Another level: the Level 5 rooftop restaurant offers high-end dining with a view
There is no casino at the Chaco hotel near the old town, but there is gambling on site.
Reservations at Level 5, the hotel’s upscale restaurant and rooftop lounge, are only available to guests. For everyone else, getting a table is a roll of the dice, or a spin of the roulette wheel if you prefer. Show up early, your chances are good. Arrive after 6am, you play a long shot.
My wife and I arrived at 5am on a recent Saturday night after visiting ArtsThrive, a local art exhibit / auction at the nearby Albuquerque Museum. We were seated immediately. An hour later the place was full and several large groups were turned back at the door.
Level 5 is the newest – and most expensive – of Albuquerque’s rooftop dining / lounges.
One of its main selling points is sight. With only one large building nearby – Chaco’s sister property, the Albuquerque Hotel – Level 5 offers skyline views in almost every direction. Virtually the entire length of the Sandia Mountains is visible, a sight particularly touching at sunset.
Local developer Heritage Hotels launched the Chaco hotel in 2017. It was a milestone in transforming part of Bellamah east of Rio Grande from a drab industrial area to a bustling hub for eat and drink. The Sawmill Market is across the street and other projects fill the remaining lots. There is plenty of free parking on the streets and in various lots near the hotel.
The hotel, inspired by Chaco Canyon and its prehistoric ruins, is done in a sort of minimalist Pueblo Revival style. It houses an impressive collection of works by Indigenous artists that is worth a visit before taking the elevator to the restaurant.
Named after Chaco Canyon’s five-story Pueblo Bonito, Level 5 has indoor seating around the bar, but most of the space is outside and includes a variety of seating to suit couples. and at major festivals. At the table next to us, about ten people hydrated for a long distance cycling event taking place the next day.
Any inspiration derived from the view is tempered by the condition of the outdoor furniture. The fabric covers on the chairs appeared to have been reused from crime scenes. There was a half-eaten cracker stuck in the side of my seat cushion.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, I say. Or a restaurant with its chair covers. I found a slightly better chair, sat down and had the little menu from famous French chef Christian Monchâtre. Despite the hotel’s Chaco Canyon-inspired decor, the Level 5 offerings do not match any particular cooking style. Prices are even more rarefied than sight, reaching $ 52 for a filet mignon.
A starter of a Spring Bibb Lettuce Salad ($ 14) was pretty to look at, with pink slices of watermelon radish against buttered greens. The cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado were fresh and paired well with the chef’s mom dressing, a creamy and tangy mixture served in a small mug.
The starters in the “From the land” part of the menu include an assortment of proteins, a pasta dish and a vegetarian option. My wife got the Airline Chicken Breast ($ 44), named for the way the wing rises from the breast like it’s ready to fly. The chicken was good, chewy and with a crispy skin, although the portion was a bit small. Underneath, a spread of mashed potatoes sprinkled with peas, bacon and morels in sauce looked appetizing, but it was barely warm and had to be sent back to be reheated. The plate reappeared five minutes later, and the sides, now sufficiently heated, were superb and appropriate for the season, with a savory chops reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner.
Only two items make up the “And some water” part of the menu: the miso-glazed black cod ($ 48) and the swordfish steak ($ 40). The latter is served with a mixture of tomatoes, capers and olives – puttanesca sauce minus the anchovies. Briny and sour, it was a perfect foil for lightly flavored fish. Like the chicken, the portion of fish was too small. A side of fingerling potatoes, crispy on the grill, helped to compensate.
Cocktails are a big proposition here, as evidenced by the assortment of in-house infused bitters and spirits. On the recommendation of the waiter, I ordered the Red Sky ($ 14), one of the seasonal drinks. It’s a powerful blend of gin infused with hibiscus, Cointreau and elderflower liqueur mixed with ice and served in a martini glass. Fruity, flowery and tangy, it seemed more suited to a hot summer day.
A separate dessert menu offers a handful of expensive treats. We chose one of the gluten-free options, a cylinder of mascarpone cheesecake ($ 12) on an almond cookie crust. Mascarpone is smoother and sweeter than traditional cream cheese, and the terrific sauce of balsamic-baked strawberries gave it a load of flavor.
The waiter was quick, pleasant, and apologized profusely for the underheated sides. Most of the menu is gluten free or can be prepared this way.
On the way to the elevators we overheard the host telling a potential customer that the place was understaffed. Perhaps this is why a meal at level 5 is such a patchy experience. The views are splendid, but at prices like these, you expect more from the meal.