Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Compound

Having spent our first day exploring Santa Fe (much of it in the was raining) we looked forward with much anticipation to Thanksgiving dinner at the Compound, which has been reported to be one of Santa Fe's finest restaurants. The rain had finally stopped as dark fell and we had a pleasant, albeit chilly, walk past the many art galleries of Canyon Road until we reached the Compound's, well, compound. The restaurant is set well back from the street and clearly not designed to accommodate foot traffic, as the only access is over a large and (on this day) rather muddy driveway area (fortunately I'd brought a flashlight). Hardly the restaurant's fault, though, as it is not within walking distance of most of the tourist accommodations or residential housing and I imagine that 99% of the diners arrive by car.

We were greeted warmly and professionally and settled into a comfortable corner...we seem to have particular luck at snagging corner tables. The restaurant was bright and attractive in the usual Santa Fe style with white walls and wood trim. The ceiling of the room we were in had a rather unusual fabric overlay. There was also a kind of open vent near our table that allowed cold air to blow on me. Most people would probably find this objectionable but I actually found it refreshing. From time to time the vent would belch warm air as the heating system kicked on. Michael thought the decor, flowers, and bar were terribly dated and I am sure he was right but because we had skipped lunch, I was more focused on dinner!

The waiter arrived promptly and we focused initially on the wine list, naturally. We had had champagne back at the house to start off the holiday celebration so were relaxed about our choice. I must say that the Compound has one of the most expensive wine lists I have encountered, outside of the most haute big city establishments, so the list was a bit daunting. There were few bottles under $50 and most in the $100-200 range, with markups that appeared to be 3-4x retail. Perhaps retail prices are higher in New Mexico. We debated an Alsatian white, our usual value fallback, but the sommelier pushed us toward a Saintsbury Chardonnay ($70) which turned out to be a good choice, a little crisper and less creamy than we usually look for in a Chardonnay but with good acidity and an excellent match with food.

I started with the oysters on the half shell while Michael had the "made to order" squash soup. The oysters were terrific...plump and fresh with a creamy topping that enhanced their brininess. Oysters in the desert? Why not? Allegedly there was some caviar in the topping but it was not much in evidence, but honestly it was not missed. Unfortunately, Michael's soup was a huge disappointment. The "made to order" part apparently refers to the fact that they bring out the bowl and then pour the soup in from a little pitcher, which is a nice presentation (and saves the waiter carrying in a loaded bowl of soup) but hardly unusual. The soup basically tasted of chicken stock, not very good stock at that, and almost nothing of squash. It was far inferior to the soup Michael had made at home a week before.

For dinner we both had the turkey with roasted vegetables (it was Thanksgiving, after all). It was excellent, and a very generous portion. The Brussels sprouts were particularly delicious...I love them anyhow, but even Michael ate them with enjoyment. Perhaps the secret is to quarter them before cooking. The cranberry relish, served in a small ramekin, was a bit miserly but in general we were very well satisfied with our entrees. Along with them, Michael had lusted after, and ordered, a side dish of goat cheese and orzo which was pleasant, but rather one-dimensional, and a bit pricey at $10 for a modest portion.

We didn't really need dessert but the holiday menu was prix-fixe so naturally we didn't pass it up. Michael's apple butter dumplings were rather unexciting. I defied all expectations and passed up the chocolate torte for the maple bourbon pecan pie. It was also OK as pecan pie (I searched in vain for either maple or bourbon). The chocolate sauce and ice cream on the side were better than the pie itself.

The prix fixe menu was $70 and with side dish, wine, tax, and tip, the bill came to nearly $300. While our meal was certainly good, it was not outstanding. Neither dessert was great and Michael's appetizer was positively bad. We didn't think that the restaurant represented good value for the money and it was an ominous introduction to dining in Santa Fe. We were somewhat constrained by the limited number of places open on Thanksgiving, but if we find ourselves in Santa Fe again on the holidays, or any other time for that matter, we'll make another choice.

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