Restaurant Review: Tabla de Los Santos and Secreto Bar and Loggia
By: Bill Kohlhaase
Published online: Friday, July 27, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
Like all great crafts
Tabla de Los Santos and Secreto Bar and Loggia
3 ½ chiles
210 Don Gaspar Ave. (Hotel St. Francis) 505-983-5700
Tabla de Los Santos: breakfast 7:30-10:30 a.m. daily; lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; dinner 5-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays & 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; brunch 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sundays Secreto Bar and Loggia: 4 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays, noon-1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3-10 p.m. Sundays
Noise level: reserved, Vegetarian options, Patio dining in season
In short order:
The Hotel St. Francis’ Secreto Bar and Loggia
and Tabla de Los Santos
tradition and invention to their carefully prepared
drinks and dishes. Secreto features an array of
fresh-ingredient libations and vintage cocktails.
Tabla de Los Santos serves finely turned-out
variations on New Mexico classics. The Old World
atmosphere and the attractive patio make these
places excellent choices for out-of-town guests or,
once they’ve left, an excellent place for locals to
seek comfort. Go at happy hour when the cocktails
and appetizers are a straight $7. Recommended:
Spicy Secreto cocktail, smoked-sage margarita,
pequeños, red-cabbage salad, Anna and Miguel’s
chile relleno, and the chocolate-almond torte.
*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
, mixology — the art of making a
mixed drink — is part tradition and part invention. Consider
the Old-Fashioned, a libation that’s enjoyed a number of
revivals over a century and a half, most recently thanks
to Mad Men’s Don Draper. Originally a combination of
whiskey, water, sugar, and bitters, the very ingredients that
first defined the word cocktail, it has seen a host of variations over the years, including the addition of muddled
cherries and oranges, presumably to cover the taste of bad
Prohibition bootleg whiskey. Later, soda water, Curaçao,
and brandy made appearances. Today, ritzy New York
watering holes are known to make variations with other
spirits, including rum.
Secreto Bar and Loggia, inside the venerable Hotel
St. Francis, is a sort of shrine to the art of mixing drinks.
You might say the staff does things the old-fashioned
way. The drinks menu hosts a page of vintage cocktails
— the Cable Car, the Negroni, the Hurricane, and, yes, the
Old-Fashioned — and a page of innovative, one-of-a-kind
potions. Likewise, the kitchen at the adjoining Tabla de
Los Santos boasts classic New Mexico dishes done with
contemporary twists. Together, these establishments serve
food and drink that, exemplifying both tradition and
artistic invention, can be seen as a symbol for our city’s
Secreto is a most distinguished-looking room. It resembles
a monk’s cloister or a sorcerer’s lair, sufficiently dark despite
a street-side wall of glass. Both Secreto and Tabla emphasize
freshly prepared, local ingredients. Proof of this came one
Saturday, when we spotted Tabla chef Estevan García
wearing his kitchen jacket, embroidered with the Tabla
name, making the rounds at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.
Secreto makes its own syrups for cocktails. Tabla makes
its own chicos to stir into its pinto beans.
Friends and I spent an early evening in Secreto (three’s
not a crowd when the third is the designated driver) and
enjoyed drinks, Tabla’s appetizers, and its formal service.
The room was nearly empty; everyone was out on the
walled patio and the “loggia” that serves as the hotel’s front
porch. Secreto’s “seasonal garden-to-glass cocktails” list is
the place where bar manager Chris Milligan, something
of a personality in the world of mixology, shows off his
creations and those of his staff. We shared a Spicy Secreto,
the drink that put Secreto on the map at the 2010 national
“Shake It Up!” competition. It’s an exotic concoction of
spirits, cucumbers, and lime juice. On first taste, we thought
“Cucumber Caipirinha” might be a better name because
of the refined Brazilian cachaça (fermented sugar-cane
juice). Then the sweetened cucumber flavor gave way to
something flowery — must be the St. Germain elderflower
liqueur — which finally yielded to the tingle of red chile.
The unraveling is so involved that the experience is like
finishing a good mystery novel. You can’t put it down.
The Kickin’ in Dixon, a tribute to the Dixon Farms
orchards, turned out to be a rainbow in a glass. Pomegranate
liqueur weighted with agave syrup sat quietly at the bottom,
while Partida Blanco tequila scented with lime and apples
sported heat from a jalapeño. We were advised not to stir,
and good advice it was. The drink not only changed color
deeper in the glass, but it sweetened, gradually, like a kitten
shown some affection, and then followed it all with the
scratch of spice.
With the drinks we had chips, a flavorful but mild salsa,
and a thick, rich, lime-spiked guacamole. We divided a
pair of delicious small tamales (tamalitos) — one in red
chile, one in green — and a trio of pequeños (slider-sized
burgers) — one of beef with a brilliant red chile sauce,
one bison with green chile, and one lamb with a Roquefort
cheese that matched the lamb’s gaminess.
We confirmed the excellence of the kitchen’s work during
another visit, when we sat on the attractive patio with a
plate of carne-adovada-stuffed ravioli and the wonderful
Ensalada Repollo de las Nubes — red-cabbage salad with
bacon and Roquefort. The surprising chile relleno was a
plump, unbreaded poblano generously stuffed with rice,
creamy goat cheese, and spinach. An Angus rib-eye had
all the character you’d expect from meat aged 21 days.
The roasted carrots and potatoes in a red chile demiglace
were perfectly toothsome.
Old goat farmer that I am, I was sorely tempted by the
goat-milk flan but bowed to my companion’s wish for the
chocolate-almond torte, a sophisticated, nutty mix, not
too much one thing or another.
Then there was the time we had lunch at the bar — two
stuffed sopaipillas (chicken and ground beef) smothered
in that fine red chile, with calabacitas and meaty pintos
laced with chicos — and watched the bartender make a
smoked-sage margarita. Magic!
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