Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Quick Taste of Albuquerque

This Man is Amazing!!

We walk into Asian Noodle Bar—one of our favorite restaurants anytime, anywhere—at the height of lunch hour and are greeted by Mike (shown in this photo from last year).

“Hello. How are you doing? How are your travels?” Now it has been ten months since we last were in Albuquerque and not only did Mike remember us, but he remembered what we usually order.

As he showed us to a table, he asked
“How many orders of the Asian Shrimp? And the Gyoza?” We felt as if we had never left. But today, we were going to throw Mike a curve ball. Certainly, we would order the shrimp, but on this occasion we would venture further into the menu.

We took a table by a cabinet filled with Asian curios and Kitty Humbug tried to put the moves on the ceramic female cat. With no success, I might add.

We opened the menu and began the complicated process of deciding what to order with the Asian Shrimp. Finally, our choices were made.

To start, we shared an order of the shrimp along with the calamari appetizer. What new can I say about Asian Noodle Bar’s Asian Shrimp? This may be the finest shrimp preparation anywhere. The coating is paper thin. The shrimp are perfectly cooked. And the drizzle of sweet chile sauce complements the fresh sweetness of the shrimp.

Neither of us recalls our ordering Asian Noodle Bar’s calamari, but this is an oversight that won’t be repeated. While the serving was all rings, they were so perfectly cooked that I didn’t miss the tentacles. Again, the coating was ultra thin and there was nary a chewy or tough piece on the plate.
They came with the same chile sauce that graced the shrimp along with a creamy wasabi sauce.

For our second course, we ordered—yes, again—the Asian Shrimp for Chuck. And I went off on a tangent of my own. For some reason, Green Papaya Salad pops up on about a quarter of the food programs I watch. I have never tried it and today would be the day.

“Green papaya salad is a Northeastern Thai/Lao/Cambodian spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya…. It was listed at number 46 on World's 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.

“The dish combines the four main tastes of the local cuisine: sour lime, hot chili, salty, savory fish sauce, and sweetness….The ingredients are mixed and pounded in a mortar; the Thai name som tam literally translates as ‘sour pounded.’ The Khmer and Laotian names, bok l'hong and tam mak hoong, respectively, both literally mean ‘pounded papaya’” (

The green papaya is cut into long stands that resemble spaghetti and then is tossed with the dressing. I had the chance to specify the degree of spicy and, knowing that papaya salad is considered one of Thailand’s spiciest dishes, chose medium. At that it was still mouth searing. All of the flavor components were there—salty, sweet, sour, hot—but the hot predominated. And this is me—the fire eater—speaking here.

I enjoyed the salad. I am glad I ordered the salad. Next time, I’ll stick with the gyoza.

Asian Noodle Bar remains one of our favorite Albuquerque restaurants and will always—we hope—retain its 5.0 Addie status.

Now What Happened Here?

As with Asian Noodle Bar, no trip to Albuquerque is complete without a breakfast at Sophia’s Place. Knowing that the place is packed on weekends, this time we chose a weekday visit and found the restaurant almost empty.

I almost always order the breakfast burrito smothered in green chile. For me, the only decision is the choice of meat—steak or carnitas. This time it was the carnitas.

I have always considered Sophia’s green chile to be the zenith of green chiles and the green by which I judge all others. What happened? This version was watery and had none of the bright fruity taste that I remembered. What a disappointment!

I can’t fault the burrito itself. It was huge and stuffed with pork carnitas, potatoes (more about those later), and egg. At Sophia’s, the amount of meat dwarfs the potatoes and egg.

Chuck chose the breakfast tacos which were basically corn tortillas topped with scrambled eggs (rather dry) and accompanied by beans, some salad greens, and the restaurant’s famous breakfast potatoes.
I have always been fond of Sophia’s version of home fries but here again they disappointed. In the past, they had been lightly dusted with a bit of powdered red chile. But this time it was like a haboob of chile had blown through the kitchen.

So what did happen? Was it just an off day? Was there a new cook? Was my memory faulty? Whatever, this meal doesn’t earn more than 2.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

We topped off our brief stay in Albuquerque with a lunch with Chuck's cousin Jack and his wife Linda at the St. Clair Winery and Bistro.

Conversation covered a number of topics and resulted in Chuck forgetting to take photos of a very satisfying meal.

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