Red Sage, the large pricey restaurant at Buffalo Thunder Resort, is now under the direction of chef Ka’ainoa Ravey. The recent restaurant week promotion made the restaurant tempting to those willing to gamble a modest $30 on an elegant-sounding multi-course meal. Friends and I gave it a chance and enjoyed it. Although there were a few missteps, most of what we had was good and a few dishes were outstanding.
I’ll start with the best of the best. The short rib, advertised as a “72 Hr. Sous Vide Short Ribs” was one of the juiciest, most flavorful pieces of beef I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. It was easily enough meat for two. It came with an unusual potato cake shaped like a hockey puck that served as an edible base for the melt-in-your-mouth braised onion – sweet, soft and memorable. The presentation was memorable, too: The meat arrived garnished with a ribbon of carrot that looked like a perky flag. I hadn’t seen this sous vide preparation – a slow-cooked vacuum water bath that seals in juices – on the standard menu. When I asked, the waiter explained that a new menu was under consideration. The rib had received so many compliments, he said, that it might be available regularly. I hope so!
I also loved the scallop appetizer, a single scallop served hot with delicate long, thin enoki mushrooms. The flavors and textures worked well together. The plate also included a few kernels of popcorn, part of what was advertised as a “crispy popcorn truffle pudding.” I didn’t notice the truffle pudding, but never mind.
The 12-ounce New York strip steak was also very good, tender, juicy meat grilled as ordered. It came topped with strips of green chile and a giant stuffed baked potato. The current Red Sage menu has several steaks available, all à la carte, beginning at $36 for the 8-ounce tenderloin or $39 for a 16-ounce New York Strip. (The potato would be an additional $6.) You can also get elk and buffalo steaks here, or a 21-ounce prime bone-in rib-eye for $58.
Unlike the wonderful beef, the rotisserie chicken was overcooked, and the heavy seasoning rubbed on the skin couldn’t fix that. The half chicken came with an odd apple cauliflower gratin, a sweet, soft accompaniment that didn’t work. But the little salad – a slice of crisp iceberg lettuce with a light creamy dressing, tomatoes and other garnishes – was fresh and pretty. And we received a tiny scoop of mango sorbet in a frozen shot glass between the courses. An elegant touch.
The meal started with an amuse bouche, a single poached shrimp presented on a bed of melon and served on an artistically designed bent tablespoon. It was bland, but charming. Like the shrimp, dessert was nicely presented but not memorable in terms of flavor. A large triangular plate contained two small, sweet offerings. The attractive three-bite chocolate treat sat on a graham cracker with three tiny marshmallows on top. The cheesecake had a crumb crust with a raspberry drizzle.
Service was attentive. Our party of six had a reservation, but even though the restaurant was nearly empty, the hostess tried to place us at a table across from the kitchen service door. We asked if she had somewhere else and then she offered us the private dining room with a beautiful table big enough for 10! She turned up the heat in the room for us, too. The rest of the staff brought drinks and menus. Next, a basket of warm corn bread sticks and fresh rolls with two flavors of butter arrived to sustain us.
If you make the 20-minute drive from Santa Fe’s Plaza to Buffalo Thunder, add some time to enjoy the wonderful art in the lobby and the casino resort’s broad hallways. The sculpture, pottery, mixed media, photography and paintings by about 90 artists included some fine examples from Mateo Romero, Tony Abeyta, Rose B. Simpson and George Rivera, the governor of Pojoaque Pueblo.