Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico

Las Ristras Restaurant in Corrales

Based on interviews conducted with Hollywood luminaries who’ve starred in movies or television shows shot in New Mexico, you might think our state either doesn’t have a symbol of hospitality or that symbol is something as poorly representative of the Land of Enchantment as crack (Josh Brolin), tire stores (Jonathan Banks), shirtless drivers (Seth McFarlane), Walmart (Jessica Alba) or loudness (Tommy Lee Jones).   With all the tax breaks and enticements afforded film production companies, shouldn’t its most visible beneficiaries at least have something nice to say about New Mexico?

While New Mexico doesn’t have an official (as in legislatively decreed) symbol of hospitality, most of us recognize a ristra hanging on a doorway as an invitation to visitors, ergo a symbol of hospitality.  It’s as much a symbol of hospitality as the pineapple is in Hawaii and the fleur de lis is in Louisiana.  Moreover, the ristra has come to represent the state of New Mexico, maybe not quite as much as the Zia sun, but to a large extent.

The capacious Las Ristras Restaurant dining room

In Spanish, “ristra” actually means string.  “Chile ristra” then translates into “a string of chiles.”   While the chile ristra has utilitarian roots (chiles being strung together by their stems and hung on walls to dry in the sun), it’s possible decorative ristras fashioned from ceramic, fabric, plastic, and plaster mold are almost as common as actual chile ristras.  Traditionalists appreciate the decorative qualities of the chile ristra, but ultimately will use them as they’ve been used for generations–for cooking and eating.

Because of the esteem with which the chile ristra is held throughout New Mexico, the expectations for a restaurant calling itself Las Ristras are high.  That name brings with it the promise of hospitality and good food showcasing chile.   Las Ristras opened its doors in August, 2015 at the site which scant weeks earlier was home to The Spot.  The restaurant is the brainchild of Corrales resident Ginger Hunter, a fourth generation Corralenia who in 2015 was awarded a Civic Recognition Award in recognition of “acts of compassion and kindness.”  Doesn’t that just bode of hospitality?

Green Chile Meatloaf

Las Ristras is a rather capacious restaurant with good spacing between tables.  With upscale touches, it bears little resemblance to other New Mexican restaurants, but its soundtrack is true Northern New Mexico.  That means the Purple Haze (Felix and Milford Salazar), Sparx and other Norteño favorites.  My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate gives it the “McGoldrick stamp of approval: “What I like about Las Ristras is that it is not a clone of the many dozens of cookie-cutter NM restaurants. The food is homemade and I feel like I’m eating (and conversing) in Ginger’s kitchen. This is simple food lovingly prepared.” 

As always, Larry’s assessment is spot-on.  From the ambiance on down to the menu and service, this is not your stereotypical New Mexican restaurant (if there is such a thing).  The menu, for example, offers such heretofore unseen appetizers as cheese sticks with red chile marinara and an Indian enchilada.  Entrees include many New Mexican standards such as tamales, chiles rellenos, carne adovada and tacos, but you’ll also find “from the grill selections” such as a 14-ounce ribeye with green chile cream sauce, red chile ribs and green chile meatloaf.  Entrees in which ground beef is used are seasoned with cumin.

Chiles Rellenos with Papitas

The green chile meatloaf is deeply infused with plenty of pleasantly piquant green chile.  It’s also topped generously with a green chile sauce that runs over the sides.  Alas, it’s served on a sizzling cast iron plate (the type often used for fajitas) which has a desiccating effect on what might otherwise have been a moist and juicy meatloaf.  Grilled entrees are served with your choice of two sides: mashed potatoes, daily vegetable or wild rice.  In the spirit of hospitality, your server will bring you papitas instead of mashed potatoes if you so desire. Desire it! These papitas are killer. 

If more traditional New Mexican entrees are more your speed, both Larry and my Kim will vouch for the chiles rellenos.  Perhaps because of the lateness of the chile season, one of the two rellenos on the plate was a roasted red chile which has a wholly different flavor profile than roasted green.  Roasted red chile tends to be a bit sweeter with a more earthy depth of flavor.  The cheese with which the rellenos are stuffed seems to retain molten qualities longer than the cheese used on other rellenos (where the cheese become stringy).  in any case, these are very good rellenos with a crispy, flavorful crust sheathing the chiles.

Sopaipilla Delight with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

You won’t find your abuelita’s desserts on the menu, but you will find avant-garde versions of desserts you thought you knew.  Instead of the de rigueur New Mexico dessert offering of sopaipillas with honey, Las Ristras offers a “Sopaipilla Delight,” a flattened sopaipilla drizzled with honey and topped with your favorite flavor of ice cream (provided it’s vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream or mint-chocolate chip) and chocolate sauce.  There’s a lot going on with this dessert and it’s all good. 

More traditional is a bowl of ice cream (your favorite flavor) flanked by four biscochitos.  It’s a surprisingly good combination best eaten as a combination instead of serially.  The biscochitos are redolent with cinnamon and anise, as hospitable a pairing as you’ll find on any cookie.  They’re crisp. flaky and light with the memorable qualities for which the biscochito was named New Mexico’s official state cookie.

Biscochitos with vanilla ice cream

Perhaps if the over-indulged ingenues who make great sport of besmirching the Land of Enchantment visited Las Ristras in Corrales and experienced true New Mexico hospitality, they’d think twice about bad-mouthing our state.  You can’t bad-mouth something when your mouth is so full of good things.

Los Ristras Restaurant
4940 Corrales Road, N.E., Suite 400
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 433-4192
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 September 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Meatloaf, Chiles Rellenos, Sopaipilla Delight, Biscochitos with Ice Cream

Las Ristras Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

8 comments

  • Mike Sanchez

    I loved Las Ristras Restaurant in Corrales. I took a business client for lunch. I walked in and felt like Norm in Cheers. My client was impressed. Will do again.

  • Have to agree

    Have to agree with Schuyler and FGFABQ, Gil’s lack of harsh words are what drew me to his blog. It’s easy to say that the red chile has too much cumin and as such tastes like your licking someone’s underarm, and it’s another to say the red chile has cumin and you don’t really like the taste of cumin…both convey that the red chile is not that good. The internet is replete with morons who use the anonymous nature of the internet as an excuse to be mean spirited, why add to it in another blog? I applaud Gil’s “say something nice approach”. Rather than say the food sucked, you can say that the best part of the restaurant is that is was clean and had nice paintings on the walls…

    As far as the history/trivia/anectodes go, I enjoy most of them, but some tend to be uninteresting to me. I just skip those and go straight to the review. FYI, if 90% of the review is a history lesson or some other story…news flash, the food wasn’t that good…

    And as far as Gil providing a disservice to his reader’s pocketbooks, whose to say you won’t like something Gil didn’t, or that you’ll like something he did. While he and I agree about 95% of the time, there are times when I disagree with a rating, or a recommended dish. I believe Gil even has a caveat emptor statement on his site somewhere. If you read his blog long enough, you’ll get a feeling for when you personnally should follow his advice and when you should order something else, or avoid a restaurant all together.

    Just my $0.02.

    Noe

  • Schuyler

    Bruce, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    There’s a time and place for muck and mire…and it isn’t Gil’s site. The blogosphere has become a fetid, mean-spirited swamp where it’s not enough to disagree with someone, you’ve got to attack them personally (sounds like modern-day politics).

    Gil’s reviews are an escape from craven personal attacks and general maliciousness. He’s able to convey exactly what needs to be said without resorting to insults and abuse (just try finding one single expletive on the site). You can’t be clearer than “the sizzling cast iron plate (the type often used for fajitas) which has a desiccating effect on what might otherwise have been a moist and juicy meatloaf.” What would you have him say–“the meatloaf was as dry as a bone and the cook should be shot for sending it out.”

    As for “slow writing,” one of the things that makes nmgastronome unique is his approach to a review. Before you read his impressions about a restaurant, he provides context, history, anecdotes and facts you won’t find anywhere else. He draws readers in and makes them want to read more. He also finds something positive to say about every restaurant, an empathetic approach which says alot about his character (he might even find something nice to say about you). If you prefer reviews to be formulaic and boring, there are several critics I can point you to.

  • FGFABQ

    I don’t speak for Gil but one thing I do know is that he doesn’t rate the restaurant until he dines at least twice in the establishment.
    And if you’re looking for a Ruth Reichel acid tongued review skewering everything in a hostile manner you barking up the wrong tree.
    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that Gil can do more with a kind word than could be done with invective. He’s a consummate gentle man and doesn’t need to stoop to levels trolled by mean spirited reviewers looking for another notch on their six shooter.
    I understand what he is conveying when he says “the red chile lacked the piquancy needed by the dish”.
    Don’t expect “the red chile sucked dead rats”. Never going to happen.

  • Thomas Molitor

    I have no idea whether Gil liked this restaurant or not. The review is steeped in a writer’s oblique, call it “borrowed interest,”angle to make an analogy of New Mexican symbology work. A slow writer’s intro for sure. The menu and the photos are not inspiring, in fact, I ask, what is this restaurant’s raison d’etre? Why do they exist? Are they introducing something we have not seen on the New Mexican cuisine scene? The photos show tired potatoes next to ordinary New Mexican dishes. Does this blog never have a negative review? If so, I think it is doing a disservice to the pocket book of New Mexicans.

    • Bruce, Sky and Noe, thank you so much for your kind words, loyalty and support.

      Thomas, it would be far easier to write scathing, negative reviews. At my last corporate gig, my friend Bill and I developed about twenty roasts in which we insulted everyone from corporate vice presidents on down to departmental admins. The key to not hurting feelings was in making fun of innocuous truths or in so brutally exaggerating personality quirks and traits that no one could possibly attribute the roast as mean-spirited and hostile, much less true. So, even when given license to insult someone, it’s just not my nature to be mean-spirited.

      Think of it this way. The independent mom-and-pop restaurateurs are our neighbors. They’ve got families to support and mouths to feed. Far be it for me to negatively impact their business with an overly critical review. I’ve never met a restaurateur who sought out to serve bad food, provide lousy service and make their guests feel unappreciated. Most of them have a passion for cooking and believe they can prepare and serve excellent meals. To Noe’s point, there isn’t a restaurant that isn’t somebody’s favorite. Though I may not like it as much, someone else may think it’s the bomb. They certainly wouldn’t appreciate reading deprecatory reviews about their favorite restaurant.

      It’s become my practice not to write anything about a dining experience in which I couldn’t easily pick out some positives. It would be so easy to blast these restaurants, but they tend to be their own worse enemies and will drive themselves out of business without my help.

      Though I may write about a restaurant after only one visit, it’s often not until my second visit that you’ll get a sense of whether or not I like it. Some restaurants blow me away from the onset while others will pique my interest and inspire a second visit shortly after my first. Sometimes, however, economic, location and conflicting factors mean months–or even years–may elapse before a second visit to a restaurant that showed great promise during my first visit. So, if YOU as a reader can’t tell whether or not I liked a restaurant, it may be because I myself won’t know until another visit transpires.

      Reading my own diatribe here has tired me. Besides Bruce, Schuyler and Noe responded with more clarity and sense than I.

      Best,

      Gil

  • Sr Plata

    Gil and Larry, you both have my mouth watering to try this new Corrales restaurant out. The green chili meatloaf sounds really good. I am glad to see a New Mexican restaurant in my neck of the woods. Are Piñon Pancakes on the menu, that would be awesome…

    • Hola Sr Plata

      Las Ristras’ menu doesn’t list breakfast options, but I understand they have a bountiful brunch buffet on Sundays.

      BTW, you and Larry need to break bread together someday soon. You might be the only person in Corrales who hasn’t met the professor with the perspicacious palate.

      Gil

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