Sunday, August 18, 2013

I'm back, with two new restaurant reviews - Santa Fe Capitol Grill and Dr. Field Goods Kitchen

Hello, my people! As you know, I decided to stop doing my radio show recently, but that doesn't mean we can't still be friends. We can still get together and talk about food, cooking, entertaining and all kinds of deliciousness. I promise to update my site weekly, and I thought I would start with two restaurant reviews. The first review is of a restaurant I reviewed years ago called Santa Fe Capitol Grill which I just revisited, and the second is of a new joint in Santa Fe on the South-side Rivera (also known as Cerrillos Road) called Dr. Field Goods. Shall we begin?

Santa Fe Capitol Grill
The other day I decided I wanted to have a cocktail with my lunch and I did not feel like fighting to find a parking space downtown (I can't parallel park), so I headed over to Santa Fe Capitol Grill on Zafarano across from the Lowe's 14 cinema on the south side. They have been advertising that they just upgraded the joint. Lots of parking and no wait to sit down. In reality, the place was ... kind of empty. The restaurant is stylish, which appeals to me, but I think the design hampers the experience. There are upholstered booths with really high walls which completely isolate you from the other diners, and unfortunately the waitstaff as well, which makes getting what you need difficult. The bar has a steel counter top which is in need of a refinishing and the bar stools are so heavy you need a forklift to move them. With all my might, I moved the chair and jumped up to the bar.

The bartender was very polite and attentive and gave me a drink menu and a food menu immediately. There were lots of tempting beverage choices, I decided to go with their house Bloody Mary. When it arrived I was immediately shocked by the color, it was brown, and not a pretty brown. There was a piece of celery and a skewer with 2 olives and a lemon wedge. A+ for garnish! I took my first sip and was overtaken by the strong bitter flavor so I asked the bartender to add more tomato juice which she did with pleasure, but it was still undrinkable so I sent it back without a problem. I then ordered an appetizer of fried calamari with sweet red chile sauce. The calamari was tender, crispy and plentiful and tasted like it had been fried in clean oil. The sweet red chile sauce was tasty and I cleaned my plate. At this point, I was feeling positive.

Then my main course arrived — a duck confit salad. There was lots of spinach, large pieces of shredded carrots, a few tiny mushrooms, some shredded duck which did not taste fresh, a super thick balsamic dressing (I suspect commercially made), and none of the arugula promised in the menu description. It was heavy and awful. The bartender asked me if everything was okay and I said "not really" so that too was taken off my check. And that was my meal. It would have totaled over $30.00 had everything been edible, but instead my check was $10.00 and I left hungry. If you are going to attempt to serve upscale bar food, I think you need to make sure it's always fresh, you give the customer what your menu says, and have a well trained kitchen crew. This was not the case.

Dr. Field Goods Kitchen
This new restaurant opened a few months ago in a strip mall on Cerrillos Road, and the buzz has been strong. I assume they made a great deal on place because the location is not very attractive and the decor is bizarre: bad yellow walls; a very cool wood-fired oven in the center of the room; and tall cafe tables with uncomfortable chairs. You can also eat outside with a lovely view of the parking lot and Cerillos Road. They bill their cuisine as "fusion" and they wear black chef coats with their skeleton logo on them. Their attempt at hipster (I suspect). The room is really hot in spite of the many fans. There is a Fred Flinstone-type bar where there are about 5 beers on tap. It's an eclectic mix, including some Belgian and some blue collar choices. There are also flat screen TVs, and wilting, soon-to-be dead herb plants on the tables as centerpieces. I have eaten there twice and each time I left puzzled as to why people enjoy this restaurant.

The first time, I tried the carne adovada egg roll with peanut sauce. Frankly, I should have known better. It was greasy, spicy, and the sauce added nothing. Next we tried the clams, which are cooked in the wood-burning oven. They were tiny and salty. They come with a large chunk of house-made bread which was not proofed properly, thus quite doughy. Next we tried the "house-cured" smoked salmon on Naan bread with hummus. The bread was soggy, I don't think the salmon was smoked in their house, and the hummus, which I couldn't even identify when I tried it, was terribly gritty. We also ordered the "margarita" pizza, which our waitress forgot to write down, so that arrived as we were paying our check and my friends took it home. I opened the box to check it out and found it to be burnt and blackened on one side, yummy. So all in all the food was careless, poorly conceived and not very tasty. On the plus side, the portions are large.

I returned a few weeks later to meet a friend who assured me I just hit a bad day and needed to try again. So this time I ordered something a bit more mainstream: the Cubano sandwich with some onion rings. A classic Cubano comes on a pressed, crusty roll, which I love. This concoction (which was enormous) arrived flaccid and dripping with fat. There was pork (which was delicious), melted cheese, mayo, and onions (I think), but the bread was like a sponge and it weighed a ton. After four or five bites I realized that if I ate even half of it I would be sick. So I just put it down and tried the onion rings which were excellent. My friend had a scheduling mix-up and didn't show. I will never forgive her.

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