If you think a salad means a bowl of lettuce, Restaurant Martín’s deconstructed take on the classic Cobb Salad will change your mind. “Deconstructed,” a word you’ll find on up-scale menus now and again, usually means that a chef has taken liberties with the looks of a dish without fiddling too much with the ingredients. Cobbs usually consist of chopped chicken, avocado, bacon, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and more, mixed together with blue cheese in a light dressing. They are easy to eat, but not much to look at.
Restaurant Martín’s beautiful version grows from a base of brioche, a flat piece of slightly sweet bread, topped with whole slices of bacon and a large grilled chicken breast filet. Then come fresh whole leaves of crunchy romaine lettuce and a topping of soft, minced avocado, hard-boiled egg, blue cheese and other goodies tossed with a lemony dressing. The salad arrives as an edible tower with a long skewer holding it in place. Fourteen dollars is a lot to pay for a salad, but this is a lot of salad, and a work of culinary art, as well.
Even if you don’t want this amazing salad, Restaurant Martín is a wonderful place for a special meal. I was joined by four friends to celebrate an 81st birthday (not mine!) with brunch. We wanted a touch of elegance, and Restaurant Martín filled the bill perfectly. I’ve had dinner here and two or three lunches, and never been disappointed. The buzz on some of the food review websites is mixed on this place, but I’m happy to recommend it.
LOCATION: 526 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, 505-820-0919
HOURS: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; brunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays; dinner, 5:30- 10 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
BEER AND WINE
The brunch menu includes choices you’d have to begin your day, as well as lunch-type items. My friends all opted for breakfast-style dishes – Huevos Rancheros ($13), French toast ($13), an omelet ($14) and Eggs Benedict ($15). All of us were more than satisfied.
The French toast smelled so good I was tempted to steal it. The thickly sliced fresh brioche was cut in triangles and served with a small dish of chopped fresh fruit, whipped orange mascarpone (instead of butter) and warm maple syrup.
The egg creations got high marks, too. The Eggs Benedict takes the traditional version up a notch, with smoked salmon standing in for Canadian bacon, soft fresh bread for the English muffin rounds and lobster Hollandaise instead of the standard. We found tender pieces of lobster meat in the sauce. The eggs arrived soft and perfectly poached, amazingly light without the watery distraction you sometimes find.
I was so involved with my salad that I forgot to beg for a taste of the Huevos Rancheros or the shrimp omelet with mushrooms, onions, cheddar and spinach that also graced our tables. By the time I remembered, those plates had practically been licked clean. (My friends said, “very good,” and “lovely.”) I did sample the golden butternut squash soup. It had a velvety smooth texture and an outstandingly fresh flavor with a nice balance of sweet and tart.
Asked for recommendations for a meal-ending treat to hold a birthday candle, the waitress suggested the pumpkin dessert or the molten chocolate cake. Both were first rate, but I especially loved the pumpkin, a light, flan-like custard on a shortbread crust, served with a swirl of raspberry/grape sauce, a touch of vanilla ice cream made in-house, and dollops of intensely flavored grapefruit jell. Original, beautiful and yummy – a huge step up from the average pumpkin pie.
The chocolate gets high points for combining a rich, salty caramel syrup with warm cake baked around a dark, pudding-style chocolate center. And to top it off, the plate included a daub of cinnamon ice cream on a bed of mocha crumbs and a few enticing dots of blackberry concentrate.
Service was a bit slow, but friendly and informed. Both the waitress and her assistant kept an eye on us without being too intrusive.
Chef Martín Rios and his wife Jennifer created Restaurant Martín in the fall of 2009. Rios was a semi-finalist for the 2011 James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest and Restaurant Martín made the semi-finals for the 2010 James Beard Best New Restaurant in the U.S. It’s a wonderful addition to Santa Fe’s world of fine dining.