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Old Santa Fe grandeur
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Photos by Wes Naman
Good-bye Señor Lucky, hello (again) to the Victorian splendor and fine food of the Palace Restaurant 
By Paul Lehman
When Santa Fe businessman David Bigby retired from his web business in Dallas and leased the former landmark Palace Restaurant, he did an important service for both Santa Feans and visitors alike.

Bigby updated the famous eatery, restored  it to its Victorian splendor and created a new fine dining locale in the city. By hiring Chef Joseph Wrede (formerly of Joseph’s Table in Taos), he brought to Santa Fe an outstanding culinary personality full of innovative ideas and youthful enthusiasm.

Featuring a large main dining room that seats more than 110 people on attractive banquettes and in booths beneath a group of chandeliers, the Palace also offers a saloon (which originally was home to a mechanical bull) with its own bar menu and a darker, welcoming atmosphere space once known as “Senor Lucky’s at the Palace.” A separate private dining room is located at the rear, and a lengthy outdoor patio faces onto Palace Avenue.

ImageA dining companion and I chose to lunch in the main room, where we could observe everything. After being greeted by the cordial and efficient staff, we started with the house special Duck Fat Fries and Five Dipping Sauces (hand-cut russet steak fries cooked in duck fat and served with curry ketchup, Dijon aioli, steak sauce and barbecue sauce, $9). They were savory and outstanding, unlike any other fries we’ve ever tasted.

We followed these with the Zatar Crusted Tuna Burger with green chile slaw and lemon aioli (Zatar blend of sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram and sumac served on a brioche bun with house-made potato chips, $14). The tuna steak was done a perfect medium rare and made a delicious and filling burger.

My companion chose the special Palace Green Chile Cheese “Smash” Burger (two grass-fed natural beef patties with green chile smashed between them on the Palace’s pullman bread panini, with chips and slaw du jour, $12). She declared it a unique burger with fine flavor.

ImageFrom the salads and sandwiches section of the menu we could have chosen a Basted Chicken Caesar (organic chicken breast in white wine served on traditional Caesar salad, $14), or Grilled Eggplant Pankonini (Panko bread, eggplant slices, sheep milk feta and mint, $9), or the Roasted Local Organic Turkey Panini (with bacon, tomato, asadero cheese and green chile on pullman bread, $12). From the plates section of the menu we had a choice of Rocky Mountain Trout cooked in clarified ghee (served with trout skin chicharrones, crème fraiche and golden trout roe pico de gallo, $14), New Mexico Braised Chicken Piemonte (with New Mexican chiles and green rice, $18), or Steak and Herbed Frites Norteno (butter-braised prime rib steak, $22).

Some interesting dinner items include Tagine of Local Lamb with Banana Yellow Curry ($16), Whole grain Mustard Crusted Grouper ($26), Alaskan Halibut and Fresh Strawberries ($28) and Nuevo Prime Rib Steak basted with butter Oxtail and Chanterelle Au Jus ($30).

Wines by the glass range from $7 and bottles from $25 to $165, with many in the $30 to $40 category. Draft beers start at $5 and bottles at $4.50. The kids’ menus are original, interesting and well priced.

There are a group of colorful still-life paintings in the dining room by Barbara Bigby.

The Palace is a welcome return to the grandeur of old Santa Fe, with its adjacent rootin’ tootin’ Saloon for a popular hangout.

The Palace Restaurant
142 West Palace, 505.428.0690
11a–2:30p, Mon.-Fri.;
 5-10p, Mon.-Sat.
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