Friday, September 7, 2012

So What Makes a Restaurant Memorable? Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's entry,

This is why Donald Chang is a successful restaurant owner (Yummy Café in Santa Fe). We walked through the doors on our second visit and were immediately recognized. We had some time to talk with him about our travels and our “enchantment” with “The Land of Enchantment” and, in particular, Santa Fe.

On this visit, we were seated on the opposite side of the restaurant, which gave us an entirely different view of the space.
On the far wall were hung Southwest scenes painted by a local artist.

The window directly next to our both had been painted by the same James McGrath (see yesterday's entry), who is the artist responsible for the magnificent black and white print behind the bar.

And another wall was graced with art on a more traditional Asian theme.

We started our lunch by sharing an order of Yummy Café’s wonderful egg rolls which came with a sweet dipping sauce and a high octane Chinese mustard. Wonderful.

Next was the Crispy Salt and Pepper Calamari appetizer. Strips of calamari had been scored which served two purposes. First, it tenderized the squid. But second, and to me most important, caused little projectiles of calamari to arise from the surface when fried. These little nubbins captured the coating mixture and made the squid pieces a crispy delight.
But if that wasn’t enough to elevate this to a high level of calamari perfection, in the center of the plate was a warm garnish or dressing of finely chopped jalapeno peppers and carrots.
And, so one gets one’s quota of veggies, the calamari and garnish sat on a bed of crispy cabbage and was surrounded by lightly steamed broccoli.

And now for the appetizer that knocked my socks off—the Spicy Wontons. The bowl contained at least ten meat filled wontons with skins that were ultra light and tender. The meat mixture had been seasoned with garlic and ginger—one of my favorite flavor combinations and one of the reasons that I love Chinese food so much.

In the bowl with the wontons were Chinese cabbage, carrot slivers, bean sprouts, scallions, and chopped peanuts in a soy, chile, and sesame paste sauce. And some may substitute peanut butter for sesame paste, but in truth, there is really no substitute for the deep roasted flavor of sesame paste. This was a dish that, with a bowl of hot and sour soup, could comprise a meal. In fact, Mr. Chang told us that he has a customer who will eat an enlarged order—sometimes a double order—as his meal.

We ended the meal by sharing an order of Sesame Chicken, which is one of Chuck’s favorite Chinese restaurant dishes. (I have to admit that we were both rather full at that point so about a third of the portion came home with us.) Like with the chicken in Chuck’s Kung Pao Chicken from the previous visit, the chicken pieces had again been marinated with papaya.
What Yummy’s kitchen managed to do was to somehow turn some of the sugar that goes into this dish into little crunchy candy-like bits, which—here I go talking about texture again—were a great foil for the softer chicken.

We had two great meals—two 5.0 Addie meals. If we lived in Santa Fe, this would be a regular stop. The food is great and Donald Chang is determined to serve healthy Chinese food. No worry about an MSG headache. No swollen ankles from too much sodium. And to make the experience even better, warm and friendly hospitality from the Changs.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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