Some restaurants are hard to categorize, either because their offerings are genuinely unique or because they serve a cuisine that’s less common. That’s certainly true of these three unique restaurants in Santa Fe.
2010 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe
Chef Ahmed Obo spent grew up on Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. His early culinary experiences have translated into Jambo Café, an African-Caribbean fusion restaurant that has developed a loyal following in Santa Fe. Jambo is known for its soups, which change daily, but my favorite item on this menu is the cinnamon-dusted plantains. Not only are they perfectly caramelized, but the introduction of a pineapple curry dipping sauce prevents the dish from becoming too sweet. Fish isn’t a staple of New Mexican cuisine, which makes the delicately prepared, banana leaf-wrapped mahi mahi a true delight. The Kenyan-style beef kabobs are another succulent option. The pairing of caramelized onion marmalade with pomegranate is unexpected and refreshing.
Tip: Reservations recommended.
1005 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe
While Brazilian restaurants are increasingly abundant elsewhere, Omira is the only one in Santa Fe. This churrascaria is authentic – the setup, quality, and flavors are on a par with those found in Rio. The food is served rodízio-style: servers circulate with skewers of meat, mostly beef, which they shave onto your plate. If you’re not a fan of red meat, there are skewers of pork and bacon-wrapped chicken. However, light meat eaters get better value for money by opting for the salad bar instead. This is far from a limp lettuce, curled cucumber affair. Omira’s salad bar includes soup, a few cooked options — some of them meat-based — along with dishes such as kale and apple salad, and balsamic mushrooms. Service here is excellent, but the constant parade of skewer-toting servers mute the romance. It’s a great place to bring a group of friends.
Tip: Go at lunch because prices then are significantly lower.
510 N. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe
Jinja’s strengths are unexpected flavor combinations and sauces. Most plates incorporate multiple dipping sauces; for instance, a sweet onion dip and a creamy horseradish sauce elevate the steak frites. Lightly pickled sweet cucumbers accompany the steak and also the rice paper fish. It’s rare that cucumber is the first food I gravitate towards, but that’s certainly the case at Jinja. The lettuce wraps are a must-try. Ham lends a touch of salt to the ground chicken, while a sweet chili sauce provides a nice kick. Most dishes are available as either large or small plates — the latter are heartier than tapas and great for anyone with a lighter appetite.
Tip: Reservations recommended, particularly during summer months, as Jinja is close to the Santa Fe Opera.