MAS Tapas Y Vino – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mas Tapas Y Vino at the fabulous Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque

Had Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra written Don Quixote in the 21st century instead of in 1605, 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 incursion into Spanish tapas traditions. Instead of tangling with windmills, he would have squared off against golden arches and a creepy crown-wearing burger mascot. 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.

Andaluz’s magnificent lobby bespeaks of elegance and refinement

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 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.

Another view of the capacious lobby

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 tremendous popular and critical acclaim.  La Boca, a which translates from Spanish to “the mouth” and which specializes in Spanish tapas is 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.”

Chef Marc Quiñones, Two-Time Albuquerque Chef of the Year

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 March, 2017, the year in which he earned Chef of the Year honors from the New Mexico Restaurant Association, Chef Marc Quiñones replaced Chef Caruso as executive chef at Hotel Andaluz.  In this capacity, the two-time Albuquerque The Magazine Best Chef in the City award winner’s duties are to oversee all of the culinary operations at Hotel Andaluz, including banquets, catering and the hotel’s two restaurants, MAS Tapas y Vino and Ibiza Rooftop Restaurant and Bar.  It’s a venue and a challenge which seems tailor-made for  the iridescent chef. 

Richard Padilla, Today Executive Sous Chef; In The Future Superstar Chef

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” was often my response the many times readers asked when I was going to review MAS Tapas Y Vino.  In April, 2021, when Kurt Nilson and I were interviewing Chef Quiñones on Sunny 101.3’s Hungry Hump Days program, the great chef himself was more direct.  Considering I had literally reviewed “almost every other restaurant,” he wondered aloud if I had anything against him.  I hemmed and hawed some flimsy excuse (as if any excuse could suffice) for not having reviewed MAS and committed to visiting soon. That visit occurred on my birthday weekend, coincidentally a few days after his birthday.

Contrary to having anything against him, I’ve long and greatly marveled at Chef Quiñones’s talents and accomplishments, many of which have been chronicled on Gil’s Thrilling monthly Red or Green report.  If anything, my admiration may have been even greater for two of his many estimable qualities than for his impressive curriculum vitae.  Those two qualities are loyalty and passion.

Chef Quiñones Chats With a Guest While Chef Padilla Heads Away From the Exhibition Kitchen

In the April, 2021 edition of New Mexico Magazine, Chef Quiñones explained how he measures success: “It’s about people and the connection. To me, that’s the ultimate level of success…” Very few chefs in the Land of Enchantment have achieved Chef Quiñones level of connection with people. Very few of them work as hard at it.  He’s a peripatetic chef who, as much as possible, flits from table to table at his 116 seat restaurant to ensure his guests are enjoying their experience at MAS.  It’s no wonder guests feel so loyal to him.  It’s very much reciprocal.

His connection to people isn’t limited to guests at his award-winning restaurant.  Every Thursday morning, Chef Quiñones spends hours with inmates at New Mexico prisons and halfway houses, providing an attentive ear and imparting the word of God. The chef also volunteers with the Cooking with Kids program in Albuquerque where he teaches cooking and healthy eating principles to elementary school students.  That’s loyalty!

Asparagus Calabasitas

Discuss his 2021 ten episode appearance on Hell’s Kitchen and Chef Quiñones is quick to point out that one of his objectives was to prove that New Mexico chefs can compete at a national stage with chefs from more acclaimed culinary hotbeds.  Loyalty to his homestate–you bet.   No one (not even a certain blogger gastronome) does as much to celebrate the talents and accomplishments of New Mexico’s restaurateurs.  Rather than tear down the culinary competition as some chefs have been known to do, his Facebook page resounds with laudatory praise for them.  That’s loyalty!

For an example of loyalty being the proverbial two-way street, you need look no further than Richard Padilla, Chef Quiñones’s talented sous chef.  Chef Padilla was cementing a reputation as a chef on the rise in Santa Fe when his long-time mentor was in need of a sous chef.  He quickly jumped at the opportunity and today commutes every day from the City Different to Albuquerque where he works hand-in-hand with Chef Quiñones to create transformative dishes. Chef Quiñones sees it as a personal responsibility to prepare his kitchen staff not only to be able to prepare innovative and delicious culinary fare, but to take on the leadership roles required for 21st century restaurants.

Patatas Bravas

Insofar as passion, that other quality of his I admire so greatly, writer Lois Alter Mark may have said it best in an article for Forbes entitled “The Secret Ingredient Award-Winning Chef Marc Quinones Adds to Every Dish: “Chef Marc Quinones is down to earth and approachable but his passion comes through whether he’s cooking a dish, plating it or simply describing it. I don’t know how to explain it but you can actually taste that care in every forkful.”  She added “We’ve never before sensed a chef’s personality so infused in their dishes.”  Ditto!

Our long overdue visit to MAS Tapas Y Vino proved we’ve deprived ourselves of one of the best restaurant experiences we’ve ever had in the Land of Enchantment.  Not just one of the best meals, but one of the best experiences in totality!  Chef Quiñones lives up to his press and then some.  So does Chef Padilla.  So does the restaurant staff, all of whom reflected Chef Quiñones guest-centric orientation.

Berkshire Pork Belly

Chef Quiñones treated us to a tasting menu experience.  In the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, our meal was comped, but we would gladly have paid twice the price for the best meal we’ve had in 2021.  I rarely accept a “free meal,” and when I do it’s with the understanding that my review will include all warts and blemishes. Chef Quiñones wouldn’t have it any other way, not that he had anything to worry about…not when he delivered a flawless meal and tremendous experience.

By strict definition, a tapa really refers to the portion size, not the style of food. Tapa are intended to be small plate dishes for one diner. In Madrid if two diners plan to share a dish, they would order “raciones” (servings in English) or “media raciones” (larger than a tapa, but not as large a serving as a full racione). You could argue that what we experienced at MAS Tapas Y Vino were raciones, but why argue when you can be enjoying the contemporary Mediterranean delights coming out of the kitchen.

Roasted Bone Marrow

Our first course was an idea whose time has finally arrived–asparagus calabasitas (yellow squash, zucchini, corn, Cheddar, lime, green chile, red chile sauce, warm tortillas).  It sounds simple enough, but in the adroit hands of Chef Quiñones, composition and preparation technique include subtle touches that elevate the simple to the sublime, the commonplace to the extraordinary.  It’s been years since calabasitas have been more than plate filler for me.  This amazing vegetable medley nearly had me swooning in soul-satisfying delight.  Whether nestled in the cozy comfines of the warm tortillas or slid slowly through the red chile, these calabasitas set the bar high.  They’re the apotheosis of a dish I could once take or leave.

We’ve had patatas bravas (a classic Spanish dish of fried potato cubes served with a spicy dipping sauce) a number of times and have always taken for granted that they’re only slightly more complex than French fries.  We were floored when he described the two hour plus preparation of the MAS patatas bravas.  The alchemical process involves immersing cubed tubers into an imported Spanish olive oil, garlic and herbs then baking them for 90 minutes.  They’re then removed from the oven, cooled down and fried until crispy.  Next they’re tossed with chile flake, parsley and more garlic before being served with a spicy aioli.  The resultant magic is potatoes that are perfectly crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.

Honey Bacon Wrapped Dates

As a child growing up in a rough Bronx neighborhood, Chef Quiñones’s young mother would often serve Van Camp’s Pork & Beans she doctored up to make them “magical.”  He calls the Berkshire pork belly his “love song to my mom on a plate,” indicating the dish “represents who I am not only as a chef, but as a person.”  This isn’t just an elevated play on pork and beans, it’s a metaphor for the chef’s life and how he surmounted challenging circumstances to make himself the renowned chef he’s become. 

This may well be the best pork belly dish we’ve ever had.  Chef Quiñones braises the pork belly for six hours in a blend of different stocks, aromatics, sherry and harissa. He then presses the pork belly overnight before cutting it into cubes and crisping it up. Next he glazes it with the braising jus that’s been strained three different times and serves it with an Anasazi bean ragout and toasted corn kernels.  The crispy part of the pork belly is reminiscent of the best bacon you’ve ever had.  The fatty portion is velvety smooth and akin to pork candy.

Crunchy “Pizza” Squash Blossoms

Despite having grown up in the “Hog Butcher to the World,” (one of Chicago’s many nicknames) my Kim had never had roasted bone marrow until I introduced her to it several years ago.  Now it’s one of her very favorite dishes. The roasted bone marrow at MAS wasn’t a revelation in that we expected it to be outstanding with its unctuous gelatin-like texture.  The revelation was the tangy, smoky guava bbq sauce drizzled on the plate.  We had thought it would contrast wildly with the marrow, but it proved a magnificent counterbalance instead.  Atop the marrow on every bone trough are pickled red onions and a parsley salad with cherry tomatoes.  Roasted bone marrow is one of those ultra-rich dishes that won’t fill you up, but they’ll certainly satisfy you.

Our attentive server confided that savvy diners often eschew desserts and instead order the honey bacon wrapped dates.  Good advice.  This dish is an adventure in complementary and contrasting flavor profiles and textures that work very well together.  House-cured honey bacon with a sherry reduction is wrapped around dates which are wrapped around marcona almonds and served with a warm goat cheese dip.  It’s not every dish that combines savory and sweet flavors and still manages a subtle demarcation, but that’s exactly what you get with the honey bacon wrapped dates.  This confluence of flavors, textures and vision is one of the very best dishes we’ve had in a very long time.

Mas Steak & Potatoes

When he’s not out on Saturday mornings running distances that would tire some of us out driving that far, Chef Quiñones frequents the area’s farmers markets where he searches for agrarian bounty he can use at MAS.  He wanted us to try the crunchy “pizza” squash blossoms before they were out of season.  Thank you Chef!  This is a magnificent dish showcasing squash blossoms sheathed in a light oregano and thyme tempura batter stuffed with whipped goat cheese and deep-fried.   Served with a tomato “gravy,” the squash blossoms are light and delicate possessing neither a squash-like flavor nor the perfumey taste of other edible flowers.  They’re imbued with endearing melt-in-your-mouth qualities.

On the entrees section of the menu you’ll find MAS steak and potatoes.  While that sounds rather innocuous and (let’s face it) boring, those two terms should never be ascribed to any culinary creation from the hands of Chef Quiñones.  This churrasco (a Spanish term for grilled) steak is a surprisingly tender skirt steak sliced into thin medallions and topped with a peppadew pepper chimichurri.  Creating a chimichurri from peppadew, a distinctive pepper with a sweet and piquant (1200 on the Scoville scale) flavor is sheer genius, the factor which distinguishes this steak from any other.  This is a chimichurri which should be bottled and sold.  It’s life-altering!  The steak is served with creamy whipped potatoes.

“Fruity Pebbles” Semifreddo

Chef Quiñones admits to finding enjoyment playing with his food, using his imagination to create such whimsical delights as the “Fruity Pebbles Semifreddo.”  While that name may evoke imagery of a cloying, tooth-decaying child’s cereal, the process is far from childlike.  In fact, it’s rather painstaking and methodical.  The chef essentially creates a cereal milk mousse which is plated opposite smear of chocolate fudge, all of which is sprinkled with a Fruity Pebbles crumb.  On the plate it resembles a child’s artistic folly.  On your palate it resembles what it is–a rather sophisticated dessert children of all ages will enjoy.  

A tapas crawl in Albuquerque?  You don’t need to go further than MAS Tapas Y Vino, a restaurant I’d crawl to for a meal.  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 | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 28 May 2021
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET:  MAS Steak & Potatoes, Patatas Bravas, Asparagus Calabasitas, Crunchy “Pizza” Squash Blossoms, Roasted Bone Marrow, Berkshire Pork Belly, Honey Bacon Wrapped Dates, Fruity Pebbles Semifreddo 

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, more than 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,200 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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15 Comments on “MAS Tapas Y Vino – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. Gil—Your experience with Marc’s culinary magic reminds me of a Tasting Menu that he prepared for Jane and me ten years ago at Bien Shur atop the Sandia Casino. Jane and I agreed that this, at that time< was the very best dining experience we had ever had. Your current review of Mas Tapas has my mouth watering, and I need to take The Dazzler there as soon as possible.

    Here is a link to my Bien Shur review.

    BTW, this meal was comped.

    Larry
    http://www.abqtopten.com/blog/bien-shur-restaurant/

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!”

  5. 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!

  6. 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!!!!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

    1. 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

  11. 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.

    1. 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

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