hot time in the old town by John Vollertsen
This page: Paddy Rawal’s zaffrani-macchi-marinated mahimahi; top: Rawal’s tandoori shrimp; opposite, top: Max’s smoked sturgeon salad; bottom: Café Vingt Cinq’s raspberry tartlette 122
Get your chutney on: The most intriguing new restaurant to open this spring is Paddy Rawal’s Raaga Fine Indian Dining, in the Guadalupe district, taking up the space that formerly housed Mauka. The name is a mouthful, as is the burst of flavors that accompany each dish from a menu that at first looks like your typical Indian fare yet is anything but. Forget everything you think you knew or liked about this popular ethnic cuisine. At Paddy’s, the exotic ingredients that magically come together to create the curries, tandooris, biryanis, vindaloos, and naan also stand out individually, a boon that is often lost when the cookery is handled by less-talented chefs. There is often heat in a dish, but not always—your palate will be extremely excited regardless. Chef Rawal treats each spice as a star in its own right; no muddled sauces with muted tastes. He sneaks in clever touches of Southwestern ingredients here and there. Chipotle chiles, for instance, give a kick to the grilled shrimp dish, while a zippy pico de gallo creates a tasty bed for crisp-fried okra. The menu is as big as the tastes, with a huge selection of vegetarian options and homemade chutneys and pickles. Don’t miss the six-alarm mesa chicken “65”; zaffrani-macchimarinated mahimahi with yoghurt, lime leaf, and green chile; everything from the tandoori clay oven; the stuffed poblano pepper with sassy pomegranate onion salsa; and for dessert a honeysoaked milk puff in warm syrup that’s as decadent as a warm, tiny Krispy Kreme doughnut. Prepare your taste buds to be surprised, slapped, and delighted. 544 Agua Fría, 505-820-6440, raagacuisine.com, lunch, dinner, and delivery daily
In a city that recently celebrated its 400th anniversary, it’s good to know that new things are happening here to ensure we remain the vibrant, provocative destination we have been for centuries. As the birthplace of Southwest Cooking, a culinary movement coined in the 1980s, it’s interesting to note that three decades later Santa Fe remains atop the foodies’ list of favorite places to visit. No wonder. We have more than 200 restaurants in a town of barely 80,000 inhabitants. Our love of chiles is heralded the world over, while our talent pool of local chefs is regularly mentioned in national media along with other gastronomic greats. When asked to choose which restaurant I would recommend—if I had only one meal in Santa Fe to enjoy—I often reply with the Coyote Café. Chef/owner Eric DiStefano’s enticing and ever-creative menu features the latest trends while tipping its toque to a celebration of indigenous ingredients and food styles first identified more than 20 years ago by Coyote founder Mark Miller. But with so many fantastic dining destinations to choose from, and with so many imaginative culinarians at work to keep our food scene fresh, my answer frequently changes depending on the occasion, palate, and purse of the person posing the question. So with summer in full swing and a host of edible options at your lips, here are a few delicious spots to check out. There’ll be a hot (and delicious) time in the (400-year) old town tonight.