Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sushi Hana, Albuquerque

Sushi Hana
521 Central Ave NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Wow, first of all I want to say thank you for all your thoughts, support, and positive comments about my last post, “One Year.” It’s truly inspiring to see my family, my friends, and my friend’s friends read my personal tribute to my mom and how much she inspires me to this day as evident by this blog. Thank you so much for joining me on this culinary journey in honor of her.

Speaking of culinary journeys, I am truly privileged that my food adventures started in Southern California. After all, I can pick and choose which of the several dozen Dim Sum parlors I want to eat at in the San Gabriel Valley on any given day. If I don’t want to eat beef pho, I can go a few blocks down Bolsa or Brookhurst in Westminster, CA, to eat a delicious bowl of chicken pho or pick up a banh mi sandwich. Likewise in San Diego I can choose between sushi, ramen, teppan, and other types of Japanese restaurant at my leisure. In just one relatively small strip mall in Irvine I can choose between five shops that serve their variations of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Albuquerque, like most of America, is different. There’s only one place that serves authentic dim sum (sorry, Amerasia doesn’t count) and one place that does Taiwanese food. Given the relative lack of Asian people in the city, aside from the sizable Hoa (Vietnamese from China) population, it’s natural that some restaurants serving Asian food would combine different cuisines to offer people a chance to try different foods without needing to go to larger cities like Phoenix or Denver.

Sushi Hana

One such restaurant is Sushi Hana, which predominantly serves sushi and other Japanese items, but also sells a few Korean dishes too. Since that intrigued me a little bit, I decided to try a bulgogi bento box and an order of salmon nigiri. This might not be the most authentic thing on the menu, but it also killed two birds with one stone in terms of seeing at least how one restaurant tries to navigate the foods of Korea and Japan together.

The bulgogi actually turned out well. It was tastefully marinated without being overpowered by the sauce. The beef was cooked nicely too. The bento box also included a small portion of seaweed salad (decent), California roll (filled with imitation crab meat with some type of creamy sauce that tasted just off, but at least the avocados were good!), tempura (decently battered), and an egg roll (nothing special). There was also miso soup with mushrooms as well, which I did like. As for the nigiri, the salmon was reasonably fresh for a non-coastal city and the rice was cooked well, however they didn’t quite come together seamlessly and could have used a dab of wasabi.

The service was pretty good though with attentive, but not overly pushy, waitstaff that made sure I was treated well. All in all it was a nice experience, with some flaws balanced by other highlights. Sushi Hana certainly wouldn’t compare to, say, Sushi Ota in San Diego, but it does a good job in attempting to execute quality Japanese and Korean food. It’s not easy trying to balance two food traditions, as it would be similar to a Mexican restaurant with Salvadorean items or a French restaurant with Spanish items. However, in many places it is the reality and you just have the admire the chefs who do a good job.

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One Year

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One year ago today, October 14, 2012, my mom Grace passed away.

I remember as if it were yesterday. That Sunday I had just finished doing some election work for the San Diego County Democratic Party and came home to eat dinner. At about 7:30PM Pacific time we received a phone call from Sharp Coronado Hospital where she had been the last month of her life. We were told that her breathing had stopped at we should go down as fast as possible as we had maybe an hour so left. I called my aunt in Solana Beach, my grandfather in Chula Vista, and my brother and we each drove as quickly as possible. By the time we reached the hospital she was passing and by 9PM she was pronounced officially dead. I called my aunt in Palo Alto and my grandaunt in Alameda and started to cry.

We had pulled the plug about 10 days before hand, though I didn’t cry then. However a year ago I cried again and again. I had known this day would come for about a month and a half, yet nothing still ever prepares you for it.

Within time, of course, things got better and memories started getting fonder. I gave a eulogy at the funeral, particularly remembering my mom’s passion for people and passion for food – things she has instilled in me to this day. Of course, it’s with these same memories that I am writing this blog, even if it’s only a couple dozen of my friends who read it from time to time.

So I suppose it’s either ironic or appropriate that one of the few Chinese restaurants I wanted to go to today to celebrate her life and get a taste of home was closed, because it is a Monday. Just like a year ago, my opportunity to physically see, smell, and taste the wonderful food she cooked was eliminated.

It will be okay though. As one life chapter closes, another life chapter begins. Even if I can’t enjoy another meal of Dim Sum with her, I can eat Dim Sum in her memory, surrounded by the boundless friends and family I have still living. I am surrounded by so much warmth and courage of those around me who have supported me and given me strength over this year. I am surrounded by her spirit, which will continue to guide me to good food across the country, and around the world.

So today I am not only remembering her passing, but celebrating her life….and lifting a mug of Chrysanthemum Tea to her.

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