Chef Marc Quiñones breathes new life into Sandia Resort’s rooftop
eatery, Bien Shur, a viable fine dining option served with the
possibility of an overnight stay
By Kevin Hopper
The first thing that diners will notice upon entering Bien Shur is the
dining room itself, particularly its high ceilings held up by a series
of tall columns situated in the center of the room. Though it certainly
doesn’t compare to the fabled grand dining rooms of New York City (The
Palm Court for instance), it could definitely pass as a small wing of
such an establishment.
The second thing diners will notice is the brilliant views of this
rooftop eatery, both of the Sandias to the north and east and the city
to the south and west.
Both of these attributes have always been complemented by solid fine dining menus reflective of the southwest in its ingredients and preparations.
However, with the addition of Marc Quiñones as Bien Shur’s Chef de Cuisine, food seems to have finally trumped atmosphere and view at Bien Shur as its hallmark trait.
It is rather easy to forget about this culinary gem as a dining option, due mostly to the fact that it is located at the far northern end of town and on the rooftop of a casino. No matter how exceptional a menu Quiñones has created (it’s pretty fantastic) it isn’t likely to upstage the Texas Hold ‘Em tables. But local diehard foodies will be happy to know that the restaurant can be accessed without having to pass through a smoke-filled room full of slot machines and roulette wheels (just enter through the hotel).
During a recent visit to Bien Shur to enjoy an abundant tasting menu (personally prepared by the Chef de Cuisine), a tasting companion/wife and I left sated, satisfied and just sleepy enough to follow our meal by booking a room for the evening.
The reasons for our blissful state came in the form of seven smashing plates of food, each marked by Quiñones’ delicate, artistic plating skills.
Three small cubes of Berkshire pork belly ($12), alternating with savory daubs of a wild mushroom ragout, proved to be a delectable, no holds barred start to the meal. Next came two long, thin white plates, the first held two squares of luscious seared ahi tuna ($12), served on thin smears of curried rum sauce alongside crispy wonton ribbons and a single baby bok choy, creating multiple textures and layers of subtle flavors. The second was a bit more substantial. A single jumbo lump crab cake ($12) was as crispy on the outside as it looked and its luscious, warm center contrasted well with the apple cabbage slaw that tops the dish. The final taste from the appetizer menu, flavorwise, was over the top — pumpkin and squash ravioli luxuriating in sage butter sauce ($12). This was more than a warm-up for the entrée round. In fact, diners can create an interesting dinner by just ordering appetizers.
Since Quiñones continued to cook, we continued to eat and happily dove our forks into three more dishes, including a diver sea scallop (my favorite of the night, $32), seared perfectly and buttressed by a lusty risotto cake, a pair of fresh asparagus tips and, the final touch, a ginger and carrot sauce. With this dish, there was no question the fall dining season had arrived.
Our final two plates were show stoppers. A mammoth Kurobuta pork chop ($34) and a sleeker antelope loin ($44) were served simultaneously and both prepared sous vide (a cooking technique involving vacuum-sealing and chilling). As intrigued as I was about the antelope, my favor fell to the side of the pork chop, which was a large chop more suited for Fred Flintstone. Our ever attentive waiter could obviously see that “food wall” look on our faces and offered to box up whatever we left behind.
Of course, our dessert stomachs were completely empty, and we indulged even further after being presented with a lovely flambéed banana chocolate custard cake coupled with a banana fritter topped with a bourbon caramel sauce. Wouldn’t you? Much like the preceding savory plates, the dish was plated with aesthetic precision and exuded flavors that were well-balanced.
After politely applauding our server and chef, we retreated to our room, fully gratified, overindulged and quite content. If this is the definition of “staycation,” then booking one every couple of weeks is going to be my New Year’s resolution in 2012.
At Sandia Resort & Casino
30 Rainbow Road NE, 505.796.7788