West of Pecos, owned by the MacNiven brothers (who also own the Woodhouse Fish Co. restaurants), took over the former Bombay Ice Cream (closed since late 2010) in the heart of the Mission. The restaurant/tavern opened about 5 months ago after an extensive makeover which includes adobe fireplaces at the entrance.
We first went to the bar one night for a late dinner. The bar menu offers snacks and some featured items from the dinner menu, along with some very good cocktails (note: regular menu items are not served at the bar). We started with the Vagabond (Rittenhouse 100 Rye, vermouth, absinthe, orange bitters) and a refreshing basil-less Pecos Punch (Blanco Tequila, Aperol, canteloupe, grapefruit) served in a tin cup:
The Queso and Tortilla Chips was a small bowl of melted cheddar and monterey jack cheese with house-fried tortilla chips. It was served with roasted New Mexico green chile rajas mixed into the cheese, and it was topped with chorizo bits:
Bouyed by the ‘cheesiness’ of the queso, we ordered the Green Chile Mac & Cheese served in a small cast iron pan. The elbow macaroni with melted sage derby cheddar was topped with very mild New Mexico roasted green chiles:
The Messy Texas Ribs were fall-off-the-bone great. Served with a spicy slaw, they came smothered with a slightly sweet ancho chile and dried apricot BBQ sauce. The fried garlic chips added some some nice crunch and flavor:
With that good experience, we decided to try out the rest of menu and came back for a full dinner. The chef’s bar counter was open so we opted to sit there to catch all of the cool kitchen action. One of the nice surprises of the evening was getting to watch the expert tortilla maker at work:
All of the tortillas are baked in the stone hearth. The tortillas puff up as they cook and deflate as they are taken out:
Prior to opening, Chef Leo Varas was hired about 10 months ago to put together the Southwestern menu. He has extensive experience in cooking at restaurants in Santa Fe. From his expediting position at the chef’s counter, he sent us an amuse bouche of the super tasty rib:
We drank a couple of rounds of the unexpectedly hoppy Victoria Lager to go with our meal:
From the small plates section of the menu, we ordered the newly offered Crispy Duck Tacos. They were crunchy and messy delicious:
We also ordered the Crispy Padrón Peppers which came with cotija cheese and roasted almonds. There were enough spicy ones in there, but there was one in particular that turned out to be super spicy, resulting in involuntary tearing. It must have been my lucky day:
We ordered the Hearth Roasted Pork Carnitas which were very tender, moist and tasty. Chef Varos explained to us that a whole pork leg (or 2 or 3) are slow roasted in the stone hearth overnight every evening after service. It came with a generous mound of chunky guacamole and a salsa sauce that was similar to a mole (click on the guacamole in the back to refocus and check out Lytro’s living picture capabilities):
The pork came accompanied with some of the fresh-made corn tortillas:
We ordered the side of Drunkin’ Cowboy Beans to complete the Southwest pork and beans experience. The server brought a small dish of their house made habanero hot sauce which provided a good amount of heat since it lacked any fruit component. We decided the best way to eat the beans was to dunk the side of the spoon into the habanero sauce before taking a scoop of beans:
Sitting at the Chef’s bar definitely has its advantages; the lovely tortilla maker handed us one of her hand-rolled fresh flour tortillas made using Chef Varos’s mother’s recipe. This might have been the best flour tortilla we have ever tasted:
Intrigued by his process of overnight roasting of pork legs, we asked Chef Varos if he had ever roasted a whole suckling pig in the hearth. He said he had not, but was confident that it would come out really good. He also said that he already knows the perfect belly stuffing. He knows where to source a piglet to try it out, we just need to arrange a party – are you in?