Several readers have written in to recommend Geo's in Rio Rancho (3301 Southern, 891-4800). The owner, George Menza, is an Oregon native who spent some time cooking in New Orleans before moving to New Mexico. In a story that is familiar to many non-native New Mexicans, Menza was driving from Virginia to Oregon when he stopped in Albuquerque last year. After three days he knew this was the place for him. Menza bought a house and went back to Oregon to pack up his things. Geo's is a lunch and dinner joint that serves what Chef Menza describes as European food. I said, so does that mean not old fashioned but old school? Yes, he said. Imagine a menu full of Veal Oscar, lamb chops and classic dishes flavored richly with fresh herbs. That's what I imagined as Menza described his food. His Oregon restaurant had been called Hot Off the Brick and drew heavily from the Italian tradition. Out in Rio Rancho, Geo's resides in a shopping center that is also home to a Pasta Café, a situation that prevents Menza from doing too much Italian food. No matter. He's recently made up a new dish: Chicken Imperial, a chicken breast topped with sautéed ham, cremini mushrooms and onions, asparagus and Hollandaise. Mmmm, Hollandaise.
Yep, that's why we call it the Land of Entrapment—because you can leave but you'll always come back. Johnny Gabaldon, who had been the chef at Prairie Star and Indigo Crow before splitting to take a cooking job in the Virgin Islands, has come back to New Mexico. It's only been a few weeks since his return and already Gabaldon has found time to have a second child and get a new cooking job. (OK, we'll give most of the credit for newborn Niko to Gabaldon's partner, Maria.) But the new job, at Sandia Casino, is another story. Look for signs of Gabaldon's spoon in food all over the casino.
Meanwhile, former Bien Shur operators Terry and Pat Keene are experiencing a bit of empty nest syndrome. Last month they not only relinquished Bien Shur but also sold ReBar, their hip University-area bar and restaurant. Of Bien Shur, Terry Keene says, "We wanted to stay and we liked it there, but we understand that the construction is throwing a kink in the plan." When "The Dish" caught up with Keene, he was checking into a hotel in San Diego (lucky Terry) and wasn't able to chit chat at length, but he did tell us that ReBar was sold to Derek Young who plans to reopen it as the Brickyard. Keene said he thought it would be a pizza restaurant. We'll have more details as they come.