November 15, 2011 at 2:36 PM
The Agave Lounge has been remodeled
I knew I’d just have to give it a look-see.
By Liz Simon
Trips & Quips
Liz Simon is a photographer, writer and cyclist who likes to combine the three in her quest to discover the nooks and crannies of New Mexico. Sometimes, means of transportation other than bicycle are employed---including the Rail Runner and motorcycle.
When I’d heard that the Agave Lounge in the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe had been remodeled, I knew I’d just have to give it a look-see. Moreover, since I knew that would entail three of my favorite subjects in combination: food, art, and interior design; it was clear that this would be one of my more fun adventures.
And what a treat this was, beginning with the initial impression of a beautiful interior design created by the Puccini Group (located in San Francisco). In their own words, “We create what we love most. Beautiful places to eat, drink and be social.” I couldn’t have said it any better, for that was my immediate experience of the place. The Agave Lounge, and the connecting Old House are now a wonderful fusion of contemporary design artistically blended with southwestern heritage. The result is an environment that is welcoming and comforting. One of the things that always impresses itself upon me in any dining establishment, are the acoustics. It is obvious that the designers of The Agave Lounge have given considerable attention to “sound management". As a result, this is a place where you would want to come to chat with friends, discuss business, or just watch TV on their wide screens and enjoy a drink. You’ll be able to hear your companions easily, while the voices of others around you are muted. Even though this a fairly large physical space, it is planned in such a way as to create small areas conducive to private conversation. I decided that the best way to research this new venue, was just to show up and not mention that I was writing an article. I was warmly -greeted by Judy at the entryway. She could not have been more accommodating or gracious, and I found that to be the case for all of the staff who I encountered---including the General Manager, Alfred Matter who personally welcomed me. My waiter, Jose, struck the perfect balance between seeing to my needs while not being overly attentive. I think I threw him a bit of a curve ball though when I asked him, “Which entree has the most eye appeal?” His response, “Excuse me?” I then had to reveal that I was in fact writing an article and that I wanted to photograph what I had ordered. He laughed, enjoying the oddity of the question. But he was more than attentive to my request, calling out Tony, the Executive Chef, to cast his informed vote. And that vote went to the “Spa Tuna”, a divine dish consisting of seared tuna, avocado and tomato with an apple fennel drizzle. It had, both, eye and palette appeal, the tuna being cooked to perfection. I enjoyed every mouthful. And let me add this small note which some people will appreciate. The actual menu is handsomely presented in a leather cover; and happily for those of us over 55, the type was big enough to read without my glasses! I just hate to include that bit of trivia. I’m jumping ahead, however, because I must tell you about the wonderful Tomato Basil soup which was today's special. It too had wonderful eye appeal, being a bright orange with a lovely garnish of basil and some shredded Romano. This soup hit the perfect balance; just enough acidity to give it tang and interest combined with the sweetness of fresh summer tomatoes. The rolls which accompanied the soup, were golden brown, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They did not last long. I arrived hungry (no surprise there) so I had also ordered the calamari appetizer. I consider myself to be quite an expert on calamari, having enjoyed it all over the Mediterranean. This is a dish that’s easy to get wrong, but Chef Tony got it right! The calamari was tender with a light, and tasty batter accompanied by a chile/lime dipping sauce. The sauce had just enough southwest “kick” to make it interesting, but not so much as to challenge the palette of your out of town guests. And yes, the entire presentation had wonderful eye appeal as well.
You’ll love the southwest art on the walls, ranging from what appeared to be early and original Kachinas, to more modern interpretations, to a collection of drums in the Old House, all handsomely lighted and arranged.
I think the Agave Lounge is a real find. I’ve already recommended it to a couple of “bar hop” groups and they’re looking forward to reporting back to me. Word is going to spread because this is a worthwhile stop anytime you’re downtown looking for a lovely dining or meeting venue. So come on in and don’t forget about the Happy Hour Specials, Monday through Friday, 4pm to 7pm.....Kobe Sliders for one buck on Mondays, Lobster Sliders for two bucks on Tuesdays, Tenderloin Tacos on Wednesdays, and Crab Cake Sliders on Thursday. Wow. Sounds like heaven to me. See you there.