SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe has a new addition to its stable of high-end restaurants.
Welcome to Georgia, a lovely new dinner-only restaurant adjacent to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Open for about three months, Georgia reflects professional management from start to finish. For example, one of the challenges of summer eating anywhere in downtown Santa Fe is parking.
Unless you are staying at a nearby hotel or live within walking distance, the search for a nearby parking spot can start your evening downtown on a sour note.
But, at Georgia, drive right up to the entrance and a valet will park your car for you. No hassle involved and a gracious way to solve this problem.
Georgia’s patio is one of Santa Fe’s nicest and the interior space is elegantly simple, in keeping with the artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s inspiration.
Although food comes first to mind when one thinks “restaurant,” there’s a lot involved in getting that meal to the customer. The management here seems to have taken the possible pitfalls into account and works to solve each problem before it originates. When we called for a reservation, we were told the patio was full and agreed to an inside table.
When we arrived, the hostess had our reservation but offered to work on switching us to outside if we preferred. Since late summer is Santa Fe’s fly season, we opted to stay with inside seating, even though the patio is beautiful.
Word to the wise: Make a reservation, especially if you want to eat at Georgia for dinner on the weekend.
As a starter, I opted for one of the evening’s specials: soft-shelled crab. Coated in a light batter and fried until crisp, the two small crabs arrived hot and already cut in half to make it easy to share them among the four of us. They were so fresh you could almost smell the seawater ($18).
We also shared the chicken liver pâté, beautifully presented in a sealed glass jar with two types of bread and two flavors of mustard. The pâté itself was mild, perfect with the mustards ($14).
We also loved the Texas quail, an order of two little birds beautifully presented with mushrooms, scallions and a light, savory sauce ($14).
Although they were pricey, I thought the appetizers were unique and well-prepared, and, combined with the beautiful ambiance and professional service, warranted the money.
On the downside, the entrees my friends and I tried were too basic for my taste. At the prices Georgia charges, I’d like more pizazz. Georgia is wise to avoid overly sauced, overly seasoned, overly complicated dishes, but more sparkle in the entrees would bring them the character to match the excellence in décor and service.
The best of our main courses was the Scottish salmon ($28), a generous serving of fish cooked medium rare exactly as my friend requested and served on a bed of black barley. I had the halibut ($32), a nice-sized portion, likewise fresh and tender, but barely seasoned and disappointingly bland.
It came with purees of white and purple cauliflower, beautiful but very subtle in flavor. We also tried the Diver Scallops ($30), large and prepared without a hint of bitterness, but very unadorned.
Each of our entrees was basically the protein itself with vegetables mentioned on the menu as more of a garnish than a serving.
The end of the menu offers “sides” and this is where you find the vegetables. Since I’m a vegetable lover, next time I eat here, I will order a salad and perhaps a side of spinach or wild mushrooms to go with my meal.
Desserts, however, rose to the standard set by the appetizers. We selected from a menu of about half a dozen – all of which are house-made and sounded wonderful. The crème brûlée ($10) is a classic presentation perfectly done, light and creamy with a thin crisp sugar shell, garnished with sweet fresh berries.
The chocolate cake ($16), moist, dark deep chocolate finished with a milk chocolate filling, would have been plenty for the four of us.
Congratulations to Chef Sparman, and the owners and staff. Georgia is a beautiful addition to the Santa Fe dining scene.