Opuntia: A destination for the new year | Taste, Santa Fe’s food scene

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The new year is often a time of reflection, to think about how to better nourish our body and our soul in the months to come.

As the pandemic enters its third year, we could all use a little support.

Perhaps nowhere in Santa Fe is the concept of food more visible than in Opuntia, where every element seems designed to help you feel better – about yourself, about what you put into your body. , maybe even the world at large.

“When we created it, we brought in everything we liked,” said Todd Spitzer, owner of Opuntia with Jeanna Gienke. Together they have built a singular space that is part tea room, part restaurant, part plant shop, originally opened in 2018 on Shoofly Street. They opened in the new space, in the Santa Fe Railyard near Violet Crown Cinema, in October 2020, taking advantage of the pandemic downtime to completely transform its modern industrial home with warm wood finishes and a biophilic design that aims to connect the interior with the natural exterior.

“We wanted to create a place where everyone could find something they love,” Spitzer said. “Where the community can come and be, and you can be whoever you want when you’re there, and you can find what you’re looking for.”

It’s impossible to talk about Opuntia without focusing on its striking aesthetics – a photo of it even accompanied a recent mention in Time the magazine’s list of the world’s 100 best places. An abundance of cleverly placed plants are grouped together, Spitzer said, in their own little biodomes according to the layout of the bright, high-ceilinged space. Intimate recessed dining booths line one wall, tables flank the floor-to-ceiling windows (and large garage-style doors open on temperate days), guests dine in pairs by a koi pond, and minimal counter space with stools faces the bar and a prepare one.

There are plants for sale, ceramic glasses and loose leaf tea bags and other sundries. And there’s, of course, the food — a mix of soul-satisfying and wholesome dishes that draw on eclectic culinary sources.

The elegant daily menu offers upscale versions of classic cuisine. Consider the “breakfast hash” ($15), served here with organic poached eggs, kale, sweet and fingerling potatoes, tomatillo salsa, multigrain bread and a choice of pan-fried ham, bacon or avocado. An omelette, breakfast tacos, and “Opuntia-style” huevos rancheros also make an appearance.

Opuntia is also known for its range of toasts, including the ubiquitous avocado toast ($12.50), topped with radish, arugula, lemon vinaigrette, Reggiano shavings and lemon aioli on homemade sourdough multigrain bread. Even the Cinnamon Toast ($6.50) is made with a tantalizing blend of grass-fed cultured butter, cinnamon, cardamom, and sugar.

Lunch items include salads, soups and sandwiches as well as a selection of bowls with global influences. Spitzer recommended the Singapore noodle bowl ($15) topped with salmon ($7), so that’s what I ordered, and the take-out bowl was among the nicest take-out plates I’ve had. over the past two years of pandemic meals at home. A generous piece of savory grilled salmon rested on a bed of yellow-hued rice noodles tossed in sambal sauce, a type of chili paste, and sprinkled with broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, cabbage and cilantro. . It was enough for two lunches, and even reheated the dish retained its deep flavor and addictive hint of spice.

Singapore noodle bowl is one of the most popular lunch dishes included in Opuntia’s new dinner menu, currently served on Friday and Saturday nights.

The menu, created by chefs Kim Muller and Antonio Caballero, includes small plates like breaded polenta oysters ($12) and the cleverly named Abundance Fries ($10), which come with avocado, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, gruyere and sour cream. Large plates include a trio of bowls and a wild salmon satay ($28). There’s also a popular Thai fried chicken sandwich, cubano, and bison burger (all $16).

The dinner menu complements a new all-day cocktail menu from Chris Romero and Adam Wilson, which includes $15 concoctions and twists on classics like the daiquiri and paloma.

Spitzer said the dinner menu — and the days it’s offered — will continue to evolve. The restaurant recently switched to table service after waits for counter service grew too long. And more changes are on the horizon: Spitzer said he and Gienke plan to launch in-house and virtual classes on tea, coffee, cocktails, food and plants.

Opuntia, he said, is about helping people restore and be inspired. And, like most of these New Year’s resolutions, it’s also about keeping growing.

“It’s about beauty, design, restoration, things that are good for the planet — all those things that are on everyone’s mind,” Spitzer said. “And we like to start small and build.”

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