Graham Dodds' NOSA Is Already Becoming a Destination Restaurant in Santa Fe
Updated: Feb 18
by Andrew Chalk
He has been working on it for a year, and in that time the creation of NOSA (North of Santa Fe) has driven Graham Dodds to distraction. The whole project is now ‘live’ and the restaurant attracts diners from as far as Santa Fe (a 45 minute drive south) and Taos (an hour north). In total, NOSA is a restaurant with rooms which he offers through AirBnB.
NOSA is Dodds' almost alone in the kitchen, with capable help in the front of the house. There are only 12 tables in the cozy adobe-style dining room complete with a fire which issues a periodic victory ‘crack’ when another log succumbs to its flames.
The restaurant is only open for dinner Friday and Saturday, offering a prix-fixe 5-course menu ($85) and for 5-course brunch ($65) at two seatings (11:30am and 1:30pm) on Sundays. Guests staying in the rooms can pre-book a breakfast on any day ($25). On the Saturday of the weekend we stayed in February the restaurant was booked solid. Friday had some openings.
NOSA is everything you would expect if you knew Dodds work in Dallas, and everything you wouldn’t expect from the same experience. The five-course prix-fixe, optionally with wine pairings ($45), is the approachable, but globally informed, cuisine that he parlayed at Bolsa, Central 214, and elsewhere in Dallas, There are repeated nods to location, such as local chilies, lamb from the adjacent state of Colorado, wine for New Mexico’s best winery, Gruet, and a wine nod to his time in Texas from Southold Farm+Cellar.
Supply chain, a term that became part of our vocabulary during the pandemic, is a routine problem with a high-end restaurant in such a remote location. Suppliers won’t just deliver (or, if they do, they might leave it at the front gate, on a busy road, where it is promptly stolen by a passing vehicle). Dodds makes weekly buying trips into Santa Fe and Abiquiu looking for inspiration at farmer’s markets and maintains contacts with local farmers
Despite these obstacles, Dodds has assembled a menu that he would have been proud of in Dallas. Quaintly, supply chain issues spread to the supply of capital letters, as the whole menu is in lowercase.
The first course, Chicken Liver Mousse, was served family style. A healthy dollop of homemade chicken liver mousse (much lighter than the pate I make courtesy of a recipe from the Idaho potato growers association), poppy seed toast to slather it on, a cherry for fruit garnish, and a pickled hinona kabu turnip. The turnip retained enough firmness to assert a unique texture, but the marination meant that it was more flavorful than a typical turnip. The Gruet Sauvage was so good we had downed most of it in toasts before we had a mouthful of food.
Shrimp Bourride is going to become an unmovable classic from the menu if any dish is. A glorious seafood broth colored with saffron aioli was full of immersed chunks of chopped up fingerling potatoes, slices of leeks and, most importantly, the freshest, briniest shrimp (of substantial girth as well) that I have had since visiting the Spanish Basque country back when people thought the word pandemic referred to a dish named ‘demic’ served in a pan. How he sources them, God knows. We both voted this our favorite of the night, in a tough field.
Roasted Beets, full circle mushrooms, arugula + pistachio cream had a clever treatment of the mushrooms. Cut into thin disks, they were sautéed to the point that they tasted like bacon. A twist on the flavors you pair against the formidable power of the flavor of beets.
Everyone who has dined at traditional high-end restaurants knows that, per Éscoffier’s instructions, the courses get heavier and more substantial as the meal progresses. At some point the diner’s look each other in the eye and agree “they’ve won”. They have eaten enough to know that they have cracked the megaton on the bathroom scale, and the meal has transformed into an experience. It was the next course, Braised Lamb Shank that put us over the precipice. Between the two of us we shared a whole shank whose meat just dropped from the bone. It was on a bed of Moretti polenta for sweet inflections, and surrounded in its cast iron dish by a piperade that was delightfully fruity. Paired with a Chianti (2021 Salcheto Biskero) it was marvelous. Something to ponder.
Unfortunately, even the best meals must come to an end. This one did with Mascarpone Panna Cotta topped with a blood orange reduction of impressive intensity and Santa Fe honey. It had a sublime creaminess and those blood oranges made for lasting memories. I can honestly say that this was the best panna cotta that I have ever had. It was a surprise to hear Dodds candidly say that this was his first effort using mascarpone -- I thought he had done everything before!
A nice touch is that Dodds came out at the conclusion of service for a meet and greet with diners. Answering questions, giving the NOSA story, and talking about future plans. Given what he had achieved in a year, NOSA is going to get national attention. Book now.