Given I’m all ears when I hear an establishment is featuring lots of corn on its new summer menu, I hightailed it up to Los Alamos to check out Norman. Housed in the Skyview Motel perched above the 101 — and if you park in the restaurant parking by their very own vineyard at the hill bottom, you will feel every foot of that elevation (but at least get very hungry) — Norman is a mid-century-modern gem offering California comfort food with exciting twists. As Chef Dustin Badenell, who among other places previously worked at the brilliant and missed Bear and Star, puts it, “I source products at the peak of their best to create dishes that you might not think pair properly but in fact do if used correctly.”
Start with the corn ribs at dinner, for just one example. Not just a TikTok craze, and much safer to have out so you don’t lose any fingers doing the prep at home, they are a gorgeous take on Mexican street corn, curled up on the plate like vegetarian shrimp. Almost too much seems to be going on — there’s chili oil, honey chipotle cream, green romesco, a cilantro lime vinaigrette, and queso fresco — but all the flavors harmonize into one sweet and savory delicious song in your mouth.
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Corn is back as part of the dinner menu’s veggie option Corn and Carrots, a vivid hash of those two stars plus some unbilled tiny-chopped potatoes, umami-bomb sundried tomatoes, crumbled pistachio, basil walnut pesto, and a blistered pepper vinaigrette. Again, the dish could seem overzealously sauced, but portions are precise and unite for a greater whole. There’s even some corn, this time worked into a zippy jalapeño corn puree, under the perfectly cooked, generous filet of Skuna Bay salmon painted with unagi reduction. A scattering of well-blistered shishitos, not enough (because they are so yummy) Mighty Cap mushroom bites, and some microgreens and you have a light and lithe delight.
Even the drinks speak to summer, from the gin-and-cucumber-forward Poolside — which makes sense because if you dine outside, that’s where you’ll be — to the Frosé that features the rosé from the property’s own vines and summer’s best strawberries in one icy concoction. Just don’t get too freaked out if you use the restrooms, where the eye-covered wallpaper is a clever shout-out to Psycho’s voyeuristic madman.
9150 U.S.-101, Los Alamos; (805) 344-0104; skyviewlosalamos.com