Restaurant Review: Santa Fe Capitol Grill
Hip to be there
By: Bill Kohlhaase
Published online: Friday, June 08, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
Among all the restaurants
Santa Fe Capitol Grill
2 ½ chiles
San Isidro Plaza I, 3462 Zafarano Drive 505-471-6800
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, noon-9 p.m. Sundays
Noise level: buzzing at the bar, comfortable, in dining areas, Vegetarian and takeout options, Patio dining in season, Handicapped accessible
In short order:
Santa Fe Capitol Grill
is a stylish spot that
combines an attractive, modern lounge
with private dining booths and a step-up banquet
room. Chef David Reyes’ “new American” menu
is equally stylish but not always well executed.
Entrees tend to deliver less than promised,
yet the appetizers, sandwiches, and sides
are solidly good. The service staff is cordial
but could stand some memory training.
Recommended: Mexican-style ceviche, steamed
mussels, Santa Fe burger, green-chile potatoes
au gratin, and warm butter cake.
*Ratings range from 0 to 4 chiles, including half chiles.
This reflects the reviewer's experience with regard
to food and drink, atmosphere, service, and value
clustered around the Regal
Stadium 14 cinemas off Zafarano Drive, the Santa Fe
Capitol Grill is the most discretely styled. You enter
at the head of a long, attractive lounge where a room-
length banquette with tall tables faces a mirrored bar
back framed by oversized windows with a view to the
patio. The far wall is an attractive tan-and-beige stack
stone. Two rows of booths run behind the banquette,
the tall dividers between each done in earth tones.
The high, dark, steel ceiling cut with trusses and open
ventilation is interrupted by suspended panels and rows
of spotlights. There’s a step-up, open dining room. The
whole place has the feel of a movie set or a hip ware-
house art gallery.
The menu is just as smart, offering an array of starters,
salads, specialty sandwiches, and entrees that include a
coffee-crusted New York strip, Hawaiian stuffed chicken,
herbed salmon, and a quinoa-stuffed sweet potato.
Everything looks and sounds great, and the place seems
perfect for before- or after-theater dining. But, like the
Mission Impossible films, the Capitol Grill is sometimes
more flair than substance. And the service can be as
bumbling as a Tom Cruise love scene.
Take our last dinner visit. It was a busy Saturday
night. We were seated in the elevated dining area,
which was filled with couples, families, and even a
happy group with a baby stroller. The service was quick
and friendly but prone to more errors than a Little
League baseball team. Soda water was delivered in place
of the ordered tonic water, then cheerfully replaced.
The grilled New York steak with sautéed mushrooms
came in place of the coffee-crusted steak topped with
arugula and bourbon sauce that was ordered. As we
were eating, a server came by with a pint of beer asking
the people at each table who ordered it. During a lunch
visit, the server returned after taking my order to ask
whether it was the fish and chips or the fish tacos I
wanted, then returned again to confirm that I’d ordered
an iced tea. No, just water, I replied. Moments later,
here came the iced tea.
The food we had that Saturday evening was akin to a
night out at the movies — overpriced and short of being
consistently rewarding. Mexican-style ceviche was
wonderful: a chop of halibut and rockfish, red onion,
tomato and cucumber with slices of avocado in just
enough pickling lime juice. We had hoped to share the
Capitol Grill salad, but the small heap of tired greens,
a few apple slices, a couple of cashews, and a mediocre
blue cheese barely seemed enough for one, especially at
a penny-short price of $10. That mistaken steak wasn’t
impressive, but it was done to order. The side of green-
chile potatoes au gratin, not too cheesy, the flavors
coalescing into something greater than the parts, was
a delight. The entire experience ended on a high note
with a square of rich, warm butter cake topped by
a dollop of vanilla-bean ice cream.
Contrast that uneven experience with a long lunch
that a friend and I had one overcast afternoon. Nicely
crisp calamari sporting just a hint of frying grease came
with a sweet chile sauce reminiscent of what one might
expect from a Chinese seafood house. A bowl of tender
steamed mussels swam in a delicious, butter-yellow
broth that was almost (almost!) too rich for spooning
and delicious slurped from slices of toasted ciabatta.
My dining buddy, a native of Philadelphia, wasn’t hung
up about the “Philly style” prime-rib sandwich’s lack of
authenticity, and the half he shared with me, dipped into
a weak au jus, melded peppers, onions, provolone, and
beef into something deserving its own title. My Santa Fe
burger was a mouthful, the saltiness of the bacon and
the burger’s grill flavor complemented by a heap of green
chile and cheese. The service was professional, accurate,
Another lunch stop was rewarded with a trio of fine
fish tacos and an exquisite guacamole that transcended
the server’s lack of short-term memory. We’ve never
been offended by the use of an order pad but have
suffered affront when orders had to be made twice or
the wrong item was delivered. Upcoming seasonal menu
changes will give the servers even more to memorize.
If only the food, if only the service — especially the
service — was as consistent and tasteful as the decor,
the Capitol Grill could be a blockbuster.
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