Red or Green?
The new Savoy de Mesilla offers a grand — and affordable — culinary adventure.
by Peggy Platonos
If you are adventurous with food and enjoy a fine-dining experience that is genuinely sophisticated, without pretension or snobbishness, you definitely need to check out Savoy de Mesilla on the outskirts of Las Cruces. The added attraction is that you can do this without spending a week's salary on any of the meals — all of which are entertainingly and delectably upscale.
Award-winning chef Tatsu Miyazaki displays some of the artistic appetizer plates he routinely serves at his new restaurant, Savoy de Mesilla.
(Photos by Peggy Platonos)
Savoy de Mesilla is the newest of award-winning chef Tatsu Miyazaki's innovative restaurants (which include Las Cruces' Aqua Reef), and a real treat. The restaurant promises "mouth-watering innovative cuisine, highlighting American dishes with global influence, gracious service and a relaxed atmosphere that will leave you delighted and refreshed." And, although only in its third month of existence, it actually delivers on every part of that promise.
"We want our guests to have a magical dining experience," Tatsu explains. He has designed every aspect of the new restaurant with that in mind — from the carefully planned, tastefully understated décor that provides a soothing, relaxing atmosphere, to the food, which, rightfully, provides the real drama and entertainment.
Plan to spend time at a leisurely meal, starting with a careful reading of the extensive menu. The descriptions of the dishes will give you a clear idea of the creativity Tatsu brings to the kitchen, where he currently has six dedicated apprentice chefs working with him.
"We are having so much fun in the kitchen," Tatsu says, with the quiet enthusiasm that is his trademark. He says his aim is not just to produce memorable meals, day after day: "Future chefs — that's what I'm creating."
He is no doubt instilling in those future chefs the same free-wheeling culinary imagination and artistry that he displays in delicious entrées like Cherry Port Duck ($22): tender slices of pan-seared duck breast teamed with a cherry port reduction sauce.
The highest-priced entrée currently on the menu — which changes with the seasonal availability of fresh ingredients — is not the Angus Truffle Filet Mignon ($26) but the Rack of Lamb served with thyme-infused demi-glace ($28). At the low end of the price scale, a number of entrées are offered for $18, including Stuffed Pecan Chicken, where pecan-breaded chicken is stuffed with sun-dried tomato, artichokes and fresh mozzarella cheese, and the vegetarian Portobello and Vegetable Terrine, with layers of grilled portobello mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, roasted red pepper and smoked gouda cheese, served with tomato-basil sauce.
Artistry and imagination show up in the appetizers, too, like the Ahi Tuna Napoleon ($12), where sesame-seared ahi tuna is served in a plump stack with layers of avocado, fried wonton squares and rice noodles, combining to create the effect of an Oriental pagoda. Or the Jalapeño Bacon Wrapped Dates ($7), where Arabian dates are wrapped in jalapeño-rubbed bacon and served on orange slices that look like brightly colored lily pads.
Meal-sized salads and sandwiches at Savoy de Mesilla are equally out-of-the-ordinary, starting at $9 for a three-grain, corn, black bean and roasted red pepper vegetarian Garden Burger or $10 for a lightly curried Chicken Salad Pita Sandwich. Mid-level $12 items include Baked Goat Cheese Wild Mushroom Salad and Savoy Parmesan Crusted Chicken Caesar Salad, as well as several varieties of stuffed meat patties that are most definitely not your average burgers.
The highest-priced salad and sandwich selections cost $16. They include the Spicy Steak Noodle Salad, with heat provided by Tatsu's special chiliracha marinade, and the Smoked Salmon Caviar Flat Bread sandwich, which features Atlantic smoked salmon and robiko caviar with Tatsu's special "Dynamite Sauce" in combination with crème fraîche.
And if you think those dishes sound exotic, wait until you come to the fried spicy Louisiana-style alligator appetizers ($8), or the Goji Sea Scallops and Shrimp entrée served with goji berry mango sauce ($24).
Active drama presents itself at the table with dessert, if you choose either the Winter Berry Cream Brulée ($8) or the Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream ($16 for two portions created, in a matter of minutes, at the table).
The Cream Brulée arrives, adorned with a colorful assortment of berries, in a dessert bowl perched inside a much larger glass bowl that is filled with a swirling, smoky-looking mist that streams up and out as it is set before you. As the mist disperses, you realize it was just dry ice "melting" at room temperature directly into gas. But knowing the physics of it doesn't take away the thrill.
The Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream provides a more drawn-out experience that ultimately sends ripples of delight through your taste buds, after providing a few minutes of visual entertainment. Liquid nitrogen, which is extremely (and dangerously) cold, added a little at a time, almost instantly freezes custard mixture into creamy ice cream — producing its own smoky mist as the liquid nitrogen converts to gas.
"That ice cream," crooned a friend, after her first bite of the finished product, "is a one-way ticket to heaven! It has cuddled up to my tongue and is making a home there. Mmmmmm."
As if the variety, intricacy and carefully artistic presentation of the dishes on the extensive menu were not enough, Tatsu and his creative culinary crew are always prepared to honor any special dietary needs of customers, including those with gluten tolerance issues. Takeouts are always available, and catering can be arranged.
Tatsu Miyazaki has impressive culinary credentials — although after your first bite of the delightful dishes at Savoy de Mesilla, you may not really care that he is an American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Executive Chef, or that he has served as Chef Instructor at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas, or even that he has won lots of awards, including an ACF National Gold Medal.
It's nice to know that Tatsu has long been respected by such well-known chefs as Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme, Iron Chefs Hiroyuki Sakai (Japan) and Cat Cora (America), and many others whose photos are displayed on Savoy de Mesilla's walls.
But as a diner, all that really matters is that Tatsu is producing innovative, artistic and tasty food right here in southwestern New Mexico.
"I enjoy talking to chefs," Tatsu says, "and also to customers."
"He is such a joy to work with," says Savoy manager Eileen Flint. "He keeps everything fresh and alive."
"Well, we want to make it fun, so you have to keep coming back," says Tatsu.
The restaurant is located at 1800-B Avenida de Mesilla in Mesilla. It is open seven days a week: Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In addition to the main dining area — which is separated from the bar area by an attractive, waist-high partition — a small alcove seats 12 people for private parties and a separate room seats larger parties of up to 26. There is also a year-round, open-air (though roofed) outdoor patio, with couches for casual groupings, along with dining tables that are each equipped with a central fire pit to provide heat for those hardy diners who refuse to knuckle under to chilly weather and stay indoors.
For more information or to make a reservation, call (575) 527-2869.