I just had one of the greatest meals I can recall today at Epazote. It was flawless from start to finish. I've been to Chef Fernando Olea's Restaurants in the past (great taco joint on St. Michaels years ago). Didn't know about this one nor the newer location but read a review last week so I had to try it, knowing the talents of this amazing chef. We arrived at 11am when they open, only one other couple there. We were greated and seated by Chef Fernando who is simply charming. A small two bite appetizers arrived immediately, squash blossoms on some small tortillas which setup the meal right away; delicious! My wife and I split the de la casa (spinach salad) which was fantastic to look at and eat. Chef Fernando has a flair with infused oil's like the one that lined the plate along with a perfect vinaigrette. The quality of the produce was about as good as you could expect anywhere. The special was duck taco's served with three of Chef Fernando's homemade sauces: Asian, honey mustard and the best, a jalapeño infused beauty with perfect heat. The duck was slightly smoky, prefectly cooked again served with what has to be homemade tortillas. Just amazing! We love Mole and Chef Fernando is known for being one of the great masters of this sauce. On the menu it just says Mole (Chef Olea's signature dish). Whatever you do, order this! Chef Fernando began by sending over 5 small tasting dishes with each of his mole's for us to sample so we could pick one. The classic mole I know and love with Chocolate was spectacular but the "New Mexico" mole he invented was a knock out! There's a third made with peanuts which kind of reminded me of a prefect mix between a Thai peanut sauce and a classic mole. There was a Verde which was quite acidic and Chef suggested we try that last as not to pollute the palette for the others. This man has an amazing sense of understanding of the palette utilizing very complext flavors and spice that provide a tremendous 'finish' whereby various parts of your mouth savor different tastes and spices that move from front to back. He describes what he's attempting to achieve with his sauces, let's you sample and indeed, he has a huge talent for this as well as being a great educator in the foods he serves. We told him we loved the classic and NM mole and told him to pick what meat to serve us based on those two choices. We received perfectly cooked lamb chops which were probably the best I've ever eaten in my life. There was also an amazing raspberry like sauce, I'm not doing it justice by calling it that but it's another brilliant example of a chef who's master sauces like few others. The lamb was served on a bed of sweet potatoes, some crispy noodles (?) and most amazing to me, some sweet, pickled shaved beets. I HATE BEETS. At least I used to hate them. In Chef Fernando's hands, they are absolutely amazing. We were comped a desert of home made Avocado ice cream with a topping of what appeared to be beet "fluff" served in crisply super thin flaky shell Hints if ginger and jalapeño from what I believe was a sauce at the bottom produced another amazingly complex flavor experience.
There are great restaurants in Santa Fe, I've lived here 20 years. If you come here to visit, you must not miss this experience. Currently Epazote is only open for lunch 11-2:30. Doesn't matter. Don't eat breakfast. Consider Lunch your dinner. Do whatever you have to do to get to this amazing restaurant and enjoy the work of a true culinary artist. Take more people so you can share more dishes, I know I'll go back with friends to try as many of the Botanas (differing meats or seafood you cook yourself on hot rocks with infused oil's). There's also the option of a chef tasting menu which I'm going to try next. If you live in Santa Fe, like myself, consider yourself so fortunate to have such an amazing restaurant and go there. Plus the prices are very affordable especially for the quality of the food. Further, the restaurant, housed in a huge gallery is lovely but small so make reservations or arrive early. But do not miss this astounding and talented chef!
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