A Renewed Love of the Southwest at Kachina

Southwest restaurants can either go very right or very wrong.
In the very wrong category, I’d include uninspired color combinations of peach and turquoise, dreamcatchers and sloppy plates of sauce soaked food.
In the very right category, I’d include Kachina at the Westin Westminster.
The design is modern, with wire light fixtures, lovely fabric benches, hip wooden chairs.
There’s an extensive drink list – which you make your selections from on an iPad; hard to get more modern than that.
I ordered a margarita to begin, and to follow, a glass of their signature red sangria.
Both were just what I wanted – no fancy variations – traditional flavors and reminders of authentic drinks I’ve had in Santa Fe and Spain.
The food is, in a word, delightful.
On a recent visit, to begin, a friend and I shared the shrimp and blue corn waffle.
This comes as both an appetizer and main, and it’s nice to have that option.
Sitting in a shallow pool of a creamy tomato based sauce with kernels of corn, the waffle was tasty and tender, while the shrimp were plump and perfectly cooked.
I then ordered the bass with popcorn crust, braised fennel and their sweet potato green chile gratin.
Sometimes, I’m more excited about the sides, than the main dish, and though I love bass, and it was prepared well, this was true on this visit.
The gratin is tender and stacked with alternating, thin layers of sweet potato – one of the vegetable powerhouses – and mild green chile.
It had a gorgeous crust on the top from being broiled in the oven, and arrived at the table in a charming Staub cast iron piece.
For dessert, I ordered the chocolate beignets – perfect pillows of dough filled with high quality chocolate – alongside a mildly spiced caramel sauce.
Kachina has figured out how to walk that fine line between honoring traditional flavors and offerings, while making them current and engaging.
I never thought a Southwestern restaurant would be in my top ten favorites, but Kachina has changed my mind in the most surprising and delightful way.

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