I go to Albuquerque for the sour-cream enchiladas, the sopaipillas dripping with honey, the Christmas (i.e., any dish with both red & green chile). I do not go for steak. Hell, I rarely go anywhere for steak. But I also hit the ‘Burque to visit my dad, and when a dad is turning 86, a dad gets what a dad wants—especially if he’s footing the bill.

And dear Dad wanted to celebrate with me, the Director, & his lovely platonic ladyfriend, on his dime, at Marcello’s Chophouse. So what kind of chow-whore would I be to say no?

Frankly, I expected a cut-rate high-desert version of your average, glittering, cosmopolitan cow palace. Instead I found an admirably indie, expectation-surpassing take on same. Sure, except for home-grown sparkling Gruet (& Montes from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, mainly because I fell in love with it on a visit last year upon discovering that they play Gregorian chants to lull the barrels in the cellar 18 hrs. a day), the wine list was mostly a California-centric snooze. But the food absolutely held its own.

Take the pan-seared foie gras over broiled polenta, pear compote & a port reduction—not that the accompaniments registered much below the perfect lobes, crisp on top, the interior so meltingly delicate that one could be forgiven for interpreting the fattiness of duck liver as purity. It’s just got, in some way, to be good for you, for your soul, even if the duck might beg to differ.

Although the pan-fried lump crabcake wasn’t as bursting with chunks of sweetness as the best versions are—particularly if eaten dockside somewhere along the eastern seaboard—a surprising amount of cayenne lent it a pleasant kick, balanced by lime-cilantro remoulade.

The chophouse salad was a lowlight, blander than it sounded. My guess is that the finer the chop, the more each bit gets lost in the water released by the fresh vegetables, especially if they’re present in far larger amounts than—let’s face it—the good stuff: salami, artichoke hearts, Kalamatas, garbanzos, toasted piñons & aged provolone.

But the grilled meats impressed in every way: rare, tender, simple, from the double-cut pork chop

to the Colorado lamb

to the petite filet mignon.

True to the standard steakhouse model of conspicuous consumption, the chops are all served à la carte, so ordering sides that cost as much as their weight in the burrito platters you could get down the street with all the fixings is a must. But that’s all part of the profligate fun, right?

And they were solid—traditional, comfortingly rich. From left: bright, crisp-tender buttered asparagus; creamed corn with bacon, green chile, & cornbread crumbs; truffled mac & cheese; 3-cheese potatoes au gratin (below)—although the lone freebie, a warm, soft loaf of butter-sweet, sundried-tomato-studded white bread, took the cake.

We did not take the cake for dessert; instead, the birthday boy opted for a deconstructed split with caramelized bananas; scoops of chocolate, vanilla & dulce de leche ice cream,; raspberry compote; cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce); chocolate syrup & cinammon-sugar-spiced pecans. Oh, & whipped cream. Again, not groundbreaking, but perfectly respectable from all angles.

Unlike our potguts afterward.

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