Mesa Provisions has joined the ranks of the best restaurants in town

Mesa Provisions Cheese Board highlights include pickled radishes and spicy chorizo ​​sausage. (Richard S. Dargan/For the newspaper)

Nob Hill’s food scene appears to have recovered beautifully from the darkest days of the pandemic.

Last year saw the opening of M’tucci’s Bar Roma and Teddy Roe’s speakeasy-style bar in the back. In autumn, gastropub 3128 Social House opened next door to Gather, another newcomer offering tapas and cocktails. To the east, the recently opened Central Bodega wine bar and plant-based Lucky Goose face each other throughout Central.

Perhaps the most interesting of the newcomers is Mesa Provisions, located on the south side of Central Avenue between a tattoo parlor and a burger joint. The excitement for the opening was centered around Steve Riley, former executive chef of Farm and Table. Riley, who worked for years under Jennifer James of Nob Hill, the French spunk, was voted Albuquerque’s best chef by Edible New Mexico readers in 2020.

Riley reportedly wanted Nob Hill as the setting for her first solo venture, and she found an ideal space in 2021 at the former home of craft cocktails and small bites spot Canvas Artistry. The place has received a modest redesign. The brickwork around the entrance has been painted white, and inside, strings of light bulbs hang above a tiled bar, lending a festive air to the place.

Also giving an air of celebration: the crowds that packed the dining room on a recent Saturday evening. My wife and I felt lucky that we got the last reservation for dinner. We parked in one of several metered parking lots west of the restaurant on Richmond Drive. The meters stop working at 18:00

Mushroom bisque with chestnut cream and pomegranate. (Richard S. Dargan/For the newspaper)

Mesa Provisions’ compact menu fits on one side of a page. There are no divisions for appetizers or salads; just a list of items ranging from $8 all the way up to $48 for a 16oz grilled steak. The dish list is a testament to Chef Riley’s creativity and versatility. Even the familiar dishes have inventive touches that make them unlike anything you’ve ever had before.

The winter menu features some hearty, meaty offerings like a mushroom soup ($8) which was the mushroomiest version of the soup I’ve ever had. Chef Riley told us he doesn’t use thickeners; rather, he extracts the water from the mushrooms and uses them to thicken the bisque. A light touch with the salt makes the mushrooms shine even more. The soup is topped with pomegranate and a swirl of chestnut cream that provided a touch of sweetness.

The cookies ($8) are a mainstay of Mesa Provisions, and it’s easy to see (and taste) why. The two pieces, hot from the oven and armored with a crispy shell, came apart easily, providing more surface area for the chili honey butter spread on the side of the bowl. These cookies were just in a class by themselves.

Lamb ragout with homemade pasta, mint oil and a scoop of lemon ricotta. (Richard S. Dargan/For the newspaper)

The Apple Salad ($14), one of two salads on the menu, is apple chunks and bacon bits on a bed of shaved fennel. A pimento cheese variation made from aged Gouda cheese and red pepper flakes was streaked down two sides of the bowl. The mix offered an intriguing mix of smoke and citrus. It comes with fried shallot rings that are crispy and non greasy.

The Cheese Plate ($19) was mostly the usual suspects like olives and ham served on a black chalkboard. Paper-thin slices of pickled radishes and thick chunks of spicy chorizo ​​sausage stood out, along with cheeses from Wisconsin and Utah. Pile as much as you can on the excellent salt and pepper crackers.

Chef Riley’s trout dishes have been a highlight at Farm and Table, so it’s no surprise to find one on the menu at Mesa Provisions. For winter, Chef Riley tops the trout ($30) with diced vegetables in a lemon-yellow saffron sauce. The accompanying pesto ball is made with arugula instead of basil and pistachio instead of pine nuts – an environmentally friendly choice, as the pine nuts have been over-harvested. The pesto was peppery and nutty, the fish moist and the addition of grapefruit added a welcome acidity. The sauce, as nice as it looked, was a little limp. He needed something to pop it.

Hearty and filling, the lamb ragu ($29) was a good choice for a winter night. Slow-cooked cubes of lamb were interspersed with hand-wrapped tubes of rigate called garganelli. Mixed together, the lemon ricotta ball on top and the vivid mint oil green base took the meaty sauce to another level. The lamb chunks were a mixed bag, though, with some being tender, some still tough.

The creativity continued with the dessert menu, where salty and spicy flavors are as appreciated as sweet.

In the Green Chile Mousse ($9), the sweetness was toned down in both the mousse and the crunchy cardamom meringue chunks that popped out of the bowl in a vaguely pyramid shape. Underneath was a sauce that was the essence of green chile apple pie.

The Camote Enmielado dessert combines sweet potatoes with coconut foam, pecans and blackberries. (Richard S. Dargan/For the newspaper)

Camote Enmielado ($9) is Spanish for candied sweet potatoes, but the bowl we got was considerably more complicated than that. Yes, there were thick slices of stewed sweet potatoes, but there was also coconut foam, blackberries, and pecans. The foam carried an intense flavor of fresh coconut. Again, the sweetness was toned down except for the delicious sauce at the bottom of the bowl that tasted like the syrup that builds up under a pecan pie.

The drinks menu features local beers on tap as well as in bottles and cans. The wines, which range from $12 to $16 a glass and $44 to $88 for bottles, are mostly European. Soft drinks include sodas and a great Pomegranate Spritzer ($7) with just the right balance of bubbly and sweetness.

Most of the dishes are gluten free or can be adapted that way.

The service was outstanding. Our server knew the menu well and checked on us often, even as the space filled up. Chef Riley himself was an active presence in the room, highlighting dishes and patiently describing the components of the dish.

With Mesa Provisions, Steve Riley has proven he’s ready for the spotlight. His restaurant offers inventive cuisine, carefully chosen ingredients, and most importantly, a staff that is truly invested in the place. No wonder that, in just a year and a half, it has entered the ranking of the best restaurants in the city. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.