SANTA FE, N.M. — Over the past couple of years, the long-established Palace Restaurant seems to have been suffering through an identity crisis. We dined there on a Saturday evening last fall and found both the bar and the restaurant otherwise completely deserted. On a revisit late in January, about a month after a new team took over, we were heartened to see the place somewhat busier.
Let it be said up front: On both occasions, the food was very good. So was the service. So put The Palace back on your list, please.
We started our most recent dinner by sharing a couple of salads. The Palace Caesar ($9) was the standard arrangement of romaine laced with an unassuming vinaigrette and dustings of Manchego cheese, a tasty departure from tradition.
The roasted beet salad ($7) was the better choice. A small bed of mixed baby greens underpinned multicolored slices of beets roasted just short of cooked through and still crunchy. A roasted shallot vinaigrette lent tartness, as did a nice pat of chèvre cheese. A scattering of candied pecans echoed the sweetness of the beets.
One of my guests aimed for a vegetarian meal and found a perfect entree on The Palace’s menu: half an acorn squash stuffed with a somewhat incongruous melange of New Mexican ingredients ranging from green chile to summer squash and pintos, and then roasted ($19). It was quite tasty, we all agreed.
My other guest was in a meat mode and tried The Palace’s smoked pork chop ($26). It was excellent: a succulent, thick chop with a smoky barbecue sauce. It arrived on a bed of polenta, accompanied by roasted cippolini onions and braised kale. A Southern meal, made memorable by perfect preparation and the best of ingredients.