Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aqua Santa

After an afternoon spent at 10,000 Waves being massaged, hot-tubbed, and generally pampered, and after polishing off a good part of a bottle of Gruet Brut, it was amazing that we managed to get out of the house for dinner at all. As it was we were a bit late for our 7:00 reservation, as it was a somewhat longer walk than I had guessed. However, we were greeted with extreme courtesy and quickly shown to a table (no corner this time) in the small dining room. The restaurant was lovely and simple. Michael's only complaints about the decor were that the "front table" with flowers, wine, and so forth was a bit overly fussy for such a laid back restaurant, and that the floral-patterned plates were more suited to grandma's dining room than a cutting edge restaurant.

We were very well taken care of by Trista, a young lady from near my old 'hood (we had met on the telephone when I made our reservation, but we didn't actually make the connection until paying the check). After ordering a bottle of Alsatian gewurz, our old favorite, we settled in to peruse the menu.

Both of our appetizers were unusual and delicious. I had the oysters in a peppery crust, while Michael had the baby artichokes with burrata which are a signature of the restaurant.

For entrees Michael had the halibut, which is a regular choice of his and which was particularly good in this instance. I had the delicious slow-cooked lamb. For dessert we shared a buttermilk panna cotta, which Michael loved. I found it a little bland, but I don't think that's any fault of the chef. I think panna cotta is just bland compared to, say, molten chocolate cake. What I call bland, other people (e.g. Michael) calls subtle. Well, nobody ever accused me of being subtle.

The restaurant was about half empty when we arrived but filled up by 8. It was homey and gave the feeling of a party without being overly loud...just the kind of atmosphere you'd want when out for a nice dinner. Despite the rush of people and the small kitchen staff the pacing of the dinner was just perfect as we had time to savor our choices and rest a bit between courses without the wait ever becoming excessive.

All of the staff at the restaurant were extremely friendly and professional. On a slightly bizarre note, Michael felt that the chef might have been giving him a little extra attention and at one point reported that the chef blew him a kiss! (My back was turned). Well, Michael is the sort of boy who often has strange men blowing him kisses, so I suppose nothing was out of the ordinary. It's when he starts blowing kisses back that I begin to worry.

I think if we were in Santa Fe for just a few days we might look to get our chile fix in concentrated doses. Aqua Santa is not the place for that as it offers lovely, sophisticated, but relatively straightforward American food with a French influence. I am sure that if we were in Santa Fe for an extended time, it would be our "go-to" restaurant for special nights out when we needed a break from New Mexican style cooking.

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