Restaurant Review: The Old House & Agave Lounge
The Old House & Agave Lounge
By: Laurel Gladden
Published online: Monday, November 12, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
Whenever a Hollywood starlet gets a haircut
The Old House & Agave Lounge
3 Chiles chiles
309 W. San Francisco St. (in the Eldorado Hotel & Spa) 505-995-4530
Old House: breakfast 6:30-11 a.m., lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner 5:30-10 p.m. daily Agave Lounge: noon-close daily
Takeout available, Vegetarian options, Noise level: quiet to very lively
In short order:
What’s old is new again at the
Eldorado Hotel’s Old House
, which benefited from a stylish
remodel last year. The bar has moody
lighting, trance-y lounge music and
smooth jazz, and sleek contemporary
tables and bar stools, while the formal
dining room still sports slightly cheesy
Santa Fe-style décor. Service is
professional but not snooty; it’s friendly
without being lackadaisical or folksy.
Whichever menu you order from,
dishes are — a few missteps aside —
generous and flavorful. Recommended:
nachos, sliders, Black Angus
cheeseburger, soft-shell crab appetizer,
chicken Catalan, and aged rib-eye.
*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
or a pro baseball team starts wearing retro uniforms, you’ll
hear people repeating that timeworn adage “What’s old is new
again.” After a stylish remodel last year, the Old House, the
restaurant at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, is what’s both old and
new again in Santa Fe.
Among other things, that recent face-lift created the Agave
Lounge, a space with low, moody lighting; trance-y lounge
music and smooth jazz; blond wood flooring; sleek contemporary tables; and bar stools upholstered in chic light-toned
fabric. Southwestern touches pop up here and there, in woven
rugs, studded leather chairs, and wood-paneled walls. The
formal dining room of the Old House still sports slightly
cheesy mid-1990s Santa Fe décor, including wall-mounted
pots and drums and hefty chairs of carved wood and leather.
Service is attentive — professional but not snooty or
uptight, friendly without veering into lackadaisical, folksy
territory. Running things in the kitchen are London-born
executive chef Tony Smith and chef de cuisine Evan Doughty
While on some evenings you might spot only a handful of
diners in the Old House’s dining room, the Agave Lounge is
almost always busy. Wines by the glass or bottle; a nice selection
of beers, including several on tap from local breweries;
margaritas; and other creative cocktails are available. The
lounge has its own dining menu, but you can order items
from the main menu and enjoy them in the more casual,
bustling ambience of the bar.
That said, don’t dismiss the bar menu outright. Each
weeknight, a special appetizer is offered at a promotional
price. The crab cake, lobster, and Kobe-style beef sliders —
served on tender, buttery buns — are perennial favorites
and make satisfying snacks. On the other hand, the nachos —
a hefty heap of tortilla chips, black beans, pico de gallo,
stretchy melted cheeses, saucy roasted green chile, and other
de rigueur toppings — easily feed two or three people.
In a bizarre twist, the shrimp Caesar salad was more about
the shrimp than the salad. While I enjoyed the firm-fleshed
jumbo crustaceans, I longed for more than a handful of
greenery — or at least less of the gloppy, garlicky dressing. The
Black Angus cheeseburger is a hot, greasy, delicious mess that
barely stays within the confines of its soft bun, especially if you
add multiple toppings like bacon, green chile, and a fried egg.
Over on the Old House side, things are neater and more
subdued. In the soft-shell crab appetizer, supple briny meat
lurks beneath a layer of sturdy, crispy crust. Otherworldly
Gouda grits overshadowed the “firecracker” shrimp, despite
their spicy name and flavor. One evening’s soup, red pepper
and tomato, had a deep but bright tomato tang and a fabulous
smoky-charred flavor — just right for green-chile-roasting
season. The heirloom-tomato salad was an end-of-summer
daydream. Large, mature leaves of watercress presented a
complex flavor of bitter greenery and licorice; tender house-
made mozzarella offered a rich, creamy counterpoint.
If it’s available, take advantage of the Old House’s prix fixe
option. This allows you to choose any appetizer, entree, and
dessert on the menu for a fixed cost — with the understanding
that some of the pricier items are subject to a small up-charge.
You’ll pay $2 extra for the soft-shell crab appetizer, for example,
$5 for the beef tenderloin, and $7 for the aged rib-eye.
Some main courses fared better than others. Not always
yielding easily to the fork and knife, the beef tenderloin
didn’t live up to its name. The rib-eye, aged 28 days, is an
intensely beefy, hard-to-finish entree accompanied by a rich
green-chile macaroni and cheese. Also on the indulgent side
was a dish of tender pappardelle, peas, mushrooms, and veal
in a creamy marsala-based sauce. The crisp chicken Catalan —
stuffed with vegetables and manchego cheese; sauced with
tangy, nutty romesco; and set atop flaxen pearls of Israeli
couscous — seemed like health food by comparison.
The Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list is a somewhat
daunting tome. Servers are happy to offer tips and help make
selections, though. Ours pointed us to a Hahn pinot noir,
which suited the range of dishes at our table and also turned
out to be a bit of a bargain.
For the most part, desserts — like the annoyingly
ubiquitous molten chocolate cake and an overly firm, oddly
gelatinous crème brûlée — are fine but totally skippable.
There’s nothing wrong with stuffing yourself with a stuffy
old-school dessert, but one of the Old House’s tiny complimentary chocolate or caramel treats makes a fine small finish
to a big meal.
Write your review of The Old House & Agave Lounge
You've read the Pasatiempo review. Now it's your turn to tell us what you thought of The Old House & Agave Lounge. Keep your review concise, focus on the meal and the overall experience. Don't let your review become personal and always be respectful of the business and other users. Sfnmhome.com reserves the write to remove reviews.