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Scalo Italian Grill, Albuquerque, NM
I've been a huge fan of Scalo's for many years. Recently
(June 2003) they have done a complete makeover of their menu,
and I'm happy to report that the food is better than ever.
Much of the credit for this goes to their new chef, Jonathan
Perno, who was a line cook here 15 years ago and was inspired
by owner Tom White to go out and really learn his stuff. Now
he's back and tearing up the roadmap.
Until the makeover, Scalo had always been pretty strictly
a Northern Italian place. They might use ingredients from
all over (Pacific fish and local game), but the preparation was
always classic Italian. The new look is international and
eclectic. The new menu fits on one page and is divided into
`smalls', `mediums', and `larges'. To quote from Chef's
description in the newsletter:
Smalls can be thought of as one person appetizers,
while Mediums might be better shared or as light suppers.
Larges are big ol' dinners.
Location: in the Nob Hill Center on the southwest corner of
Carlisle and Central; phone is (505) 255-8781.
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this
place (or any other restaurant or food supplier). I just eat
there all the time.
- Artichoke and potato soup, gremolata, fried artichokes
- House salad of mesclun greens, fresh herbs, honey Dijon vinaigrette
- Buttered asparagus, fresh grated Parmesan cheese, white truffle oil
- Butter lettuce wrapped grilled flank steak, spicy lime chile sauce,
- Kataifi wrapped crab cake with mango avocado salsa and lemon butter:
If you take some sheets of phyllo dough and roll them up and
chiffonade them, you get something like uncooked shredded wheat.
That's the "tall food" part of this amazing appetizer. The crab
cake is fine work, but the sauce is really over the top, smooth
- Roasted red beet and leek terrine, chevre cream, toasted spices,
- Whole romaine leaves with queso fresco and creamy lime-poppy seed
vinaigrette: This is a heroic salad for people who want to eat a
lot of romaine. Nice dressing.
- Housemade sausages, sauteed red peppers and onions, Guinness
demi-glace: Another one of those "I would eat my own shoes in
this sauce" sauces, and excellent, lean, flavorful, fine-grained
sausages, one sweet and another significantly spicy even for
- House selection of artisanal cheeses: We've had this several
times, with a selection of four cheeses. There is always a ball
of fresh goat cheese rolled in herbs, a hard Italian cheese
(Reggiano parmigiano or Pecorino Romano), some Cabrales Spanish
blue (one of my favorite blues ever, with plenty of flavor but
not ridiculously sharp), and a fourth cheese that varies from
brie to gouda to whatever else they feel like that night.
- Flash fried calamari, spicy marinara sauce, lemon aioli.
- Babaganoush, marinated red peppers, mixed olives, pickled carrots,
- Scalo burger, half-pound, bacon, avocado, Drunken Goat cheese, harissa
- Potato gnocchi, eggplant caponata, black pepper rustica cheese
- Linguini, three cheeses: goat gouda, NY cheddar, parmesan
- Wood oven pizza, sausage, mushroom, artichoke hearts, marinara,
- Soft polenta with mixed mushrooms, roasted poultry jus, fried sage
- Roasted acorn squash with mixed grain tabouleh and garlic sauce
- Fisherman's stew with a saffron risotto cake topped with leek and
carrot hair: a blend of fresh fish and shellfish in a clear
herbed broth. Fine work.
- Sunfish wrapped in eggplant with sun-dried tomato pesto and lentil
du pays. This is my favorite entree from this menu. The eggplant
is a spiral wrapper, paper-thin, that gives texture and color to
one of the world's great fishes.
- Rigatoni, housemade pork sausage, mushrooms, roasted garlic, tomato
- Spice-rubbed hebi with Israeli couscous, cucumber raita and harissa
- Whole poussin, mushrooms, bacon, pearl onions in red wine sauce:
I don't normally go out of my way to eat chicken at better
restaurants, so it was a while before I got around to trying this
one. I shouldn't have waited! The sauce is at least as deep and
interesting and balanced as the best coq au vin I've had (which,
by the way, was at Cafe Miche).
- Potato and white truffle ravioli, tomato basil cream sauce
- Thick-cut pork chop, creamy polenta, dried cherry demi-glace, green
- Grilled filet mignon, balsamic demi-glace, basil polenta croquette
- Applewood smoked duck breast, radicchio and fennel salad, mushroom
- Petit four plate: daily assortment of cakes, tarts, and confections
- Creme brulée: orange, rosemary creme brulée, blueberry
compote, and hazelnut tuile
- Trifle: pound cake layered with mascarpone cream and spring berries
- Walnut cake: pastry wrapped walnut cake with chocolate ganache,
orange granita, Chantilly cream. Heavenly, yet light. The cake
is rich, heavy with walnut flavor, texturally interesting with
the pastry crust. The little icebergs of granita float in the
Chantilly cream (a sweetened whipped cream) and make for all
sorts of interesting contrasts with the various parts of the cake.
- Chocolate terrine: layered chocolate cake, cherry compote,
brioche crouton. I've had two other versions of this dessert,
once here at Scalo years ago, and a world-class version at
Il Fornaio of Palo Alto. Scalo's current version is a lot
denser, even more so than a rich mousse. Good chocolate
flavors and colors in the terrine; it's not really a cake,
more of a very dense pudding. The cherries make a nice variant
on the usual chocolate-and-raspberry syndrome.
- Ice cream: vanilla bean ice cream
- Angel food cake: white cake with balsamic strawberries, sweet
cream, cracked black pepper
- Cheese plate (same as above)
- Vine-ripened tomato filled with chilled Dungeness crab, fresh
basil. I had to get this because Dungeness is my favorite of
all crabmeats. It was everything a cold crab-stuffed tomato
should be: the tomato was tender and ripe, the delicate crab flavor
was not hidden by any heavy sauce, and the menu didn't mention
the bit of wonderful, subtly flavored light aspic under the tomato.
- Roasted red beets, chevre, popped spices, sunflower sprouts.
Most of my life I hated beets, but somewhere around my late 40s
I started to like them. This is far and away the best beet
dish I've had. The beets themselves had a lovely roasted
flavor, and the sauce was quite wonderful. Not really a
salad, since it's light on greens, but a beet lover's delight.
- Salmon, quinoa pancake, arugula, ``sexy tartar sauce''
The pancake was dark in color but very light in texture, and
stuffed with a few spoonfuls of perfectly undercooked salmon.
The sauce complemented the fish well and, as with so much
great food, each combination of the pancake, fish, sauce
and perfect basil leaves worked and had its own interest.
- House salad of mesclun greens, fresh herbs, red
wine-shallot vinaigrette. As fond as I was of the old menu's
house balsamic vinaigrette, this dressing is better still.
Perfect greens, as always.
- Shiitake mushroom soup, grilled shrimp brochette, fresh
- Wood-oven roasted quail, plum, citrus, and fennel salad.
- Risotto-fried calamari, spicy marinara sauce, lemon aioli.
The menu says ``the best in town.'' That's a tough race against
the outstanding calamari at Seasons,
but it was pretty good. The meat was tender, the coating was
nicely crunchy (but substantial, compared to the tempura-like
coating of Seasons' version), and the marinara and aioli worked
with the squid, again, in any combination.
- Confit of chicken, white bean puree, wood oven flatbread,
- Whole romaine leaves with queso fresco and creamy
lime-poppy seed vinaighrette. This is a huge plate,
so don't order it unless you want a lot of greens. Very nice
- Beef tortelloni, broccoli, garlic, beef demi-glace.
- House selection of artisanal cheeses. We've had this twice
and the cheeses were quite delightful. Both times there was
a brie, a blue, a hard cheese, and another selection. Some
slices of Granny Smith apple, an attractive and tasty
fruit chutney, and a couple of small toasts made for nice
flavor, texture, and visual contrast. The blue was one of
the best I've had anywhere, and I've tried a lot of blues.
- Salad of radicchio, celery, parsley, currants, green apple,
lemon honey vinaigrette. What a great summer cooler!
Top-quality greens with lots of snap and flavor, currants and
green apple for more textural interest and a subtle
sweetness, and a nice light dressing.
- Soft polenta with mixed mushrooms, roasted poultry jus,
fried sage. I was pretty ecstatic with their polenta before,
possibly due to the extra cream and butter they put in it.
This is not quite as rich and creamy, but it worked well with
the mushrooms, and the chicken juice was flavorful and
- Napolean of summer tomato, breaded eggplant, fresh basil,
kalamata olive vinaigrette. A quite light dish with a
crunchy texture to the eggplant and some outstanding tomatoes.
- Linguini, sautéed baby artichokes, Spanish blue
cheese, poultry reduction, chives.
- Double-cut grilled pork chop, champagne-roasted peaches,
kale, fried shallots.
- Grilled chicken breast, espresso barbeque sauce, savoy
cabbage slaw, house chips. I hear that reduced espresso in
barbecue sauce is a current fad; I certainly enjoyed it.
The barbeque sauce had plenty of flavor over and above the
strong coffee. The chicken breast was huge and utterly
tender and juicy. Being a relatively low-carb eater, I
didn't eat many of the paper-thin housemade potato chips,
but they were pretty tasty.
- Panko-crusted fried salmon, corn salsa, white port
butter sauce. This was destined to be my choice because
I love fish so much, and because Scalo has always done a
great job with salmon. No exception here! The crust was
nicely crunchy without any greasiness and the fish was
perfect. They always ask me how I want the fish (a mark of
really conscientious service, in my opinion), and I always
tell them to make it ``house temperature,'' that is, trust
the chefs. This came out exactly the way I like it: pale
orange near the outside, but a zone of deeper orange
in the middle. Don't try this with anything but the
best fish! The corn salsa was delicious, and the menu didn't
mention some garnishing strips of fire-roasted peppers that
worked very well with the fish and corn in all combinations.
- Seafood risotto with saffron, celery, caramelized onions
and sautéed kale.
- Ravioli filled with spinach and portobello mushroom,
tomato-basil cream sauce.
- Grilled filet mignon, balsamic demi-glace, potato gnocchi,
buttered zucchini. My companion had this and was very
happy with it. I didn't try the filet (because I don't eat
feedlot beef), but the gnocchi were superb.
- Rigatoni, housemade pork sausage, mushroom, roasted garlic,
tomato cream sauce.
- Poached halibut in spicy shellfish broth, tomato, carrots,
- Grilled tofu, black beans, garlic, broccoli and quinoa
- Roasted bacon-wrapped trout, fava beans, potato, red
- Chorizo-roasted rack of lamb, goat cheese-roasted garlic
sauce, Blue Lake beans. This dish approaches the best lamb
dishes I've had anywhere. Three perfect chops, perfectly
tender, with a strong chorizo flavor on the outside that
complemented the meat.
Next: Prairie Star, Bernalillo, NM
See also: Shipman's favorite Albuquerque restaurants
Previous: Seasons/Savoy/Zinc, Albuquerque, NM
John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2004/03/30 23:30:31