Sunday, May 8, 2022

Sazon Santa Fe’s 2022 James Beard Nominee


After watching the Santa Fe Foods TV Pilot docuseries on Sazon and Chef Fernando Olea I immediately booked a reservation on OpenTable.  Sazon is a very popular restaurant so it is not easy to get a reservation unless you book out 3 weeks in advance.  I first met Chef Olea at his restaurant Epazote on Aqua Fria. Every time we went to Epazote Chef Olea made an effort to greet us and spend time talking about his most recent trip to Mexico to find ingredients for his latest Mole.  It was obvious at the time that Chef Olea’s passion for Mexican Cuisine and people would contribute to his success as a Chef, not only in Santa Fe but nationally.  This was just validated by his recent nomination as a James Beard Semi-finalist for Best Chef and Restaurant in the Southwest.

To get the day and time we wanted we needed to book out 3 weeks.  It had been over 2 years since we were last there, that trip was a tour of restaurants through the Santa Fe Cooking School, the last stop was Sazon and a Tequila tasting with Chef Olea.  As you enter into Sazon you quickly transform to being in a luxurious Mexican Villa, the plastered walls, the aged  Vigas, the beautiful vibrant colorful art reminiscent of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the restaurant is warm and inviting.

Once you have a seat the service happens, within a few minutes an earthen tray is set in front of you with 3 individual Moles and some tiny fresh Tortillas. One of the servers walks through each of the Moles and describes the flavors and the ingredients of each.  Mole is Chef Olea’s super power, he has spent 40 years perfecting and developing Moles that pair with every type of protein.  If you were to just go to Sazon for one thing it would be the Mole.  Chef has perfected many things on his menu so the Amuse Bouche sets the standard for the evening.  The perfection is a not only in the Cuisine and Service but it is also in the Cocktails.  We had several but enjoyed the The Homegrown and the Sazon.  They are not only

very beautiful, they are extremely well made and satisfying.

We started with Chef’s Sopa de Amor which is a Savory and Sweet Soup. It is set in a  Poblano Cream with Blue Crab chunks and topped with Amaretto Foam and Cocoa Powder.  Did we just start with dessert?  I ordered the Sea Bass with the Green Mole and JoAnn ordered the Coyoacan Shrimp Enchilada.  When the Sea Bass came out, it was not what I expected, it was a pan sautéed Branzino Filet, I took a bite and it was dry.  Our server Shauna must have noticed I was not satisfied and she immediately came over and offered to replace the meal.  As we waited for them to re-fire the new dish Shauna brought over the house salad so we could continue eating together.  JoAnn’s Shrimp Enchilada was beautifully presented as a stack in a creamy squash blossom sauce.  JoAnn exclaimed this is the best Enchilada I have ever had, she commented on the great flavors with muted red Chile and the tenderness of the shrimp.  My Salad was a combination of Spinach, Mango, Cotija Cheese Crunchy Bacon Bits in a Ginger Cilantro Sauce.  I loved the crunchy Bacon and the Sweet Mango combined with the tartness of the Ginger Cilantro Vinaigrette.

After a few minutes my re-fired Chilean Sea Bass came out and it was perfect.  I am so glad I had listened to Shauna and replace my original entrée.  I will let the picture do the talking but it exceeded my expectations.

For dessert we went with Shauna’s recommendation, Chef Olea’s Dulce Sinfonia, Avocado Ice Cream with Five Spice, Ginger Beet Pune and Piñon nuts.  We started with a Savory Sweet dish and finished with the same.  I had forgotten I had this before at Epazote, it is a taste that you never forget and happy to revisit.

Sazon is a fine dining restaurant with exceptional food, service and ambiance.  I highly recommend it for a special occasion.  Sazon is a Dining Experience!