There was a time when the name “Hilton” didn’t conjure up images of a ditzy blonde airhead whose celebrity is based largely on promiscuity. Well, maybe not. More than 50 years ago, another ditzy blonde, Zsa Zsa Gabor honeymooned at La Posada in Albuquerque with her then husband Conrad Hilton, a New Mexico native and founder of the historic downtown hotel in which Conrad’s is housed.
Since the hotel’s launch in 1939, the guest registry at La Posada de Albuquerque has been signed by a veritable who’s who in celebrity and politics. Most come for the hotel’s Spanish colonial charm, opulent ambience and impeccable service, but I’ll bet some return for the innovative Yucatan Peninsula Region cuisine at Conrad’s, the hotel’s signature restaurant.
After imbibing the lobby’s lavish accouterments and proceeding to your table, you’ll be hard-pressed to select from among the menu’s platos pequenos (small plates or appetizers), enseladas (salads), sopas (soups) and platos grande (big plates or entrees), the descriptions of which might leave your mouth watering. Luckily the wait staff is on the spot to satiate your hunger slightly with a basket of warm bread and a small plate of Spanish olives. A good start, particularly on a cold autumn or winter night is the sopa de frijoles negros, a braised black bean soup that will warm the cockles of your heart and bring a smile to your face.
If you’re a fan of pork tenderloin, an absolute must have is the chuleta de puerco con mostaza, cafe y fruta seca (spicy mustard and coffee seasoned pork tenderloin steaks with sun-dried apricots and mango in a sweet chile sauce). The mélange of seemingly discordant ingredients created wonderful harmony on our taste buds.
Conrad’s offers two types of paella–the more traditional Spanish one with seafood (lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari) and a Latin version that includes sausage, pork and chicken as well as mussels, shrimp and clams. A dinner serving of paella was enough for two meals, however, if it had been good enough, I would have consumed it in one (an indictment more likely of my not liking paella than it is of the dish itself).
Conrad’s lunch menu is also dotted with poetic sounding plates–like the torta de Jaiba, a spicy blue crab salad on a crisp corn tortilla with tomato, avocado, chiles and a chipotle mayonnaise that enlivens the entire salad. The Tijuana’s Burrito de Cerdo with shredded griddle pork, guacamole, queso fresco, diced tomato and shredded Romaine is one of the best burritos in New Mexico. The smoky pork flavor might remind you of the northern New Mexico matanza (open pit preparation of a butchered hog) tradition–even if you’ve never been to one. More flavorful pork there may not exist anywhere.
125 2nd Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 23 January 2005
# OF VISITS: 5
BEST BET: Pork Burrito, Chuleta de Puerco, Paella