Far from your typical Roadfood restaurant, Santacafé is very stylish and darn expensive; but for a splurge in Santa Fe, there’s no place we like better. Opened in 1983, before foodies spoke the term fusion, it offers brilliant southwestern flavors cooked and presented in ways that are occasionally Asian, but also Continental. For example: crunchy smoked pheasant spring rolls served with a dipping sauce of mint and four chilies; pan-seared swordfish with saffron couscous; huge tempura tiger prawns presented in a puddle of sweet-and-sour-and hot red chile coulis. Meals begin with chile-spiked brioche, and can conclude with such luxuries as warm toffee pudding or Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulée. We love the autumn special: an all-vegetable plate that is the very image (and flavor) of a utopian harvest, including all sorts of beans and legumes and the sweetest ear of roasted-in-the-husk corn on the cob.
Service is suave and reassuring; décor in the old adobe restaurant is clean and spare (all the better to focus on the beauty of the food). For us, dining here is always romantic. Indoors is cozy, intimate, elegant; the courtyard is festive. With a loved one or with good friends, a meal at Santacafé is a Santa Fe experience to remember.