La Boca, Santa Fe
White stucco walls, a white wooden ceiling, and bare brick floors provide an unfussy if noisy backdrop for Santa Fe’s best tapas. Chef James Campbell Caruso's superbly rendered menu of Iberian and Moroccan dishes includes ahi carpaccio with Moroccan olives, blood orange aioli, and smoked sea salt; and seared sea scallops with vanilla-bean-cilantro oil. But Caruso turns even a humble fried egg with chorizo and potatoes into a gustatory revelation.
Tip: Given the ear-splitting acoustics and cramped confines, opt for a table toward the back or against the right-hand wall to avoid getting bumped by waiters and overcome by secondhand chatter.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.