Location: 221 Shelby St, Santa Fe, NM 87501. (505) 983-8604
Date: March 28, 2023
Cuisine: Elevated Latin American
Rating: Best restaurant in Santa Fe
Originally from Mexico City, Chef Fernando Olea, , Best Chef of the Southwest 2022 James Beard Award Winner, has been enthralling diners in Santa Fe since 1991 with his unique interpretation of contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes. Chef Olea creates sophisticated flavors using Old Mexico’s indigenous and culinary traditions alongside ingredients from around the world. His menu is deliberately small, featuring fresh and locally sourced produce and meats when possible. Nothing evokes the mystery of Mexican cuisine more than mole, a regional dish from the heart of the country. The origin of Mexican mole is mysterious. Some say it was an Aztec delicacy served to the Spanish conquistadors. Others say 16th century Hispanic nuns created it. We’re not sure of the origin, nor can the original recipe be defined! In Old Mexico each cook has their unique mole recipe often handed down generation by generation. Mole is a sauce of complex flavors that usually includes toasted and ground spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate and chile. Many mole recipes contain more than thirty ingredients and some recipes have five varieties of chile alone.
Moles can be defined by their color such as rojo, verde, and negro; the town they are from such as Puebla, Oaxaca, Michoacan; and social class, such as pobres and ricos. Chef Olea is delighted to share his moles that include his “New Mexican Mole” that he created to commemorate Santa Fe’s 400 year anniversary in 2009. The large mural in the main dining room, painted and presented to Chef Olea by Federico Leon De La Vega, a well known artist from Mexico City, illustrates all of the ingredients found in this mole.
Very cool decor.
Mole tasting with 5 moles, sweet black and apricot at the front, moving to tangy green and then two spicy red ones.
The main menu.
La Nueva. Xicaru 102 Mezcal, Agave, Angostura Bitters, Lemon Twist.
Maracuya. Silver Tequila, Passion Fruit Purée, Ancho Reyes Ancho, Red Chile Salt.
Manhattan Goes Latin. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Orange and Aztec Bitters, Luxardo Cherry, Orange Twist.
Ensalada De la Casa. baby spinach / mango / cotija cheese / white onion / bacon (omitted here) / cilantro vinaigrette.
Special Crab, Poblano, and Sweet Cream Soup. Pretty incredible actually. Stupendous.
Floes de Calabasa. Stuffed zucchini blossoms with Gruyere, goat and Asadero cheeses, lightly battered. Served over mixed greens. Delicious. Quite sweet actually, but awesome.
Pulpo. Octopus sauteed in olive oil with pork belly and Thai chili. Served with crostini’s. Pretty much like octopus in spicy garlic chili oil.
Azteca. yellow fin tuna crudité / avocado / cucumber / spicy tacuba sauce / crispy corn chips.
Berenjena. stuffed eggplant. zucchini / corn / tomato / gruyère cheese.
Pechuga de Pato. Duck breast with apricot mole served with sweet yams with fried rice noodles and beet chips.
Pechuga de Pato. Duck breast with apricot mole and brussels sprouts. Quite nice.
The dessert menu.
Special of Rubharb Crumble. Not bad at all.
Dulce Sinfonía. Chef Olea’s signature dessert. A masterpiece of flavors and textures. A very strange mix of avocado ice cream, beet sauce, and some other flavors. Not really my favorite, but interesting.
Volcán de Chocolate. For true chocolate lovers! Decadent chocolate cake served with a lava flow of yet more chocolate. They weren’t lying, it was awesome.
Whipped cream, with and without a pork chocolate (not kidding).
Overall, Sazon was pretty awesome. It had this high end artsy/fancy vibe which was tres santa fe and the service was very good — a touch haughty — but excellent and attentive. They almost rolled their eyes at some of our LA dietary restrictions (the vegetarians and keto). The inclusion of lard and chicken stock in nearly everything was a touch of a challenge for the vegetarian. But the food was innovative and extremely tasty, as were the cocktails. I wish I had known about the degustation menu, but I think you had to do it manually in advance by the phone.