Sazón was started by Chef Fernando Olea in 2015. He originally was from Mexico City and incorporates the indigenous and culinary traditions of Old Mexico into his fabulous foods. He started cooking in 1991 with a green chili cheeseburger at Bert’s Burger Bowl. In 2022 he was the winner of James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest. The many rooms feature the work of some Mexican artists, many of which are for sale, white tablecloths and napkins, Spanish music in the background and lowered lighting. The menu is fairly small but they also offer a Chef’s Degustation Tasting Menu at 5:00 and 7:30 if reserved in advance. They also offer a curated tequila, mezcal and wine pairing or a large menu of wines from Mexico as well as other countries. There is no printed menu for the tasting and some of the courses are not on the menu but I highly recommend it as a way to sample this chef’s excellent cuisine. Olea presents a wonderful depth of flavor to his dishes as well as a healthy dose of spice and richness. I enjoyed it immensely.
The tasting started with Dulce Sinfonía, a Symphony of Flavors made with ice cream, nuts, sauce and the essence of chile. The avocado ice cream was infused with jalapeño and it sat on a ginger cream sauce. Topped with an edible orchid bloom it was also decorated with toasted piñon nuts. It was supposed to open your palate and it did just that. You were to cut through the whole thing so each bite would get the different temperatures and textures. It was delicious.
Camaron-Tini was a colossal white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico with a light crispy batter and a sweet Thai chili aioli. Served in a martini glass the chili aioli was topped with some crispy rice noodles. The lightly battered shrimp was cooked perfectly and delicious alone or dipped in the sauce. Decorated with another orchid blossom this was another taste treat. The aioli was so good I wanted to eat it after I’d finished the shrimp.
A dish of carnitas made with pork belly was served with baby corn tortillas and cilantro microgreens. This was a fairly lean pork belly but still rich with flavor due to the saucing. The soft tender tortillas were to roll bits of the meat and sauce into. The cilantro didn’t have much flavor but this still produced two really tasty tacos.
Tuna Azteca was tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber, spicy tacuba sauce and crispy corn chips. The diced tuna was covered with softened avocado and mixed in cucumber on a Thai chili sauce and topped with an edible pansy. The super fresh tender tuna contrasted nicely with the crunch of the cucumber and the crispy tortilla chips that you mixed in with it. Another very good one.
Cholula was Chef Olea’s interpretation of Chile en Nogada. It was a tower of chile poblano, ground lamb, pork and beef, walnuts, almonds, dried fruits and spices over a cold creamy walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds and chocolate and balsamic reduction – reminiscent of a deconstructed chile relleno. It also was supposed to have the colors of the Mexican flag but that was hard to discern in the dark room. The sauce was super rich and lovely with all the flavorful bits it surrounded.
Sopa de Amor was Chef Olea’s signature soup and was made with poblano cream, Blue crab, Mexican cheese, cinnamon and spices. This was another layered dish so you needed to spoon all the way to the bottom to get all the layers. There was an undercurrent of spicy heat in this delicious rich soup. You really wanted to lick the dish clean.
A piece of Alaskan halibut was with a Mole Verde or green mole. The pan-seared halibut was served with some cilantro, Esposito, red cabbage and julienned snap peas. The nicely cooked fish was lovely and punctuated with the crisp raw peas. The green mole was good but overall not as great as the previous courses.
The last savory was Emmolado de Pato or tortilla stuffed with Muscovy duck, sweet potatoes and covered with mole poblano. This mole was made with over 30 ingredients and to the side was a small pile of Jasmine rice. The spiral around the plate was a chocolate balsamic reduction. This mole had a flavor I adored. It was great with the filled tortilla and on the rice. A delicious plate of food.
Chocolate, the traditional Mexican way to finish a meal, was perfectly presented as a Mexican hot chocolate. Topped with whipped cream the thick chocolate drink was filled with herbs and spices. You could spoon it or drink it. A rich fabulous end to a fine meal.