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Mas Tapas Y Vino – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Mas Tapas Y Vino at the fabulous Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque

Had Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra written Don Quixote in the 21st century, the title character’s quest in life might not have been to revive the chivalric virtues and values of adventurous knights. His quests might well have instead taken him on tapas bar-hopping adventures throughout Madrid, Spain. In his edible escapades, he would have fought the commercialization of the Spanish tapas traditions. Instead of tangling with windmills, he would have squared off against golden arches. Quixote’s sidekick Sancho Panza would have certainly earned his surname.

Madrid, perhaps even more than Ernest Hemingway’s beloved Paris is a “moveable feast.”  The practice of chasing after those diverse and delicious little dishes known as “tapas” is called a “tapeo” and no city does tapas bar-hopping as well as Madrid.  In Madrid tapeos have achieved near cult status.  They are a cultural event, a rite of passage and a sporting event rolled into one.  A tapeo allows you to sample the culinary fare at several tapas bars without sitting down for an entire meal.  Ostensibly, you “walk off” your tapas and wine as you hop from bar to bar.

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The spectacular lobby of Andaluz

Tapas have become one of Madrid’s most popular tourist attractions with “tapas tours” becoming increasingly well-known and popular. As recounted on this blog, tapas are the Spanish version of hors d’oeuvres or dim sum, little plates of food. In Spain they’re often served complimentary with a drink (usually wine). The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, which means “to cover”. History and legend attribute the term to pieces of ham or cheese laid across glasses of wine to keep flies out (and stagecoach drivers sober).

Tapas can be traced back to the seven centuries of Moorish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.  The Moors brought with them an influx of exotic spices and ingredients such as saffron, apricots, artichokes, carob, sugar, carrots, coriander and rice.  They introduced pastries, desserts and cold soups which remain part and parcel of the Spanish culinary repertoire to this day.  Fittingly, the Moors are widely credited for Spain’s best-known culinary innovation–the small and varied delicacies today known as tapas.  

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The exhibition kitchen at Mas

Perhaps New Mexico’s preeminent practitioner in the art of Spanish tapas is five-time James Beard Award nominee for “Best Chef – Southwest”  James Campbell Caruso.  Chef Caruso has plied his culinary craft at La Boca in Santa Fe since 2006, achieving so much critical acclaim and popularity that in 2012, he launched Taverna La Boca, a Spanish-style tavern which, as its elder sibling, specializes in, tapas. His two Santa Fe tapas restaurants are a favorite of Food Network luminary Giada DiLaurentis.

In 2013 when Albuquerque’s AAA Four Diamond hotel, Hotel Andaluz announced a make-over of its signature restaurant Lucia, it made sense that the restaurant’s new direction and concept would be Spanish tapas.  After all, the presence of Moorish culture and cuisine is more prominent in Andalusia (the Spanish region for which the hotel is named) than anywhere else in Spain.  It also made sense that Chef Caruso would be brought in from Santa Fe to head the new restaurant concept christened Mas, a Spanish word which translates to “more.”

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Mezze Platter

The magnificent Hotel Andaluz is the perfect venue for Mas, providing a “tantalizing and sensuous tapestry of past and future,” celebrating yesteryear while embracing today. Tracing its lineage to Conrad Hilton, the ten-story hotel launched in 1939 as New Mexico’s first Hilton, is a stunning complex showcasing earth tone stucco and southwest woodwork, furnishings and artwork.  Its imposing two-story lobby, stately arches, hand-carved beams and balconies overlooking the lobby make it one of the finest hotels in the Land of Enchantment.

In an interview with NBC Latino, Chef Caruso proclaimed the menu at Mas “cutting edge, a total juxtaposition of the hotel itself.”  Mas is significantly larger than Caruso’s other restaurants with a large exhibition kitchen illuminated to showcase both the modernity of the equipment and the process of putting together some of the very best tapas in the Land of Enchantment.  Those tapas will be available in all the hotel’s service areas as well as the main lobby and the rooftop Ibiza bar.

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Gambas Fritas

The Mas dinner menu features tapas, salads, soups, entrees and desserts with Chef Caruso’s wife Leslie serving as pastry chef. The lunch menu adds sandwiches and burgers, including a green chile cheeseburger. For lunch, a “menu del dia,” a special three-course lunch is offered daily. The restaurant’s Web sites describes Mas as “inspired by the bold flavors, rich history and exuberance of Spanish cooking,” offering “fresh reinventions of traditional Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on locally-sourced foods and high quality imported ingredients and spices.” It’s a winning formula! 

It’s interesting that one of the platos on the lunch menu is called a “mezze” platter because mezze is more commonly associated with Turkish or Greek food and is essentially synonymous with tapas (small dishes). Name notwithstanding, the mezze is a must (maybe a better name) have. Three spreads—a spicy carrot garbanzo hummus, beet walnut spread and a spinach-caper spread—are served with lavash sesame crackers, a pile of greens and a small ramekin of grapes and olives.

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Manchego cheese with Membrillo

The three spreads are vastly different, each uniquely imprinting themselves on your taste buds. The spicy carrot garbanzo hummus is a slight departure from many Middle Eastern hummus you may have had. The carrots lend a tinge of sweetness and color to the garbanzo, a traditional ingredient in hummus. This hummus isn’t as oily and lemony as some hummus tends to be with a pleasant spiciness that surprised us. The beet walnut spread is a coming together of two diverse ingredients. Their merger accentuates a savory flavor profile with little of the sweetness which characterizes some beets. The spinach caper salad is a melding of distinctive bitterness of spinach and the salty, sharp and sour notes of capers. All three spreads are unique adventures in flavor discernment with the sesame lavosh serving as a pleasant canvas.

At the opposite end of the flavor profile spectrum are Gambas Fritas, fried shrimp served with a smoked paprika agridulce dipping sauce. The shrimp are perfectly fried and sheathed in a light, golden batter. They snap when you bite into them, a mark of freshness, and have a pleasant sweetness. Though “agridulce” implies sweet and sour, the smoked paprika dipping sauce lends the dimensions of smokiness (obviously) and just a hint of piquancy.

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Hot Gouda, chorizo, apple bake w/ crostini

If, like me, you celebrate Hannahmas on December 11th, do it in style with one of Hannah’s favorite indulgences: Manchego cheese with membrillo. Manchego cheese is the pride of the La Mancha region in Spain, a sheep’s milk with a buttery texture and distinctive creaminess and flavor. Nothing pairs better with Manchego cheese than membrillo, a Spanish paste made from quince (the fruit Eve is reputed to have given Adam). Membrillo is a deep, ruby red square that’s not overly sweet and has a texture not unlike jelly candy. Few things in this world go as well together as Manchego cheese with membrillo.

Also blending well is the triumvirate of hot gouda, chorizo and baked apple. This is an adult mac and cheese, the antithesis of that crappy Kraft dinner to which far too many Americans subject their children. Gouda, a Dutch cheese, is one of the world’s most popular cheeses, renowned for its rich flavor with a creamy tang and smooth texture. The Gouda is a perfect foil for the savory-piquant chorizo and the tangy-sweet apples. Then, as if anything else is needed to make this a perfect mac and cheese, it’s served with crostini with which you’ll scoop up the cheesy deliciousness. It’s a rich, rich, rich indulgence.

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Slow-braised pork shoulder sandwich: fig olive tapenade

Perhaps the most enticing from among the lunchtime sandwich menu is the slow-braised pork shoulder sandwich with a fig-olive tapenade served on a hoagie roll. There’s a lot going on in this sandwich, highlighted by the perfectly braised, wonderfully tender pork shoulder. It’s porcine perfection! The fig-olive tapenade is a surprise considering how very sweet figs can be and how astringent olives can be. As prepared at Mas, these two strong flavor profiles are terrific, an excellent complement to the pork. Hmmm, maybe the Reese’s Peanut Butter folks might consider pairing these two flavors in a candy bar.

The dessert menu is limited in terms of quantity, but has some very interesting and inviting offerings. For me, dessert menus begin and end with bread pudding, one of those anachronistic desserts that never completely seem to go out of style. The Mas version of bread pudding is made with mission figs and is served warm though a scoop of Hagen Daz ice cream will quickly take care of that. Texturally, it’s about on par with a thick, borderless Challah bread French toast. Flavorwise, it’s got just a pinch of salt to offset the extreme sweetness of the figs. It’s a very good bread pudding.

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Mission Fig Bread Pudding with one scoop of vanilla ice cream

It’s appropriate that this fine tapas restaurant in the heart of downtown Albuquerque is named “Mas” because after enjoying its rich indulgences, you’ll definitely want mas, mas, mas.

Mas Tapas Y Vino
Hotel Andaluz
125 Second Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-9090
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 7 December 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Mezze Platter, Gambas Fritas, Manchego Cheese With Membrillo; Hot Gouda, chorizo, apple bake w/ crostini; Slow-braised pork shoulder sandwich; Mission Fig Bread Pudding


View Mas Tapas Y Vino at Hotel Andaluz on LetsDineLocal.com »

Mas Tapas y Vino at Hotel Andaluz on Urbanspoon

  • Mara van der PaS says:

    I’ll bet they use cumin.
    PS. I made my own membrillo from quinces I got at Lowe’s in Las Vegas, of all places. I’m going to have it with some aged Leidenkaas (Dutch for Leiden cheese) that I got from my brother when he came to visit. The two would marry well together, I think.

    December 12, 2013 at 5:45 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Hi Mara

      Not even on television reruns can I escape cumin. In an episode of Modern Family Jay asked his stepson Manny to try his “legendary rice pilaf.” Manny, a precocious epicure, noted “It just takes a little flat. I think this is a job for cumin.”

      Cumin has its place and can be discerned on some of the tapas at Mas where it’s an essential part of the flavor profile. It’s only on New Mexican red and green chile that cumin has no place. Adding cumin to New Mexican chile is akin to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

      Membrillo with Leiden should pair very well together. I’ll have to try that combination soon.

      Gil

      December 14, 2013 at 11:46 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Gil,
    After reading your review of Mas Tapas Y Vino it answered a question both my wife and I had, what would replace Lucia?
    I enjoyed reading your review so much, it was so enlightening I had my wife read it also. You won her over with your historical prospective and your glowing review.
    She now knows why I’m such a devoted reader and admirer.
    Plus as co-chairperson of an Out to Lunch Bunch it gives her another great choice for the coming year.
    We are the proverbial guinea pigs and this gives us something to really look forward to.
    We love going to the Andaluz, it really is a gem from a bygone era. It’s always an experience having drinks and appys in one of those curtained alcoves. And it Is a great restoration.

    December 13, 2013 at 5:41 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Wow! Thank you so much for the very kind words. I’m humbled and touched.

      This blog has blessed me with the opportunity to meet some of the very best people in the universe, people I would not otherwise have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing–people like you!

      Over the years, my readers have educated and entertained me–and one another–with their always enlightening, sometimes sardonic, usually uplifting commentary. Where else would you find such a witty war of words as is being waged between you and Bob of the Village People (he of the Faulkneresque stream-of-consciousness style)? Then there’s Susie Queue, the homonym challenged (alleged) product of someone’s (my money’s on Ryan Scott or Dave Schuyler) overactive imagination. I’m looking forward to Schuyler’s annual “best of” recommendations for Susie.

      I’m happy to read about your improving health and that Lady Grayce has become a convert. She’s a very classy lady and a perfect partner for you on your journey to forever together. As Bob of the Village People has pointed out, you’re a very lucky man.

      Gil

      December 13, 2013 at 2:14 PM
  • Gloria says:

    Faulkneresque stream of consciousness style. I had to look that up but yes it does describe Bob’s witty brilliance. Brute, when it comes to wit, I’ll paraphrase Julius Caesar “et not tu Bruti.”

    December 14, 2013 at 7:15 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    In the spirit of “testosteronics of the veiled allusions” I wish you happy holidays, Ms. Gloria.
    My point per BOTVOLR has been simple, to whom is he directing his comments? Does he like or dislike the venue being discussed? Straight up, no cockamamie stuff, yes or no?
    Now I know his audience of one!
    And as I may have mentioned I do like him on a personal level.
    Lighten up Gloria, it’s an informative food blog, not life or death.

    December 15, 2013 at 7:25 AM
  • Sally Moore says:

    Can’t wait to try Mas. Am putting it on my list for my February birthday dinner. Loved Caruso’s Santa Fe restaurants. Sitting at the bar with a glass of first-class sherry and a plate of tapas takes me back to my Madrid adventures.

    Is he serving jamon Iberica bellota? Very costly, and a delicacy I gorged on when I taught English in La Alberca, home to Fermin, producers of the best. These hams have just been allowed into the U.S. in the past three years and are now available from La Tienda, a Spanish specialty mail-order company. Whole ham runs around $3,000!

    December 15, 2013 at 12:24 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Aye Chihuahua!!!
    While El Brute laments that he otherwise has to muddle through the Greys/Grays of my blatherings to gain their meaning/intent…albeit not when it comes to recognizing if I’m being apolitical, La Gloria is evermore sensitively attuned to the Humoresque in them..(Blush!)!!!!
    Alas, both make me feel humble….Whoa that we all were to serendipitously… or planned… to break a slice of Wonder Bread/falafel/sopapilla/pita/oplatek/tortilla together….No! No! not ala Food Fight!!! Food Fight!!!!

    December 15, 2013 at 2:32 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    You plan it, I’ll bring my dictionary and it will be interesting if el castor plummets to second place in your corazon.
    Let’s go to the Dog House, that’s where Gloria has me anyway, I’ll most likely end up with a chilly dog!
    Roberto, La Gloria and el Brute duking it out in the Duke City, I should have my strength back soon and I’ll be ready to rumble.
    Should I bring my abridged dictionary or the full Monty one?
    Merry Christmas, and a happy healthy New Year to everyone!

    December 15, 2013 at 10:18 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Alas Mi Amigo, El Brute! Surely we will read (I pray) of La Gloria’s agreement knowing that your La Grayce will be there as well. (Oh! Certainly, El Gil/La Kim et al would be welcome for your support!) Indeed this could be the first of many Reunion Grande via Gil’s Blog, once you name a few dates (always after the Noon Rush) when you might challenge your innards with the unique Chile Rojo of a Foot Long Chile Cheese Dog or, if need be, their Hamburger…What a thoughtfully symbolic choice you have suggested… La Casa del Perro!!!
    - Ya know Bubba, as I’ve contemplated responding, I thought of how lucky YOU are compared to the rest of us who suffer trying to fend off great Angst not knowing how clean our tubes/pipes are!!!
    “Chow!”

    December 17, 2013 at 3:32 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR,
    My intuition tells me La Gloria would rather have a hot needle poked in her eye than dine with me.
    But your idea of a GT&C community meal intrigues me.
    The Dog House was a tongue in cheek suggestion but an opportunity to try Nosh would make my day.
    Rehab is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday regimen but I’d be available in the mid afternoon hours.
    Not sure Grayce would join us but I’ll try twisting her arm.
    Are you willing to arrange this?
    Let me know.
    Perhaps after the New Year would work best.

    December 17, 2013 at 6:45 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Finally dined at MAS this past Saturday and it was everything I had expected based on Gil’s glowing review.
    I had the Serrano ham tapa which was served like carpaccio, thinly sliced with a drizzle of good olive oil and some olives and cornichons. It was excellent. The table shared the olive and grape tapa and a second dish of marcona almonds kicked up a notch or two. Plus the Gouda, chorizo and apple dip which was also excellent.
    My wife and another diner shared the paella entree which could have easily satisfied one more person. Another in our party had the NM flat iron steak which miraculously disappeared. I’d say she enjoyed it.
    My entree was fabulous, Canelones. It was MAS’s take on the Italian dish stuffed with chicken, shallots, red peppers, manchego cheese and swimming in an absolutely delicious cream sauce. I was sorry when I finished, sorry it was gone. The serving size of the entrees belies the title “tapa”. They are definitely shareable.
    Service was excellent, the restaurant was busier than it was during our several visits during its Lucia days.
    One thing, their Cream Catalona, a version of Creme Brûlée, was dismal. The sugary topping was rock hard, thick and burnt. The custard was watery. A small glitch in an otherwise exceptional meal.
    MAS is terrific, can’t wait to go again.

    April 14, 2014 at 7:42 AM

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