Chef Frederick Muller’s restaurant in Tao, El Meze, is a cross between the tapas philosophy of shared plates from Spain and the New Mexico ethos of eating what comes from the mountains, forests and streams of the land.
The Monster is intrigued. The space is cozy yet maintains modern flourishes. The music has a Spanish beat yet sounds vaguely Native American. The menu has room for fried green olives stuffed with blue cheese and buffalo tamales with chile verde, Campo de Mantaban, Tucumcari feta and fresh cilantro and the restaurant smells redolent of a Moroccan bazaar.
Grazing through the menu the first course is the hummus and marinated olives with grilled flatbread while drinking a Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel rose. The hummus, lemony and dense, plays well with the red berry minerality of the wine.
Next up come the Penn Cove Mussels in an herb broth. There is a disconnect in this dish between the broth, the mussels and the bread. The feeling you get when looking at art that doesn’t quite speak to you but pinpointing why is problematic…that’s the mussels for The Monster.
The last course is the Truchas Yerba Buena, a grilled whole trout with preserved lemon, mint, cilantro, garlic, Moroccan butter and herb salad. Similar to the mussels, this is a wonderful idea in theory. The salad adds next to nothing to the plate but dominates it. The flavors of the fish are lovely but get drowned in the butter. Get past the butter and this is a dish to savor.
Why go? You love the Yuerba Buena!
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
1017 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte
Taos, NM 87529