ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Joseph’s of Santa Fe gets its name from its owner/chef Joseph Wrede, best known for his long-successful Joseph’s Table in Taos, an upbeat, eclectic culinary adventure.
Joseph’s occupies a building on Agua Fria Street across from our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Among its many influences, the menu features Italian, Indian and Asian touches, along with Southwestern green chile and a special gourmet veggie tamale.
My friends and I started with three appetizers: grilled polenta with chicken liver mousse ($12), garlic soup ($8) and rock shrimp ($14). They couldn’t have been more different or more delicious.
The chicken liver mousse, served warm, gets a big thumbs-up for its smooth texture and fresh, mild richness. The polenta created a lovely base, and the strip of crisp prosciutto added crunch and a salty spark of flavor.
The rock shrimp, beautifully presented on rectangles of crisp, cracker-like whole-wheat phyllo, had a subtle sweetness and arrived perfectly cooked.
The garlic soup, with a soft poached egg floating in the broth, was both satisfying and original. I loved the bits of roasted garlic in the chicken broth, unexpected bursts of wonderful intense flavor.
Among the nine entree choices, I had heard rave reviews of the crispy duck.
When the plates of duck legs arrived at the adjoining table, the food looked and smelled wonderful. I considered the other options, too: Pork cassoulet? Lamb and banana tangine? Pumpkin, kale and corn enchiladas? Cauliflower with white beans and anchovy sauce? I’m glad my friends were as interested in sampling the menu as I was.
Of our table’s three entrees, the most beautiful was the “Napoleon” ($24), a stack of crisp phyllo strips with fragments of crisp Italian ham, a mixture of diced root vegetables, Brussels sprout leaves, goat cheese and more layered in between. The dish arrived with an orange cloud on top of the top crust – carrot-ginger foam. This creation was so yummy that my friend who ordered it (and who swears Brussels sprouts are terrible) would barely give me a taste.
The rabbit lasagna ($26) featured shreds of braised, fall-apart tender meat simmered with vegetables and finished with creamy mascarpone cheese and wild mushrooms. The fresh pasta was so tender, it practically melted. If you think lasagna means heavy noodles, this creation will cause you to reconsider.
The fish, advertised as organic Scottish salmon, was succulent, not a bit overcooked, and served with crisp skin detached but on top of the tender pink meat. Instead of the standard rice or potato, it came with a tamale filled with sweet potato and goat cheese and served unwrapped, with the corn husk as a platform ($27).
Our dinner for three, without beverages, was $135 before tax and tip.