Tag Archives: Albuquerque

Bubblicitea, Albuquerque

Bubblicitea Cafe
2325 San Pedro Dr NE Ste 1D
Albuquerque, NM 87110

When you think of food in Albuquerque, Filipino food is certainly not near the top of the list. That’s exactly why I was pleasantly surprised to discover Bubblicitea on my last trip to the Land of Enchantment. By happenstance I was checking out Tsai’s Chinese Bistro in the same shopping plaza, but they were closed for a family emergency at the time. As I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed a bubble tea place and thought I might pop in to get some milk tea. However, when I looked closer at the posters on the storefront windows I noticed that the place wasn’t just a typical boba shop, but a place selling Filipino baked goods. I was elated, especially since Filipino food was one of the foods I missed when I lived in Albuquerque.

That night I bought some pan de sal (Filipino style bread rolls) and vowed to come back for lunch later in the week. Fast forward to Saturday, a friend agreed to try the place and off we went for a quick Saturday lunch at Bubblicitea. When we arrived, we looked at the dozen or so food items, trying to determine with ones we wanted to eat the most. In the end we chose the following:

Chicken Adobo at Bubblicitea

Chicken Adobo at Bubblicitea

  • Chicken Adobo – The chicken was tender with a nice balance of soy sauce and vinegar, with neither overpowering the other. While bay leaves were also used, my only gripe is that their could have been more spices in the marinade. However, it was a good version of chicken adobo all in all.
Pancit Malabon at Bubblicitea

Pancit Malabon at Bubblicitea

  • Pancit Malabon – This is the first time I had this style of pancit which is native to the city of Malabon, in the northern coastal part of the Manila metropolitan area. The annatto gives the dish a distinct orange hue while the fish sauce and shrimp make the seafood taste prominent, in a fresh (not fishy) manner. The thicker noodles help absorb all the fat and oil of the dish and it was a delight to taste this style of pancit in comparison to the more simple (but still tasty) pancit bihon.
Pork Sisig at Bubblicitea

Pork Sisig at Bubblicitea

  • Pork Sisig – I loved this version of pork sisig. Like any good sisig dish I’ve had, the pork is crispy from the sizzling plate but still tender. The egg and thin slices of peppers helped round out the dish.
  • Halo Halo – Lastly, but certainly not least, we had the halo halo. As with most halo halos, there were a range of sweet treats that were mixed in this, from the ube ice cream to the bits of toffee to the sweet red beans. My only qualm is that perhaps there should have been more condensed milk to mix with the shaved ice, but all in all it was a sweet ending to the meal.

Given the relatively little number of Filipinos in Albuquerque, it was great to see a place like Bubblicitea serve some really tasty Filipino food that would match the quality of many places in Daly City and San Diego. While I do wish they served more items, it’s logical to have a limited number of things given the small kitchen and clientele (as of now). However, it’s certainly a place that all New Mexicans should go to for a taste of Filipino food!

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The Best Dim Sum In America (Part 1)

A little over a month ago, when I linked to my blog post on Red Egg on Facebook, I made a half-serious joke about how should I have a “dim sum bracket” akin to Nate Silver’s “Burrito Bracket” on his FiveThirtyEight site. The burrito bracket, as Silver explains, was born out of his love of burritos and his then-recent 2007 move to the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. He then started a food blog to document his search the best burrito in the neighborhood, NCAA March Madness style. However, his work for Baseball Prospectus and start of what would become FiveThirtyEight deferred his search in the middle of the bracket.

I was really captivated by Silver’s relaunch of the Burrito Bracket as a nationwide search to find out what was the “best” burrito in the country. Thus, I decided to actually launch my half-serious joke into a project to find the restaurant that serves the “best”  dim sum in the country (and when I mean dim sum, I mean the Cantonese style food and not others that may market itself as dim sum).

Egg Custard Tarts at Sea Harbour

Egg Custard Tarts at Sea Harbour

Of course, I don’t have Silver’s access to staff journalists, researchers, or a veritable selection committee of food journalists and celebrity chefs. However, I did have access to public access to crowd sourcing restaurant review sites, Chowhound discussion forums, and the online publications of numerous rankings of dim sum from various metropolitan areas. So I started similar to how Silver started his revived Burrito Bracket – Yelp.

Yelp scores and numbers of reviews may be a decent baseline, but even Silver himself acknowledges the potential flaws in Yelp. Renown Chinese food eater David Chan goes even further to describe the flaws of Yelp when searching for Chinese restaurants. Thus, I decided factor in other websites in creating my rankings, most notably Urbanspoon. Urbanspoon isn’t without its own flaws, but its another crowd sourcing restaurant view site used nationwide and I thought it would help balance some of the downsides of using Yelp. In addition, I factored in “bonus points” for the number of times a restaurant had been ranked as part of a list of best dim sum places in a metropolitan areas in the last two years by a food journalist and/or Chowhound. No ranking system is perfect, of course, but I thought that might be the best way in having a relatively objective rating system.

Critiques of the rating system (and scores for that matter) will be saved for another post, however, as I want to talk about some initial findings that I think are pretty fascinating in their own right.

In my search for the restaurant serving the best dim sum in America, I did a lot of scouring to find all these restaurants. All in all, I found at least 494 restaurants serving dim sum across 57 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. I got to 57 by searching for dim sum restaurants in both the 50 largest cities in America and the 50 largest metropolitan areas as defined by the Census Bureau. Honolulu falls below 50 in both categories, but has a significant population of those identifying as a person with Chinese descent so I included it too. In total, these metro areas account for 85% of all American residents that identify as Chinese in the 2010 census.

Dim sum restaurant v. number of Chinese residents scatterplot

Dim sum restaurant v. number of Chinese residents scatterplot

Afterward, I was curious to see the correlation between the amount of Chinese identified Americans in a metropolitan area and the amount of restaurants in the metropolitan area that serves dim sum. As you might think would be fairly logical, in general there is a pretty big correlation between the two. Using rudimentary and free statistics software by the website Alcula (as I don’t have access to SPSS, STATA, or other more sophisticated software), I found that the correlation coefficient between the two is pretty dramatic at 0.946 as you can see from the scatter plot above.

While that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, I was interested to see which metropolitan areas matched closest to the regression line and which were significant outliers. The two metropolitan areas that looked most in line were Washington, DC, at 13 restaurants serving dim sum in a population with 106,721 Chinese people, and Dallas-Fort Worth, at 8 restaurants serving dim sum in a population with 55,568 Chinese people. Beyond those two metropolitan areas, I would say a vast majority of the other metropolitan areas were pretty close to the region with just a few major outliers.

The few outliers, however, were pretty significant. The most significant outliers, in fact, looked to have a lot MORE restaurants serving dim sum than their Chinese population would otherwise suggest. The two biggest in this case were the San Francisco Bay Area, with 72 restaurants serving dim sum in an area with just 649,496 Chinese people, and Seattle, with 33 restaurants serving dim sum for an area with just 100,763 Chinese people. This can be explained by the fact that both cities retain significant numbers of people with ancestry from Guangdong Province and/or ties to Hong Kong. Furthermore, both cities not only retain a significant and vibrant Chinatown filled with Cantonese families, unlike their counterparts in places like Los Angeles or Washington, DC, but they also have suburban areas with a significant number of Cantonese families are restaurants, like Bellevue in Seattle and Millbrae in San Francisco.

Dim Sum at Koi Palace

Dim Sum at Koi Palace

In contrast to San Francisco and Seattle is New York City, which has only 53 restaurants serving dim sum in the metropolitan area that is home to 705,721 Chinese people. This can also be explained by Chinese immigration patterns as the predominant majority of Chinese people that have immigrated to New York since the Immigration Act of 1965 have been from non-Cantonese areas of China, especially from Fujian, Taiwan, and Zhejiang. While the core of what most people see as Manhattan’s Chinatown is still predominantly Cantonese, it is dwarfed by Flushing’s much more diverse pan-Chinese Chinatown and is even smaller in land area than the Fujianese side of Manhattan Chinatown, just east of Bowery and along East Broadway.

Sacramento and San Diego also have less places serving dim sum as their Chinese populations would indicate. As a native San Diegan, my theory is that many Chinese families are willing to drive a couple hours to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, for their fix of really good dim sum on any given three day weekend.

Regardless, I feel the best finding in all my research is that in nearly every major metropolitan area of the United States, you won’t be far from a place that serves dim sum, most of them at least decent. Even in Albuquerque, with just a few thousand Chinese people, I’m never really more than a 20 minute drive from eating dim sum at Ming Dynasty.

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O Ramen, Albuquerque

O Ramen
2114 Central Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

I’m not quite in Vancouver yet, but before I bombarded my blog with a number of posts from British Columbia, I wanted to take a brief detour to my current home of Albuquerque.

Ramen, as some of my friends may know, has become an absolute craze in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities in the past 7-8 years. While bowls of fresh, rich ramen have been a staple in Japan for a long time, David Chang’s Momofuku is often credited as sparking the proliferation of Japanese style ramen shops in the United States. The spread of ramen’s cult following has been huge in coastal cities, but it remained notable absent from Albuquerque and other inland cities, until now.

When I heard that there was Japanese style ramen in Albuquerque, I jumped to try it. I went on a date a few weeks ago to try the tonkatsu ramen (their deluxe ramen) and curry (but did not blog about it due to the birthday post backlog). Last week, a friend and I went for lunch where I was able to try their vegetarian ramen. Thoughts on the items below:

Deluxe Ramen

Deluxe Ramen

  • Deluxe ramen – excellent, rich, but not too thick, pork broth broth. The noodles were perfectly done and had the perfect amount. Unfortunately, while the chashu pork fat was melt in your mouth luxurious, the pork meat was dry and tough. I also liked the nori and the perfectly soft-boiled egg.
Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu Curry

  • Chicken Katsu Curry – The chicken was breaded very nicely, locking the tender juices of the chicken while having just enough crispiness for crunch. The curry was milder than I like (even for Japanese curry, which is more sweet than spicy), but you can tell that the curry was home made with small chunks of lightly pureed peas and other vegetables
Vegetarian Ramen

Vegetarian Ramen

  • Vegetarian Ramen – whoever says that vegetarian broth is always bland can use a lesson or two from O Ramen. There was a very rich, umami laden broth with a base of several tasty mushrooms, in addition to the herbs and seasoning on top. The tofu was nice and crispy too, though the breading became very soggy, very quickly in the broth (but that was to be expected). This bowl of ramen absolutely defeated my appetite and while I wanted to drink more of the broth and eat more noodles, I could not 3/4 of the way in.

The service is pretty good as well. There are generous refills of water and the check came just right after we finished the meal.

All in all, the quality of the ramen is arguably even better than lesser ramen crazed cities like San Diego and puts O Ramen near the top of my list of Albuquerque area eats.

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Pacific Paradise, Albuquerque

Pacific Paradise
3000 San Pedro Dr NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

During a recent search through the Chowhound forums, I discovered a thread that talked about authentic Sichuan in Albuquerque. That piqued my interest as previously the only authentic Chinese restaurants in Albuquerque that I knew and went to were either Cantonese or Taiwanese in flavor or influence. Truly authentic Sichuan (as opposed to the Taiwanese influenced Sichuan and Hunan that arrived in America in the 1970s) was something I only knew of in large cities with a lot of Chinese residents, like Los Angeles. Therefore I was very intrigued when a poster mentioned Pacific Paradise’s Sichuan menu and I had to go.

Pacific Paradise 1

When I entered Pacific Paradise, I was immediately hesitant. Essentially the restaurant bills itself as something tropical pan-Asian with Pacific Islander motifs and a menu made of Americanized Japanese and Chinese dishes, along with sushi. It was a visual representation of what I thought was everything wrong with Americanized appropriation of Asian food.

I requested the Sichuan menu, which the waiter immediately gave me, and immediately soothed some of my initial concerns. After a quick look at the menu I ordered dry sauteed green beans and spicy and aromatic diced chicken, hoping that these dishes would bring some of that authentic Sichuan flavor I’ve been missing in Albuquerque.

Pacific Paradise 2

About 15 minutes or so later, the dishes came out. The first dish were the green beans. The first bite immediately wiped out any fears developed by the kitschy decor. The green beans were sauteed very well with a lot of great flavor coming from ginger, shallots, and garlic caramelized to near perfection. The chicken came out next and the deep fried exterior of the chicken caught me off guard. Nonetheless it was quite tasty and the aromatic flavors of the dried chiles, sichuan peppercorns, and peanuts were well infused. It was definitely spicy, though I did wish it had even more spicy notes from the sichuan peppercorns. The peppercorns did not overpower and numb my mouth as it should do, though I don’t know if that didn’t happen because the dishes were dry fried or whether I should have ordered in Chong Qing style at the next spice level up.

Pacific Paradise 3

Service was fantastic with my waiter filling my glass of water copiously, which is essential when I am eating Sichuan cuisine.

All in all, the sichuan food here was better than I had ever imagined for Albuquerque. While I do wish there was a little more mala spicy flavor, the Sichuan menu is worlds better than the offerings I saw on their regular menu. I just wish the restaurant would do a better job highlighting there hidden gem of a menu.

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Viet Taste, Albuquerque

Viet Taste
5721 Menaul Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

Two weeks ago I needed a quick, cheap lunch to fill me that was close to the mall. Since I have been to both Pho Nguyen and Kim Long, I decided to go to the third, and last, Vietnamese restaurant in the area: Viet Taste.

I entered the restaurant at about 2:30 in the afternoon and was ready to eat. Since it was blistering hot outside, I skipped over the pho options and headed straight for the Com Tam (Broken Rice) plates. After taking a quick look, I decided to order the rice plate with pork chop and pork skin.

Viet Taste

After about 10-15 minutes, my food came out and something immediately struck me: this was no ordinary Vietnamese grilled pork chop. Normally Vietnamese grilled pork chops I’m used to are thinner with a rich, dark brown marinade. Instead, it came out dark red, similar to Cantonese style char siu (barbeque pork). Intrigued and hungry, I sliced away and the barbeque turned out to be pretty good and similar to a very lightly roasted char siu. The pork chop wasn’t rich in flavors from the sauce, but the meat with slight coloring, caramelization, and flavoring of the skin gave it a light, but good flavor. It was just slightly overcooked, but all in all not bad. It didn’t hurt that there was a lot of meat in the pork chop too. The pork skins were pretty good and less salty than usual, which I liked. The fish sauce could have been a little stronger, but all in all it cut through the dryness of the pork skin and the density of the pork chop very well.

Service was great as well, despite the unusually busy dining room on a Sunday mid-afternoon. Ice water glasses came out fast and were refilled very frequently.

As a bonus to this dining experience, I overheard a conversation at the next table over where two non-Asian parents told their child to eat the slice of daikon on their plate. The parents described daikon as “white carrot” which I found amusingly appropriate, given that carrots are “red daikon” in Cantonese. Viet Taste may not be the best Vietnamese restaurant in Albuquerque, but it’s a solid contender with some of the most delightfully interesting conversations in town.

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Sushi King, Albuquerque

Sushi King
118 Central Ave SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

I have driven by Sushi King many, many times on the way to work and back but I never had the chance to go inside. I decided to take the opportunity at lunch today given that I had no food in my fridge. At about 1:30, after having slept in past daylight savings time from an exhaustive, but fun, trip to the Democratic pre-primary convention yesterday, I drove down Central to satisfy my curiosity.

It was surprisingly busy, given the time of day on a Sunday, but there were enough tables empty that my server told me to sit wherever I liked. I sat down and took a look at the sushi menu as well as their regular menu, which were both surprisingly short compared to Asian restaurants in the area who love to inundate you with options. The menu was quite simple and limited to only sushi, noodles, and Japanese curry. Seeing that the type of Japanese noodles I really wanted to taste was not on the menu (ramen), I decided to forsake both the sushi and noodles by ordering Japanese curry with chicken.

Sushi King 1

Now, Chinese and Japanese curry are a little bit different than the curries you would find at an Indian or Thai restaurant. One, Chinese and Japanese curry are less spicy to the point of being what most of us would call mild. Two, Chinese and Japanese curry is fairly simple in that it consistently has three main ingredients aside from the curry: a choice of meat, potato chunks, and cooked medium slices of carrots. Occasionally some places and homes will add onions.

The curry came out in a medium sized bowl with curry that was more like a soup than a thick gravy/paste that I have seen at other Japanese place. Upon tasting the curry, I realized that the problem was the overuse of water, which basically made the dish bland. The chicken, potatoes, and carrots were definitely cooked well, but the curry flavor was not as rich as I was used to. The rice, however, was well cooked and had a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, which I liked.

Sushi King 2

I should mention that I also ordered 2 pieces of inari (the bean curd skin roll), which they did pretty well. It was tightly wrapped with a very good chunk of well packed sushi rice and a piece of dried seaweed rolled around it in the middle. It’s probably the best inari I have had in years, much better than the laziness of some restaurants which just dollop rice in the fold of the bean curd skin, plop it down on a plate, and call it a day.

In terms of service, the server could have done better. The server was very pleasant and efficient, but not as aware and understanding as I would have hoped. While I was waiting for food, I was asked to move to a smaller table because they were notified that a table of 5 was coming in. This is despite the fact that the restaurant wasn’t very full and I was asked to sit wherever I liked in the beginning. Albeit, this incident could be more about recognizing and checking my privilege given that this isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The server could have refilled waters though. I did notice the water glasses of other tables equally parched, yet lacking attention.

All in all, my experience was mediocre, but it seems like I should have headed the restaurant’s advice when the sign explicitly says “sushi and noodles”. Perhaps next time I will have a better experience when I order some nigiri along with a plate of yakisoba or bowl of udon.

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Sumo Sushi, Albuquerque

Sumo Sushi
800 3rd Street NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

A few months ago I gave a very disparaging review to Amerasia, Sumo Sushi’s sister restaurant which serves good, authentic Dim Sum as much as Taco Bell serves good, authentic Mexican food (though even that is generous to Amerasia). However, I had a pleasant experience in 2012 next door at Sumo Sushi and decided to go their yesterday when my fridge was absolutely bare and I was too tired to buy groceries and cook.

After parking in their gravel parking lot, I entered the restaurant and was promptly seated after a family of three. After a few minutes of serving the family ahead of me, my server gave me a glass of ice water and asked if I was ready to order. I asked for her recommendations on the Donburi and udon bowls, but she said “they’re different” and refused to give a recommendation because she “didn’t want me to complain later.” I was a little surprised at such a defensive response, but nonetheless I decided to go order salmon nigiri, inari (sushi rice wrapped in fried tofu), and Oyakodon (bowl of rice with simmered eggs, chicken, and vegetables).

Sumo Sushi 1

A bowl of complimentary miso soup and it was fairly generic, though nice given the brisk night. Then the nigiri and inari came. I was a little puzzled at only getting two inari pieces as I generally am used to three, but the inari was good if a little understuffed with rice. The salmon nigiri was decent with big pieces of salmon, albeit it wasn’t quite melt in your mouth good. The rice was a little dry and small, but all in all not bad. It could have used some freshly grated wasabi, but in general it’s rare to get fresh wasabi at any sushi restaurant that’s not high end and in a super big coastal city (and even then, you’ll likely get generic wasabi paste a lot anyway).

Sumo Sushi 2

The Oyakodon came last and was definitely redemption for the night. The broth mixed elegantly with the rice, with a slightly subtle but very clean and fresh flavor. It complimented the eggs, chicken, onion, and bell pepper slices as well. While clay pot rices of Chinese cuisine and bibimbap of Korean cuisine are divine in their own right, the Oyakodon here definitely reminded me why I liked donburi best among small mixed rice bowls in East Asian cuisine.

Once I was done, the second server refilled my water glass and cleared my table. Finally the bill was presented to me as the final seconds of the Duke-Syracuse NCAA men’s basketball were being played. It came to about $20, not including tip. While the service wasn’t great, the Oyakodon and the pleasant atmosphere more than made up for it. I’ll definitely be back again, but definitely not for the Dim Sum and hopefully with a different server.

As a side note, if you want to listen to an excellent NPR program episode on Japanese food, I recommend listening to this January episode of Good Food with Evan Kleiman.

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Amerasia, Albuquerque

800 3rd Street NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

First of all, let me say that this is NOT a review for Sumo Sushi (AmerAsia’s sushi joint next door). From my experience last year, Sumo Sushi is pretty good, and some place that I will have to review soon.

However, AmerAsia does not have a similarly glowing reputation, at least for me. Having eaten there last year when I was on the Michelle Lujan Grisham congressional campaign, I was not terribly impressed by their version of Dim Sum. Granted, I had gone there near closing so I may have not had a fair sampling. Therefore, I was willing to give AmerAsia another chance to wow me, especially given that some acquaintances have suggested their food.

AmerAsia 1

I sat down and ordered some water and hot green tea. After about 5 minutes, the hot tea arrived (not green tea but generic low-grade restaurant Jasmine tea) and the water. This, of course, should have been the first sign of deja vu. After another 5 minutes or so, a waitress came out with carts of Dim Sum items. I chose spareribs, siu mai, potstickers, and steamed fried bean curd, all things that could be found in more traditional Dim Sum parlors.

AmerAsia 2

Unfortunately, that was the only tenuous connection to a traditional Dim Sum parlor. The spareribs were very dry and nearly devoid of flavor except the pieces near the bottom with some black bean paste. There “siu mai” was filled with tiny bits of chicken and sticky brown rice. It was mushy and not pleasant to eat, at least not compared to succulent pork siu mai I could get at, say, Ming Dynasty. The bean curd was also relatively lacking in flavor and overcooked becoming mushy instead of having a slightly crispy, chewy outside texture. The potstickers suffered from the same ailments of the spareribs, with thick and bland skin and a very dry and not very tasty pork and ginger filling. Not even pouring some hot chili oil saved it. Near the end of my meal, I decided to get a small item of spicy noodles with beef, the one decent item I remembered from my previous trip. That item was decent, though very oily.

To add insult to injury, the tab came out to $19.50, far more than what I would pay at Ming Dynasty for better prepared and more authentic items. The service also continued to be slow, with my water refilled only near the end. While I do applaud their attempt to bring Dim Sum to Albuquerque, their attempt is sub-par and deceptive. If Burquenos truly want to try some Dim Sum, please go to Ming Dynasty – which is as close as authentic Cantonese style Dim Sum as you’ll get in the Land of Enchantment.

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Que Huong, Albuquerque

Que Huong
7010 Central Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108

Don’t get me wrong, I love beef pho, but there’s something more subtle and light about chicken pho that makes me crave it a lot. Unfortunately, not a lot of places have good chicken pho. Sometimes it’s not that great because they just throw chicken into a pot of the beef pho broth with noodles and call it a day (instead of making their own chicken pho broth). Other times they don’t marinate the chicken well or use slices of chicken that would be more apt in a chicken stir fry. That’s not to say that these versions of chicken pho are bad (often times these versions are still delicious because if you can do beef pho right – it’s still good), but they won’t rise to the level of my most beloved pho shop – Pho Nyugen Hue which is well beloved for it’s beef and chicken pho.

Since Que Huong has a reputation as one of the best of Albuquerque’s many Vietnamese restaurants, I had to see how good their chicken pho is, especially knowing their beef pho is pretty good. Once I entered the restaurant I sat down and got to ordering, one large bowl of chicken pho and one order of egg rolls.

Que Huong rolls

The egg rolls came out first, as is usual. They were nice and crunchy with a good filling of meat, shredded carrots, and cooked cellophane noodles. The sizes were good too, not too big as I have seen them at StreetFood Asia but not too small like some other Vietnamese restaurants around town. Of course, as usual I am disappointed by the lack of accompaniment of more lettuce, fresh herbs, and pickled daikon to go with my egg rolls which I’m used to in California and Colorado. However, this is typical of nearly all Albuquerque Vietnamese restaurants and I certainly can’t fault Que Huong on what is a relatively small thing to have a disagreement over.

Que Huong pho

The pho came out next in a bowl that is even large by my standards. There was plenty of chicken and plenty of noodles, so I dug in right away. The noodles were done fantastically, with a good texture that was chewy yet soft. The broth was good as well, though it seemed like they did use some beef broth in it. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker but in other places this could overpower the more light and subtle flavors of chicken. For the chicken itself, it was shredded white meat, which was good if a little overcooked and too chewy.

The service, as always, was warm and hospitable. Clearly I am started to frequent the place a bit as it’s now become the fourth Asian restaurant to know me as a regular. However, the servers were very pleasant, refilling my glass of water fairly regularly and allowing me to switch the TV station, if only to watch my hometown Chargers lose.

All in all Que Huong is a great restaurant with good food. Their beef pho is definitely better than their chicken pho, but their variation of chicken pho isn’t bad. Next time I will try their version of Vietnamese style wonton noodle soup and see how that stacks up.

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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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