.......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... .......... ..........Early fall is the ideal time for outdoor dining in Albuquerque.
The summer heat has waned, and the sun’s colorful exit from the sky seems timed to cap off an evening meal.
Apparently, that appeal is not lost on local event planners, as a recent Saturday night found the Ibiza rooftop bar at Hotel Andaluz closed for private affairs.
The Ibiza closure provided a convenient excuse to check out the cuisine of Mark Quiñones, executive chef at Más Tapas y Vino, in the northeast corner of the Andaluz lobby.
Chef Quiñones moved to Más after stints at Sandia Resort and Casino’s Bien Shur and the Inn and Spa at Loretto in Santa Fe.
At Andaluz, he has a matchless setting in one of the city’s finest buildings, a 1939 tower with intricate brickwork along its rooflines. Inside, the charming two-story lobby is ringed with small, curtained nooks called casbahs that can be rented for dinner.
There were no casbahs for us this night, and we were exiled to the patio, an inglorious, fenced-off area facing the corner of Second and Copper NW. Despite initial impressions, it turned out to be pleasant setting from which to watch the sun reflect off the Sandia Mountains and marvel at the number of people motoring around on e-scooters.
Chef Quiñones’ tapas menu offers an extensive variety of shareable plates centered on proteins, with a few vegetarian options. Highlights include four grilled artichokes ($12), served on a rectangle of black slate with Spanish goat cheese and thin, almost transparent slices of pickled watermelon rind. It’s a winning combination of sour, sharp and sweet, with a refreshing jolt of fresh mint to top it all off.
Considerably more heft is found in two roast pork empanadas ($12), cut in half and presented on a bed of greens with a miserly amount of onion jam. The shredded pork is juicy and tender, and the dipping sauce made with buttermilk and a hint of peach is perfect for cooling its moderate heat.
Asian flavors of ginger and soy bring life to the salt-and-pepper octopus, a serving of three meaty tentacles over tempura-fried Chinese long beans ($14). The fried chickpeas sprinkled around the dish pop in your mouth like hollowed-out shells.
Gambas al ajillo con chorizo ($14) features a compelling match of garlic shrimp and smoky, fatty Spanish chorizo. A spear of toasted sourdough bread is provided to mop up the delicious tomato-based broth flavored with Spanish smoked paprika.
The only middling note came from the Iberico ribs ($18), five ribs crisscrossed over strips of avocado vinaigrette. The ribs didn’t have much meat on them, and the potato salad was just average.
Along with tapas, Más offers several large-format plates, including wagyu brisket ($34), paella ($29) and the chef’s specialty, Chilean sea bass ($38).
Más rolls out a comprehensive wine list, a half-dozen beers on tap and cocktails ranging from $10 to $15. In the Key Holder ($14), yellow chartreuse, the floral liqueur génépy and sombra mezcal combine to produce a beautiful, blood-orange-colored drink with an initially herbal taste that quickly yields to the smoke of the mezcal.
You’d be remiss to leave without sampling the works of pastry chef Liliana Quiroz-Puga. A gorgeous lavender panna cotta ($10) is served with clustered oats to add some backbone to the delicately flavored sweet cream gelatin.
Service on the patio, initially attentive, slowed considerably as the night wore on and the dining room filled up.
The restaurant has free valet parking. There were a decent number of spaces on the streets nearby, and you don’t have to feed the meters after 6 p.m. It’s a good thing, because you might want to linger in the lobby after your meal, watch a local band play and soak in the atmosphere of one of the city’s great spaces – a space that Más augments considerably.
LOCATION: 125 Second NW, 923-9080, hotelandaluz.com/mas-tapas-y-vino/
HOURS: 5-9 p.m. dinner daily; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. lunch; 6 a.m.-11 a.m. breakfast Monday-Saturday; 6 a.m.-noon breakfast Sunday