ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bouche opened this spring on the edge of the Guadalupe district in the space formerly occupied by Aquasanta. The chef and owner, Charles Dale, knows his way around a kitchen and drew rave reviews (mine included) when he ran the show at Terra, the restaurant at what’s now known as the Encantado Four Seasons Resort. Dale is a pro and Bouche, although it still has some rough spots, seems to be on a trajectory to become one of Santa Fe’s premier restaurants.
Dinner at Bouche brought two big surprises.
First, for a new restaurant, the food and service seemed well under control. The process of making a reservation wasn’t smooth over the phone, but that could be new restaurant jitters. The open table website online worked very well.
Secondly, I was surprised at the bill. While Bouche is striving to become one of Santa Fe’s best restaurants, it is already among the more expensive. We paid $18 for the charcuterie plank, an assortment of cold meat which we shared as an appetizer. The meat was good – first-rate prosciutto, nice lean salami and a tasty house-made pork rillette (a country-style pâté), a few tiny pickles and a bit of sharp mustard. But it wasn’t more than a few bites for each of the four of us. And the additional $12 to add a slice of Terrine of Foie Gras was unacceptable. The slice was tiny and not worth the price.
Our entrees however, were memorable in a delicious way. We ordered and enjoyed two of the evening’s specials. The swordfish was some of the best I’ve ever eaten – juicy, delicious and perfectly cooked. It came with a colorful assortment of fresh vegetables, including eye-catching purple potatoes, none of them overcooked. The braised lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor. The steak, selected from the menu, was excellent as were the slender, fresh, hot fries. The presentation of this dish, however was uninspired, just a piece of sliced beef with sauce on a white plate with a white bowl of French fries. The other two were beautifully plated.
The regular menu is brief but interesting, divided into small plates, salads, entrees sides and desserts, with a separate listing for platters. The small plates and salads include a different nightly gourmet preparation of fresh, sauteed foie gras, steak tartare, escargots à la bourguignonne, frisée salad with egg and pork belly and frog legs.