personality whose gravitational pull drew them all in.

Every chic and cosmopolitan city has its own “place to be,” a vibrant cultural, retail and entertainment hub with its own distinctive sights, sounds and flavors. In Albuquerque, that cultural hub is Nob Hill, a fusion of trendy shops, eclectic galleries and swank dining options. The history of Nob Hill is interlaced with that of Route 66, the fabled “Mother Road” which once traversed the fruited plain from Chicago to Los Angeles. Remnants of Route 66 in its halcyon days festoon Nob Hill in the form of vibrant neon signage that cuts a luminous swath through Central Avenue where Route 66 once ran. The nocturnal spectacle of glowing neon is akin to a siren’s call, drawing visitors to the area like moths to a flame.

The interior of Elaine’s

In October, 2013, a new fine-dining restaurant patterned after chic Manhattan eateries launched in the Nob Hill district. Fittingly, the restaurant’s name is Elaine’s which translates from Greek to “ray of light,” a term which not only describes the resplendent nighttime glow of Route 66, but  the lovely lady for whom the restaurant was named. That would be Elaine Blanco, long-time general manager of Scalo, a Duke City dining institution situated directly across the street.

It remains to be seen whether Elaine’s of Albuquerque ever achieves–at least at a local level–the eminence and prominence of its fabled Manhattan namesake or even whether or not it becomes “the place to be” in the Duke City. In less than two years (as of this writing), however, Elaine’s has already been recognized by one source with a worldwide presence as one of “Albuquerque’s ten best restaurants.”  The Albuquerque Journal touted Elaine’s for bringing a “New York vibe to Nob Hill.”  In that respect, Elaine’s actualizes the vision conceptualized by founders Elaine Blanco and restaurant impresario Steve Paternoster.

Elaine03

An amazing amuse bouche: sopaipillas with honey butter sprinkled with shaved prosciutto

Elaine’s is elegant yet unpretentious with an energetic vibe hinting at targeting a young professional demographic. Seating for 52 guests is in personal space proximity with banquettes hugging the walls and tables in the center adorned in white linen tablecloths and fine silverware. The cynosure of the dining room is a well appointed bar. Evocative art hangs on the walls while eclectic music plays in the background.

Initially serving only dinner, Elaine’s culinary philosophy is ambitious but simple: “We combine fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers and purveyors with the best products from around the world. We strive to bring a new approach to food and dining in Albuquerque with the latest cooking techniques and exciting flavor profiles.”  The menu features rotating seasonal dishes at price points that won’t break the bank. That is unless Elaine’s is offering Osetra caviar from Russia, (as they were during the night of our inaugural visit) one of the premium caviars in the world. We were tempted, but an ounce would have set us back a princely sum.

Elaine04

Blue Crab & Cauliflower Soup

1 November 2013: More to the liking of my wallet is an amuse bouche of tiny sopaipillas served with a honey butter laced with shaved bits of prosciutto. The sopaipillas are served just out-of-the-fryer-hot, with wisps of fragrant steam escaping when you bite into them. They’re so addictive, we asked for another order.  Don’t spare the butter even if it means a couple hours longer on the treadmill.  The melding of salty prosciutto and luscious honey is sheer genius.

The “small plates” section of the menu features an array of tempting starters showcasing creatively prepared vegetables and salads as well as proteins from the land and sea.  Albuquerque the Magazine bestowed its highest culinary award, a “Hot Plate” to one of those small plates–the miso ramen.  The award signifies appetizers, dishes, desserts, drinks and restaurants “that we can’t live without.”   The starters menu is replete with sophisticated options that speak volumes about the chef’s creativity.  That chef would be Andrew Gorski, a highly credentialed sage who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America before studying under world-renowned chefs and working at some of the most celebrated restaurants in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Elaine05

Lamb Chops

The “large” menu is a descriptor for the more costly and sizable dinner entrees.  In numerical terms, it’s certainly not a large menu, listing only six entrees.  The spring, 2015 menu lists a burger (brioche, foie gras, aioli, kale, onion, cheese), half chicken, pork rib chop, halibut, filet mignon and Maine Lobster.  Don’t get too used to any of these entrees because the menu does rotate with the seasons.  On one hand, not seeing your favorites on the menu every time you visit can be heartbreaking, but on the other, you’re sure to find new favorites.

1 November 2013: Chilled to our bones from winds that buffeted our car mercilessly on the night of our inaugural visit, we opted for a blue crab and cauliflower soup redolent with the fragrance of black truffles and curry oil. The two-step presentation of this soup enhanced our enjoyment. First our server directed our attention to a concave bowl, the bottom of which was brimming with finely chopped blue crab strewn and shaved black truffles. Then he poured the contents of a decanter of cauliflower soup atop the contents.

Elaine06

Potted Black Pig

Superb as the blue crab and black truffles were, it was the curry oil that elevated the soup beyond mere comfort food level to the rarefied air of greatness. The delicate blue crab was allowed to shine in a flavor profile of ingredients which could have easily taken over had they not been so well balanced. This soup was the perfect elixir for a blustery evening, imparting the type of warmth that caresses your joints without singeing your tongue.

1 November 2013: During our inaugural visit, the line-up of luscious proteins features two seafood dishes and three meat entrees. The lamb chops were almost picturesque in their presentation. Nestled in a pool of whipped Yukon mashed potatoes were a trio of lollipop lamb chops, so called because part of the bone is exposed, making them easy to pick up and eat (yes, even at a fine-dining restaurant). Each lamb chop is pert and petite, but packed with flavor and tenderness. The chops are rimmed with a slight layer of fat that adds to the flavor, melding well with a tamarind sauce.

Elaine07

Warmed Carrot Cake

1 November 2013: Pork, the other white meat, was well represented with a spotted black pig entrée in a miso broth served with a single ash ravioli topped with brussel leaves. The spotted black pig was deliciously decadent with a flavorful balance of unctuous fat and rich, tender meat. This was porcine perfection, as delicate and flavorful as any pork dish we’ve had.  It’s easy to see why the miso broth would go on to earn a “Hot Plate” award from Albuquerque The Magazine.   The ash ravioli, engorged with sweet parsnips, was worthy accompaniment.  Parsnips, by the way, are a vastly underutilized root vegetable.

1 November 2013: Desserts are avant-garde in their interpretation of traditional favorites. The warmed carrot cake, for example, is hardly your mom’s carrot cake. It is, instead, a way to appreciate carrots in three ways: candied, confit and with a cream cheese spume. It’s not sliced into a traditional carrot cake slab, but plated in seeming disarray with cake on the rim of the plate as well as on the cream cheese spume. While it may not win awards for neatness and presentation, it will win over your heart and taste buds.

Elaine08

Elaine’s Candy Bar

1 November 2013: Named for the peripatetic restaurateur, the Elaine’s Candy Bar is a chocoholic’s dream, a rectangular slab of rich dark chocolate served with a single scoop of coconut ice cream and toasted cashews. The effect of capturing both candy bar and coconut ice cream on each spoonful is akin to partaking of the very best Mounds bar you’ve ever had.

31 May 2015:  In New Mexico, there almost seems to be a template for brunch.  Some diners like the comfort of knowing what to expect–huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, omelets and the like.  Others, however, have been clamoring for something different, something new and exciting.  That’s what Elaine’s is striving to offer with the brunch offering it inaugurated on 31 May 2015.  It’s a brunch heretofore unseen in the Land of Enchantment.  It’s a brunch you’re more likely to see in…well, Manhattan.

Ceviche

31 May 2015: There are only nine items on the menu.  The first two are composed salads.  The remainder are seafood items.  Red and green chile don’t appear anywhere on the menu so if you’re of the ilk who has to enjoy chile with every meal, you’re out of luck.  Others who have lamented the absence of high quality seafood in the landlocked Land of Enchantment will find Elaine’s brunch a welcome difference. It’s the brunch for the seafood lover in you.

31 May 2015:  Many New Mexicans, especially those who frequent Mexican restaurants, have an intimate relationship with ceviche, raw seafood “cooked” in citrus juices.  Often served on a tostada shell, ceviche is a terrific way to start a meal.  The ceviche at Elaine’s is reminiscent of a cross between a campechana and ceviche.  The former is a Mexican seafood cocktail served  with Clamato and lime juices in a goblet and tinged with a hot sauce and diced vegetables.  Served in a bowl, the ceviche at Elaine’s is more liquefied (Clamato or tomato juice spiked with Tabasco sauce) than ceviche served in Duke City Mexican restaurants.  Swimming in that liquid pool are avocados, cucumbers, red onions, garlic and a generous complement of tiger shrimp.  It’s an excellent starter.

Lobster Roll

31 May 2015:  Throughout New England, there’s a contentious debate as to how to prepare a lobster roll.  While no one will debate the sheer deliciousness of luscious lobster nestled in a split top roll, some New Englanders consider it sacrilegious to desecrate a lobster roll with mayo.  Some purists will accept only warm clarified butter as the proper dressing for a lobster roll.  At Elaine’s, the lobster is generously endowed with mayo and it is perfectly fine with us.  Spilling over the sweet, tender split roll is at least half a pound of rich lobster meat, mostly from claws and knuckles.  Lobster love in Albuquerque is alive, well and delicious at Elaine’s.

31 May 2015:  Fittingly, the largest brunch item has been christened the “Grand Plateau,” a platter brimming with a netful of seafood: four king crab legs, six oysters on the half shell and eight tiger shrimp.  Served on an ice bed isn’t my Kim’s preference for crab legs, but she was well sated when our server ferried over a ramekin of hot, clarified butter.  The accompanying sauces–a combustible cocktail sauce and a remoulade–paired well with the other seafood items, but crab legs marry best with butter. The oysters and shrimp are excellent reminders that while chile is incomparable, seafood is sensational, too.

Grand Plateau

The wait staff is ambassadorial in its courtesy and nearly encyclopedic in its knowledge of the menu and wine list. Elaine’s is a relatively new addition to the Nob Hill dining scene, but it has all the memorable qualities needed to become a Duke City fixture like Route 66 and Nob Hill.

Elaine’s
3503 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 555-5555
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 31 May 2015
1st VISIT: 1 November 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $$$$
BEST BET: Blue Crab & Cauliflower Soup, Spotted Black Pig, Lamb Chops, Warmed Carrot Cake, Elaine’s Candy Bar, Ceviche, Grand Plateau, Lobster Roll

Click to add a blog post for Elaine's on Zomato