Oenophiles and foodies beware: dining at Arroyo Vino is like being a kid in a candy store.
Having wanted to experience Arroyo Vino for several years, I am now beating myself up for waiting so long. The shareable Local Mushroom Tempura ($18) alone is worth the trek. But combine exceptional food – using locally-grown ingredients from some of my favorite farmers at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market – with exceptional wine in an exceptional setting, and that’s an unbeatable combination.
It was a breezy Friday night when my dining companions and I ventured to Arroyo Vino. And, having arrived a bit early, I perused the well-stocked and curated wine and spirit store that greets you upon entering. I meandered through the aisles gazing at their wide selection of more than 1,000 bottles of wine from around the world. Bottles of rosé on sale for $19 caught my eye as did a few spendy barolos, but I refrained. This time. “Italian wines and champagne are definitely a favorite here. We have lots of off the beaten path, small producers that we represent,” says executive chef Allison Jenkins.
I had reserved a table on the newly-constructed patio with a view of the Jemez Mountains and settled in for what was an exceptional dining experience. The diverse playlist immediately caught my attention as a thoughtful compilation of a smattering of everything. Gratefully, the sound was loud enough to hear the music, but not too loud so you can still hold a conversation. Amidst this idyllic setting, one item still has me wondering – the vinyl table coverings on the patio tables. At one point, I thought I could slide the water glass over a bit, but instead it tumbled over and spilled. But I did not cry over spilled sparkling water, because everything else was simply supreme.
Service was attentive and our server, Nick, is knowledgeable, friendly and helped me select between two red wines. Not being one who orders expensive wines in restaurants, I tend to focus on well-priced options. Within the expansive wine list, I found the white wines are more approachable – from a price point – than the reds, but I prefer red. With category names like “Sparkle Party” for bubbles, “Structured/Round/Expressive Whites” and “Fresh/Bright/Mineral Reds,” the titles confirmed that Arroyo Vino lives up to their name.
I ordered the Guimaro Ribera Sacra Mencia Camino Real ($52), a lovely summer Spanish red wine that is big but not overpowering, and drinks well both with and without food. There are also a handful of wines by the glass should you want to try a few different varietals throughout the evening.
The menu is an intentional homage to what’s in season. Chef Jenkins, who has been leading Arroyo Vino since 2018, approaches her menus with vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free diners in mind. “We go through a few iterations of our menus to adapt to the micro-seasons, but we have four major menu changes each year,” she says.
With five shareable dishes to choose from, it was hard to make decisions as everything sounds amazing, but we agreed on the Local Heirloom Tomatoes ($21) and the above mentioned Local Mushroom Tempura – which I would eat every day if I could. Mushrooms and a few spring onion slices are dipped in a light tempura batter, fried to a puffy perfection and placed over a dollop of miso aioli, sprinkled with furikake, a savory Japanese condiment, and served with yuzu ponzu dipping sauce. This dish really set us on fire. Though it is a “shareable” dish, I want an order all to myself next time.
The locally-grown heirloom tomato salad also included a few sliced peaches and some arugula sprigs on top, alongside a bodacious disc of creamy burrata and a generous spoonful of salsa verde made with basil, parsley, mint, capers, garlic and anchovies to slather over everything. This dish screamed summer and, as we come to the end of the season, focusing on the ingredients we won’t have access to for much longer is a smart culinary move.
The shareable dishes we passed on were Freshly Baked Foccacia with whipped feta and olive oil ($8), House Made Chicken Liver Pâté ($15) and Grilled Local Carrots ($15) with harissa spice, pistachios, dates, herb salad and savory granola.
For an appetizer, we opted for the Porcini Tagliatelle ($28). Though we were afraid this dish might be a little heavy, it was ethereal. House-made pasta is a necessity and the earthy and locally foraged porcini mushroom Bolognese clings beautifully to the noodles. We ate every bite and reveled in the kitchen’s culinary prowess.
Some of the appetizers we didn’t order include an Armenian Cucumber Salad ($15) which feels like another tribute to summer with saffron yogurt, pickled onion, mint, pistachio and sesame dukkah, Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab ($25) and Saffron Ricotta Cavatelli a la Norma ($25), a classic Italian pasta dish with eggplant and tomatoes.
Still in the sharing mode, to enjoy a bit of everything, we ordered one of the six entrees – Grilled Wild Columbia River King Salmon ($42) with blistered summer green beans, new potatoes, olive tapenade and almond romesco sauce. Perfectly cooked, skin-on salmon was served over the vegetables and sauces and this dish was another nod to everything we love about summer. We supplemented our lone entrée with the Vagabond Farmers Salad ($14), an appetizer, which was a light combination of superb greens, crumbled Roquefort, spring onions and a vinaigrette made with marcona almonds and sherry vinegar. These two dishes were a delightful pairing and we thanked Nick for his suggestion to serve these together.
Entrees are equally purposeful with a vegetarian option in the Grilled Japanese Eggplant ($29), as well as Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut ($45), for another seafood dish. Meat lovers will be hard-pressed to choose between Five-Spice Duck Breast ($40), Moroccan Spiced Lamb T-bones ($46) and Seared Wagyu Petite Tender Steak ($45).
When we finished our meal, we were all beyond satisfied – not stuffed and we were grateful. Every dish was a success. Nothing was under- or over-seasoned. Everything was executed with intention and aplomb. It was certainly one of the best meals I have had in Santa Fe in a long time. The next time you need a meal made with the finest local ingredients, prepared with skillful hands and a depth of passion few chefs achieve long-term, look no further than Arroyo Vino. Let the food lure you in and let the wine soothe your soul.