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Schneier

Coyote Cafe - Santa Fe

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I have eaten at Mark Miller's other restaurants--the Red Sage in DC and Coyote Cafe at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas--but not at the original Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. Last week I visited there with 13 friends.

Thirteen is a difficult number, but they seated us fine. We had a long table for ten and a round for four, kind of like an exclamation point. Among us we didn't eat the entire menu, but we came close.

Appetizers:

New Mexican Gazpacho Verde with Tomatillo and Avocado Crema. A pretty cold soup, citrus and tart, with a nice bite.

Green Chile Rillete, Cabernet-Port Reduction and Permesan Crisps. A basic rillete: nothing special, but nothing wrong with it either. Much better things on the menu, though.

Chipolte Tiger Prawns on Fresh Griddled Corn Cakes with Chipolte Butter. The sauce was delicious; it had a nice bite and a long finish. It was served with guacamole and pico de guyo; both delicious as well. The shrimp was kind of lost in the dish, though, but I'm not sure how much that mattered.

Grilled Quail with Stacked Back Been Buritto with New Mexican Slaw and Mondongo Chile Vinaigrette. This dish wasn't that, though. The quail was perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. The accompaniments didn't overpower the dish, and everything tasted well together.

Washington Dungeness Crab Tacos, Sweet Corn Cream Sauce and Green Chile Aioli. Best appetizer on the menu. The mixture of sweet and hot worked great with the crab, and everything blended beautifully.

Entrees:

Pan Roasted Diver Scallops with Roasted Corn Cake and Mole Verde, Roasted Corn and Shiitake Mushroom Salsa Scented with Truffle Oil. I only had a small taste of this. "Subtle and good" was what I wrote, but honestly I can't remember anything more. Definitely not too spicy.

Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut Filet, Local Apricot, Aji Amarillo Pepper Chutney and Thai Basil Crema. A perfectly cooked piece of fish that was overpowered by the preparation. Delicious sauce, though. Absolutely delicious.

Pepper Pepita Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Honey Chipolte BBQ Sauce, Chorizo Spoon Bread and Roasted Tomatoes. This dish was more balanced: pork tenderloin in one of the best barbecue sauces I have ever eaten.

Crispy Skinned Hudson Valley Duck Breast with Fresno Pepper Rhubarb Ginger Sauce, Yukon Gold Potato, Bacon and Spring Onion Salad. There was disagreement about this dish at the table: some thought that it worked, and others thought that the sauce overpowered the duck. I was in the former camp. Rhubarb is not a flavor I think about with duck, but it really did work. The bacon gave the dish a nice smokey flavor, and the ginger set the rhubarb off well. It was not too hot, and very well balanced. I think this was one of the best dishes at the table.

Tellicherry Pepper Crusted Venison Loin, Potato Artichoke "Cake" Dusted with New Mexican Red Chiles and Imported Black Trumpet Mushroom Jus. Another perfectly cooked piece of meat in an interesting sauce that kind of overpowered the meat. The potato artichoke cake was surprisingly good, too.

Pan Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb, White Bean Pasilla Chile Stew, Rajas and Cilantro-Jalapeno Pesto. Best entree on the table. Fantastic sauce, especially the pesto. Great lamb, great beans in chili sauce. Great all-around.

Desserts:

Classic Creme Brulee. Okay.

Margarita Cheesecake with a Passionfruit Sauce. Delicious, but I like Passionfruit.

Frozen Chocolate Caramel Parfait, Hot Fudge Sauce and a White Chocolate Tuile. Eh.

Roasted Bananas with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Pecan Tuile. Eh.

New Mexican Pecan Tart, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream an Cajeta Sauce. Delicious.

Sorbet Trio. The "cherry cordial" sorbet was basically chocolate sorbet with a hint of cherries--eh. The mixed berry sorbet was fine. The green chile sorbet was delicious, but way too hot for a dessert. I would have made an excellent palate cleanser, though.

And that's it. Overall, the sauces and preparations were uniformly delicious. Miller uses about a dozen different chili peppers in his sauces, and they're all different and interesting in their own way. He has a good feel for what works well together, and how to make things spicy without being too hot. Less consistent are the pairings of these sauces with the rest of the dish. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. It's kind of hard to predict what works beforehand, though. It's a common theme for this restaurant: delicious sauces are the star of the plate, and sometimes they overpower the protein. I was very happy with my meal, to be sure, but it is possible to order wrong and be disappointed.

Service was very mixed. I know that there are some things that just can't go well when you have a table of 14, but the bread service didn't show up until the appetizers came--and the various things were cold--and the coffee service was completely messed up. Those sitting on the outside didn't care to be reached over when our water glasses were refilled. On the other hand, the server completely forgot to add a $120 bottle of wine onto the bill.

And then there was perhaps my weirdest experience meeting the chef ever. During the meal, I asked my server about the fate of Miller's Las Vegas restaurant. Sometime last year the Coyote Cafe closed at the MGM Grand, and now they're building a sushi bar in its place. (Like Vegas needs another sushi bar.) The server said something like: "I'll ask him; he's sitting at the table next to you." It took me a while to figure out that she said that Mark Miller was eating dinner at the table next to you, but once I figured it out I asked if he would mind if I walked over and said "hello."

He was friendly and gracious, and I learned something very interesting about the Las Vegas restaurant scene...but I'll save that for another post.

Bruce

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I need to add that the menu was very innovative and interesting, and that I would go back in a minute. I lined up a few Santa Fe meals, and this was by far the best of the lot.

Bruce

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I lined up a few Santa Fe meals, and this was by far the best of the lot.

Bruce

Bruce,

Where else did you eat in santa Fe? I will be there for a couple of days at the end of this weekend.

The last time I ate at The Coyote Cafe it was an absolute disaster. That was about a year and a half ago. The first time, however, about 15 years ago was fantastic. That was where I first had seared tuna with mango salsa. at the time it was new and a revelation.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Where else did you eat in santa Fe? I will be there for a couple of days at the end of this weekend.

Anasazi and Geranamo; I'll be posting reviews in a few days.

Bruce

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Try Guadalupe Cafe. Excellent enchiladas with red and green sauces...


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Try Guadalupe Cafe. Excellent enchiladas with red and green sauces...

Too many restaurants; not enough time.

Bruce

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Wake up! This topic has been dead for a long, long time. [info from Verjuice]Mark Miller was the original owner, but the restaurant no longer belongs to him. He was bought out by Chef Eric Destefano, formerly of Geronimo, and partners.[end of info] I dined there last night with Verjuice, my spouse and friends. I just visited the restaurant site and the menu is not up to date, so I'll rely on Verjuice to recall many of the details.

We decided to start with some of their playful and delicious cocktails. I had an apricot drink that was very nice - a bit subtle. Verjuice had a pomegranate drink that she ultimately handed over to a friend to finish off. My spouse had the Ruby Red - a grapefruit and vodka drink. No one was complaining! In the second round of orders many of us moved toward a play on margarita which was topped with what appeared to be an Italian meringue, but in fact I think it was an agar gelled lime foam. Someone can correct me on that - but they were good.

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For food we stuck to appetizers. None of us really wanted a huge hunk of meat, and the appetizers were all very fun and unique. In no particular order we had a prawn dish where they were stacked between pancakes. The prawns were overcooked, but the overall taste was very powerful (in a good way).

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We then had a crabcake. It was dense on meat, and not overfilled with breading, so that was a nice treat.

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Caesar Salad. Everyone at the table raved about this, especially the dressing. I found it less than easy to eat, so it wasn't my favorite.

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We also enjoyed a scallop dish where the scallops were cooked at the table with poured hot oil. My pic didn't come out for that and a few others. The hit of the night was tartare with quail egg and served with pancakes. These pics won't do it justice - it was magnificent to the eye and mouth.

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Notice the egg set in a bed of wasabi.

We finished the appetizers with the lightest, juiciest onion rings - if only there were more stomach at this point!

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Then it was off for desserts. We had three plates: Chocolate/Cinnamon, Lemon, and Almond. The Chocolate/Cinnamon was the least favorite - but we were all beyond stuffed at this point. Some chocolate cakes, flan and biscochittos (the best part of that plating).

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The Lemon was good but too much intensity for this point in the meal. A lemon sorbet with mint, a lemon curd and some ugly lemon glob.

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Finally my favorite - almond. A chocolate almond mousse, almond macaroons (that's right, they look like macarons, but make no mistake they were dry coconut almong macaroons, and a wonderful "terrine" of almond bavaroise. They didn't call it a bavaroise, but that's what I would call it. That was my favorite of all of the desserts.

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I don't have any history with Coyote Café so I could care less about the ownership changes and controversy. I will say that I really enjoyed this meal and would go back again in a heartbeat. It is also worth noting that Eric Destefano was present throughout almost the entire meal hands-on, which is nice to see in an Executive Chef.

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I would love to see the Coyote cafe return to its former glory. I hope that your report is an indication of that, Rob.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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We were at the Coyote Cafe with some friends the other night. No pics, unfortunately, but I can echo the sentiments of previous posters - this place is GOOD. I can't wait to go back just on our own so I can truly savor the meal and not have to mess with that pesky socializing that friends expect :-)

The scallop appetizer with the hot Sesame oil is amaaaazing. Along with the scallops and oil there's some salsa-ish garnishes that are really good.

The other big hit was the fondue. Gruyere with fingerling potatoes, onion/bacon rumaki, and bread to dip in it.

We also had the lobster bisque, which was good but not spectacular (but then again, when is bisque spectacular?), and the Seared Foie Gras and Duck Confit appetizer. I'm not a big seared Foie fan (I like it cold) but the people who are pronounced it amazing.

Also fun is the drink list. The blood orange caipirinha was the hit of the night. We also had various martinis - one with an interesting violet liqueur - that were good but not to die for.

Overall, in our first month in Santa Fe, this along with La Boca was our favorite restaurants.

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Dinner for two at Coyote Cafe last night. We made reservations to sit at the kitchen bar area where we had sat on a previous visit and enjoyed watching the amazing show the chefs put on. The food was excellent. Mark Miller was wandering around the grill area when we arrived and Eric Di Stefano was working hard with the chef's tasting menu. We were offered a five course ($75) or seven course (don't remember $$) and wine pairings could be added to compliment either menu. The rest of the diners seated at the bar with us chose one of these menus. If you were interested in the chef's menu, Eric would come over to discuss it with you. We weren't aware of this special menu and had already decided on some items from the regular menu. We weren't disappointed.

Two appetizers - one of quail ($15), the other a scallop carpaccio ($15). Both delicious. Entrees were a braised lamb shank with mixed vegetables, polenta and truffles ($36) and filet mignon ($38) with gnochi and some vegetable (sorry for the lack of details). The lamb was in a red wine reduction and almost fell off the bone when touched with a fork. The steak was cooked rare and cut like butter. A side of garlic mashed potatoes ($9) was not needed but we finished them anyway. One dessert - a Fuji apple something with cognac ice cream ($11). I was too full to even taste it, but my husband enjoyed it.

Husband had two Norteno Margaritas made with Hatch green chili infused tequila and chili salt on the rim of the glass ($11 each). They have quite a menu of speciality cocktails. I went with Titian's Temptations - not on the menu - (equal amounts of campari, lemon juice & sambuca) ($8 each)

Service was okay. It's difficult to serve those sitting at the kitchen bar because all service is done from behind you. Sitting at the kitchen bar is fun. From what we saw, the most popular dish was a chilean see bass entree that looked so good I wondered if I might have ordered the wrong thing! No problem - the lamb shank was wonderful. The final tab for the evening was $210, tax and tip included.


KathyM

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