Casa Chimayo – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Casa Chimayo on West Water Street in Santa Fe

Chimayó is one of the most mythologized, misunderstood—
and, some would say, maligned—places in New Mexico.
On one hand, it holds a place in popular imagination as the Lourdes of America,
a reference to the annual Good Friday pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayó,
a nineteenth-century church. New Mexicans and visitors from afar also celebrate
Chimayó’s weaving tradition, the potently flavorful chile grown there,
and the local restaurant, where margaritas compete with the church’s holy dirt as a tourist draw.

~ Postcard From New Mexico: Don Usner’s Chimayo

Named for the Tewa Indian word describing one of four sacred hills overlooking the verdant valley on the foothills of the Sangre De Cristos, Chimayó may be only 26 miles from Santa Fe and 52 miles from Taos, but in some ways seems further removed by time than by distance.  While its aforementioned counterparts have transitioned to artsy and cosmopolitan service and tourism economies, Chimayó has had a harder time moving away from its pastoral-agricultural sustenance roots.  

Where Santa Fe and Taos may be imbued with rustic sophistication and  urbane trappings, Chimayó moves at a slower pace.  At the end of the day, neighbors still meet at the fence for some serious “mitote” time.  Close friends are referred to as “comadre” (female) and “compadre” (male), as familial a Hispanic term for endearment as there is.   Land owners work together to maintain the acequias, the communal-ditch system which irrigates chile fields and apple orchards.  Chimayó is certainly not a village that time has forgotten, but one which beckons for a return to better times.

Casa Chimayo’s Dining Room

That’s the Chimayó in which Roberto Cordova fondly remembers being raised as a boy and for which he named his restaurant, Casa Chimayó.  Long before it was a restaurant, the nearly three-quarter century old adobe structure was a family home, the site of Roberto’s birth.  Though he was born in Santa Fe, Roberto spent his formative years in Chimayó where he learned traditions and culture from a very close extended family and the values of hard work from his grandparents.

Roberto traces his familial lineage back to Zacatecas, Mexico, from where his ancestors set off with other Spanish families to found and colonize the last Spanish frontier, the villages of Northern New Mexico prefacing the Sangre De Cristos.  Those settlers founded the villages of Santa Cruz, Quarteles, La Puebla, Chimayo, Rio Chiquito, Cordova, Cundiyo and Truchas, all still viable today.  These pioneering families also developed and perfected the now famous Chimayó chile.  Their descendants continue to plant and harvest this chile, annually surmounting Chimayó’s hot summer days, cool nights and unpredictable water availability to produce a delicious bounty.

Chile Relleno En Nogada

The edifice housing Casa Chimayó has long served as a restaurant, most recently hosting Los Mayas which shuttered its doors to begin the new year of 2011.  Rather than leasing to another prospective restaurant, the Cordova family decided to share their family’s culinary cultural heritage themselves by opening Casa Chimayó which launchd shortly after Los Mayas closed. 

From the outside, Casa Chimayó can’t help but resemble a long familiar enclave behind adobe walls.  If, however, you were familiar with Los Mayas, you’ll quickly discern the changes within the complex.  The entrance is now to your immediate left as you step into the walled courtyard.  The restaurant, a veritable museum, pays tribute to the community of Chimayó, honoring Roberto’s childhood home with vintage photographs and the incomparable weavings from the village.  The historic Santuario de Chimayó is well represented in art works as is another aspect of the village’s proud culture–the low-rider.

Salsa and Chips

On October 21st, 2013, the Food Network premiered an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives entitled “Aces of Authenticity.”  Casa Chimayó was one of two New Mexico restaurants showcased along with the incomparable Torinos @ Home in Albuquerque.  Host Guy Fieri chronicled the restaurant’s founding after Roberto’s retirement from government when his mamasita advised him to “open up a restaurant, hire some cooks and I’ll teach them how to cook our way.”  Our way is the traditional New Mexican way, the way his ancestors did it.

The menu forewarns that red or green, the chile is hot, apprising that a milder alternative is available in the “ranchero” sauce.  Casa Chimayó proudly serves sun-dried red chile pods and fresh, roasted green chile that is peeled in-house.  Both red and green chiles are grown and harvested by local farmers.  The only item in which cumin is used is the “Mercedes Posole,” described as “prize-winning red chile, hominy and pork stew often served when celebrating life’s blessings.”  You’ll find out quickly that a meal at Casa Chimayó is one of life’s blessings.

CasaChimayo06

Carne Adovada with an egg over medium, rice and beans

22 April 2018: Jerry Seinfeld quipped “Salsa is the number one condiment in America! You know why? People like to say salsa.” With all due respect to the comedian who eats his salsa in cars, salsa is the number one condiment in America because it’s the best condiment in America. Though most restaurants no longer offer complimentary salsa and chips, for many of us the notion of a New Mexican or Mexican meal without this dynamic duo is unthinkable. Casa Chimayo’s chips and salsa is a four dollar plus indulgence, but it’s money well spent. The salsa has a discernible bite and fresh flavors. It’s served with crispy, thick chips fashioned from fried flour tortillas. You’ll go through at least two bowlfuls of the beloved condiment before you run out of chips.

22 April 2018: As with its predecessor Los Mayas, Casa Chimayó offers chiles rellenos en nogada, which stellar food writer Lesley Tellez describes as “a living piece of Mexican history.”  The dish was invented by nuns in Puebla, Mexico in 1821.  Similar to how the Margherita pizza showcases the colors of the Italian flag, chiles rellenos en nogada feature the colors of the Mexican flag: a green poblano chile stuffed with sundry ingredients such as dry fruits, a creamy walnut sauce (white) atop of which pomegranate seeds (red) are tossed.  Because the flag of Mexico was first unfurled at about the same time, this dish evokes patriotic fervor among Mexicans.

CasaChimayo07

Pollo en Mole Rojo

Among New Mexicans such as my friend Skip Muñoz and I, the dish evokes involuntary salivation.  Made correctly, it’s one of the most spectacularly diverse and delicious dishes you’ll find at any Mexican restaurant.  Casa Chimayó’s rendition, available on the appetizer menu, is one of the very best I’ve had, better even than Los Mayas.  A poblano pepper is engorged with slowly stewed sirloin, apricots, raisins, apple and orange nectar then adorned with cream cheese, cinnamon and walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds and piñon when in season.  There is no one flavor profile.  Instead you’ll enjoy a balance of several flavors playing off one another and providing flavor explosions with every bite.  It’s a dish raved about by the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host  Guy Fieri who visited Casa Chimayó in September, 2013.

27 December 2013: There are six quesadillas on the menu, all served with a side of salsa.  One of the more “New Mexican” of the half-dozen is made with cheese, calabasitas, corn and onions, the three latter ingredients a very popular  combination dish in both households and restaurants.  Interestingly the calabasitas are nearly al dente, retaining a delightfully crispy texture.  The accompanying salsa, made from fire-roasted tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapeños is fresh and invigorating.

Nuevo Mejico Lamb Chops

27 December 2013: The carne adovadasucculent pork marinated in a rich red Chimayó chile and spices (including a fresh Mexican oregano) then stewed slowly in its natural juices to a tender finish–is absolutely delicious.  Each tender tendril of porcine perfection is meant to be savored slowly  though it’s hard to hold back and not devour this delicious dish.  The Chimayó chile is piquant, but not overly so.  It’s also rich and earthy with complex notes and a silky, velvety texture.  The carne is accompanied by rice and whole pinto beans, the latter perhaps the best restaurant-made beans in Santa Fe, if not New Mexico.  These are beans made the way abuelitas have been preparing them for generations. 

27 December 2013: “Never the twain shall cross” is an adage which often seems applicable to New Mexican and Mexican restaurants.  It’s not every New Mexican restaurant which can cross over successfully and prepare Mexican food well…and vice versa.  Perhaps because of the family’s Zacatecas roots, the Mexican food is exemplary.  My love for the chiles rellenos en nogada is almost matched by my love for the enchiladas de pollo en mole rojo.  A citrus-marinated chicken breast is hand-shredded then sheathed by blue corn tortillas  covered in a complex mole sauce made with spices, peanuts and Mexican chocolate.  It’s a mole good enough to forgo New Mexican entrees.  That mean’s it’s special!

Natillas

22 April 2018: After the last war to end all wars, lamb chops went from fairly common family fare (at least in the west) to costly fine dining elegance.  Visit any high-end restaurant, particularly those specializing in chops, and you’ll find lamb chops are about as costly as premium cuts of steak.  Many of the lamb chops served in those palaces of prosperity serve lamb imported from New Zealand or Colorado.  For some reason, very scarce are those which offer grass-fed lamb raised in the Land of Enchantment.   Casa Chimayo is one such restaurant where the most beautiful lamb chops are available for dinner and Sunday brunch for about a third less than what you’d pay at a fine dining establishment.

Labeled “Nuevo Mejico (SIC) lamb chops and served two per order, they’re as succulent as any lamb chops anywhere.  Moreover they’re about an inch thick–or about twice the thickness of the “lollipop” version served at most hoity toity eateries.  The chef prepares them at rare though they do have a very nice sear on the outside.  If you can’t stand the sight of blood, you might want to ask for a higher degree of doneness.   They’re made even more red thanks to a red chile demi glace that gives them just a bit of bite. These chops are served with three Northern New Mexico standards–sauteed quelites (lambs quarters), pinto beans and chicos.  The latter are especially popular in Rio Arriba and Taos counties.  Chicos begin as an ear of field corn which is tied into ristras (strings) and hung to dry or alternatively roasted in an horno.   The kernels are then removed and stored until cooking time.  When cooked (boiled in water), they swell up to their former size and taste like freshly smoked corn.  In combination with pinto beans, they are magnificent!

Goat Milk Flan

27 December 2013: Desserts are oh, so New Mexican. Casa Chimayó is one of few New Mexican restaurants which serves sopa, a wonderful dish also known as caplrotada. By any name, sopa is a New Mexican bread pudding whose sweet notes are tempered by cheese, usually Cheddar. Served warm, it’s a very rich dessert, so much so that the natillas seem mildly sweet in comparison. The natillas, a custard dish made with milk and eggs, are slightly thicker than egg nog and sprinkled with cinnamon. 

22 April 2018:  I can count on one hand the restaurants which offer a flan that pleases my pedantic palate.  There’s Chef Estevan Garcia’s organic goat milk flan when he helmed Tabla De Los Santos, the silky smooth flan at Ben Michael’s Restaurant and the chocolate flan at Sandiago’s Mexican Grill.  Casa Chimayo’s goat milk flan makes four…and it might be the best of the lot.  The sugary caramel is lick-your-plate good while the goat milk lends an addictive sweet-sour flavor profile to a flan with the creamiest, dreamiest consistency of any flan ever.

Casa Chimayó is two blocks away from the Santa Fe Plaza and 32 miles from the pastoral village for which it’s named, but after one visit, it’ll be close to your heart.

Casa Chimayó
409 West Water Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 428.0391
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 22 April 2018
1st VISIT: 27 December 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Chile Relleno en Nogada, Quesadilla (Cheese, Calabasitas, Corn, Onions), Chips and Salsa, Nuevo Mejico Lamb Chops Carne Adovada, Pollo en Mole Rojo, Sopa, Natillas, Goat Milk Flan

Casa Chimayó Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thai Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Thai Kitchen on the Intersection of Alameda and Corrales

There is no good meat that their stupid cooks do not spoil with the sauce they make. They mix with all their stews a certain paste made of rotten prawns…which has such a pungent smell that it nauseates anyone not accustomed to it.”  No, that’s not a review published by a disgruntled diner on Zomato or Yelp.  Nor is it Gil describing a chile dish to which liberal amounts of cumin were added.  This scathing indictment was written in 1688 by Gervaise, a Catholic missionary from France.  It was his tactless way of describing a Siamese meal at a diplomatic function he attended.

Much has changed since Gervaise disparaged and insulted the cuisine of what is today Thailand, the only Southeast Asian country never to have been colonized by a European power.  Gervaise, who would probably attribute the failure to conquer Thailand to the food, was probably not the first and he certainly wasn’t the only person to have criticized Thai food, but few have expressed it with such derision.

My friends Bill Resnik and Bruce

My friends Bill Resnik and Sr. Plata enjoying the last of their beverages after an excellent meal

Gervaise would no doubt be very surprised to discover how popular Thai food has become in the three centuries since his unsavory encounter.  Thai food ranked sixth in a recent survey designed to gauge the popularity of international foods across the world.  What’s most amazing about its popularity is that before the 1960s, Thai food wasn’t widely available outside Thailand’s borders.  That changed during the Vietnamese War when a large number of foreigners came to Thailand and were exposed to Thai food and culture. 

To accommodate pockets of Thai immigrants to America missing their beloved cuisine, small Thai restaurants began opening up in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.   By the early 1900s, there were more than 200 Thai restaurants in Los Angeles alone.   When my Kim and I moved back to New Mexico in 1995, we could count on one hand all the Thai restaurants in Albuquerque.  Today the Duke City boasts of some 23 restaurants serving Thai cuisine.  Among the elder statesmen, established in 1995, is Siam Cafe which, going into its second decade, remains one of the city’s most popular Thai restaurants.

Tod Mun Plar (Fish Cakes)

May, 2014, saw the launch of Thai Kitchen on the northwest corner of the Alameda and Corrales intersection. The opening of a new Thai restaurant is reason enough for celebration, but even more so when the new Thai restaurant is the younger sibling of Siam Cafe, progenitor of some of the most enticing fragrances in town.   Thai cuisine aficionados will recognize the familiar smiling face of Art, the long-time host at Siam Cafe.  While his sister continues to own and operate Siam Cafe, Art is bringing the family operation to the burgeoning west side.

The Thai Kitchen is located at the former site of the Saffron Tiger Express, a popular Indian fast casual restaurant.  The most striking exterior feature of the Thai Kitchen is the steeple-shaped letter “A” on the word “Thai.”  It’s very representative of Thai architecture.  The restaurant’s interior may be the most beautiful of any Thai restaurant in town, a melange of soft, bright colors and dark masculine woods.  A statue of Buddha is poised on the capacious bar facing the seating area, a mix of booths and tables with good spacing.

Chicken Satay

Thai Kitchen’s menu is replete with many of the same items featured at Siam Cafe.  Alas, Art and his staff apparently don’t watch the Big Bang Theory because the menu doesn’t include mee krob, the favorite Thai dish of wunderkind Sheldon Cooper.   Because of the Big Bang Theory’s popularity, mee krob has become one of the most heavily requested items at Thai restaurants.  So has another Sheldon favorite, chicken satay with extra peanut sauce which can be found on the Thai Kitchen’s menu.

30 May 2014: You won’t lament the absence of mee krob for very long because there’s so much else to enjoy.  Start with Tod Mun Plar, one of the most popular appetizers in Thailand.  A deep-fried fishcake (tilapia) mixed with curry paste and fresh herbs, it’s served with a sweet-tangy cucumber salad, a surprisingly effective foil for the strong flavors of the thinly pounded fishcake. Tod mun plar seems to be an acquired taste among many diners. Though it’s among my favorite Thai appetizers, very few of my dining companions enjoy it so I end up being “stuck” with finishing it all (choruses of “awwww” here).

Tod Mun Plar (Fish Cakes)

Green Curry with Beef

22 August 2014: Shelton Cooper’s beloved chicken satay with extra peanut sauce is on the Thai Kitchen.  After a marinade in Thai spices and coconut cream, thinly-sliced chicken breasts are grilled on wooden skewers in a shish kebab fashion.  Four skewers of golden-hued chicken “Popsicles” are served with a traditional Thai peanut dipping sauce and a cucumber salad.  The contrast between the pungent, smoky satay and the sweet peanut sauce provides a nice balance of flavor though you should exercise restraint with the peanut sauce as too much will make the satay dessert sweet.  The cucumber salad is even sweeter. For better results, try the satay sans sauce.

30 May 2014: During an April, 2014 visit to Butcher & Bee in Charleston, South Carolina, this avowed Dagwood clone eschewed  a sandwich in favor of larb at one of the highest rated sandwich shops in America. Made well, Larb, the very popular “cooked salad” typically found on the menu at Thai and Lao restaurants, is better than almost anything.  Larb is essentially a meat dish, most often made with minced or ground beef, pork or chicken with healthful elements of a salad.  The Thai Kitchen’s larb is made with grilled chopped chicken, mint, cilantro, Thai chiles, greens, lime juice and fish sauce.  It’s a very refreshing salad with qualities that’ll make your mouth tingle with appreciation.

Larb

Larb

30 May 2014: During my inaugural visit to any Thai restaurant it doesn’t matter what the acknowledged specialty of the house is, I’m going to order a curry dish. Thai curry offers some of the most olfactory-arousing fragrances of any dish.   Prepared well, its flavors deliver on the promises made by the fragrances which precede it.  Thai Kitchen’s green curry certainly delivers on its aromatic promises, but not as much on the renowned Thai heat.  At “Thai hot” as I ordered it, the curry should have been the overpowering taste sensation.  Instead, the green curry delivered on yet another promise of Thai cuisine–that of balance.  With a harmony of flavors, the green curry was sweet, sour, spicy, salty and pungent, not in equal measures, but with good balance.  It’s a very good green curry. 

22 August 2014: The one curry which tends to appeal even to avowed curry haters is Massaman curry which, unless otherwise requested, is milder than other curries.  It’s also sweeter thanks to the influx of coconut milk, cardamom, cinnamon and sugar.  Xenophobes might be interested to know that one spelling of this curry is derived from an ancient form of the word “Muslim” and in fact, this dish is often referred to as “Muslim curry” in some areas.  It was indeed Muslim traders who brought the spices used in the dish from India and the Middle East to the southern portion of modern day Thailand.  Thai Kitchen’s version includes potatoes, tomatoes and your choice of pork, chicken, beef, tofu or vegetables.  The fragrance emanating from a bowl of Massaman curry is equal to the tongue-titillating flavors of this excellent elixir.

Spicy Jungle Noodle

21 April 2018: In his first four visits to Thai Kitchen, my friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver was so besotted by the spicy jungle noodle dish that he had yet to order any other entree.  It’s a dish as exotic as its name and even more delicious: flat noodles, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and your choice of chicken, beef or pork infused with Thai spices which impart sweet, savory and piquant taste sensations.  The wide, flat noodles are absolutely perfectly prepared and the vegetables are al dente and fresh. As with the aforementioned green curry, “hot” is discernible, but at this Thai restaurant, pain is not a flavor.  Even my Kim who eschews fiery foods is able to handle the heat on this delicious dish.

21 April 2018: The very first time I saw Pad Krapow on a Thai restaurant menu, my mind conjured recollections of the campy 1960s Batman television series in which the Batman character had less muscular definition as Joe Average.  “Kapow” was one of the animated sound effects used when Batman punched an evildoer.   Since then it’s become my go-to Thai dish on the rare occasion in which curry cravings aren’t calling.  Pad Krapow, a magnificent dish which translates to “wok fried” (Pad) “holy basil” (Krapow) is one of the most fragrant of all dishes in a culinary culture in which virtually all dishes are fragrant.  “Holy basil,” a versatile herb with medicinal properties, isn’t used on Thai Kitchen’s version, but it is made with traditional stir-fried hot basil, sweet basil, bell peppers, chili, garlic, yellow onions, green onions, mushrooms and your choice of protein (chicken, beef, pork, tofu and vegetables).   The fragrant bouquet of this wok-fried classic envelops you from the moment it arrives at your table until you enjoy the last morsel.  Fresh mushrooms are another highlight.

Pad Krapow

21 April 2018: As happy as the prospect of wonderful savory Thai dishes made us, a small sign on the window announcing mangoes with sweet rice made us frenzied with excitement.  We should have ordered this seasonal dessert as an appetizer or at the very least, ordered one each of this outstanding dessert.  Mangoes with sweet rice drizzled with coconut milk is quite simply one of the best desserts in the world especially when the mangoes are at their peak of freshness as they were during our visit.  Flecked between the white sticky rice are long grains of Thai purple rice which has a sweet profile. 

Sweet Rice and Mango

Gervaise would probably have found a myriad of things not to like about the Thai Kitchen (you can’t please some people), but most Duke City diners will thoroughly enjoy the Thai Kitchen, especially if they also love Siam Cafe.

Thai Kitchen
1071 Corrales Road, N.W., Suite 23
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 890-0059
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 21 April 2018
1st VISIT: 30 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: Spicy Noodle Jungle, Tod Mun Plar, Green Curry, Larb, Massaman Curry, Pork Satay, Penang Curry, Pad Krapow, Sweet Rice and Mango

Thai Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine – Albuquerque, New Mexico

528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine Includes Albuquerque’s First-Ever Burmese Cuisine

No lady likes to snuggle and dine accompanied by a porcupine.”
He lit a match to check gas tank.  They call him skinless Frank.”
A man, a miss, a car, a curve.  He kissed the miss and missed the curve.”
Within this vale of toil and sin, your head goes bald but not your chin.”
Henry the Eighth sure had trouble.  Short-term wives, long-term stubble.”

Some of the more seasoned among us might remember that one of the best ways to break up the drudgery of traveling long distances on monotonous two-lane highways was to look for Burma Shave billboards.  Humorous five-line poems adorned red signs one line at a time, each line in white capitalized blocked letters about 100-feet apart.  The last line of each poem was the much anticipated punchline followed by a sign bearing the obligatory name of the then-popular shaving cream.   New Mexico was one of a handful of states not to benefit from this highly visible and very successful advertising medium.  Apparently our highways and byways were deemed to have insufficient road traffic to warrant the billboards.

As a precocious child yet to revel in hours-long explorations of the family encyclopedias, my limited knowledge of “Burma” came from my dad, the smartest man I’ve ever been blessed to know.  Even he couldn’t tell me if the shaving cream he himself used was actually developed in Burma.  In fact, he knew very little about the Southeast Asian country bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand.  No one in my then limited circle knew much about Burma either (remember this was long before the internet was a glimmer in Al Gore’s eyes, back when the only “Google” was spelled “googol” and represented the number one followed by a hundred zeroes.

Lilliputian in Size, Huge in Flavors

Over the years, of course, my knowledge of Burma (much like my waistline) has increased.  Burma was on the world stage in 1989 when a ruling and violent military regime changed its name from Burma to Myanmar and its capital city from Rangoon to Yangon.  Though the United Nations officially recognized the name change, the United States and the United Kingdom still have not (although during his 2012 visit President Obama did refer to the country as Myanmar on at least one occasion).  While the despotic military junta was dissolved and a nominally civilian government was formed in 2010, a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign triggered a massive human rights and humanitarian crisis in 2017.

My culinary knowledge of Burmese cuisine, however, has long been lacking.  I’ve always assumed that Burmese cuisine is similar to the cuisine of its bordering nations, perhaps with some country-specific nuances thrown in.  Immediately obvious from the time my culinary explanations began in earnest (circa 1977 Massachusetts), was that Crab Rangoon (despite its name) was not created in the Burmese capital.  So, despite having consumed a fair share of Crab Rangoon over the years, until my inaugural visit to 528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine on 4th Street (thank you Beth Porter), my taste buds were strangers to the diverse and flavorful foods of the storied nation.

Myanmar Style Pork and Pickled Mango Curry

528 Sushi & Asian Food is (to my knowledge) the first Duke City restaurant to offer even a modicum of Burmese food.  Some of that can be attributed to the country’s long seclusion from the world community (film maker Robert Liebermanhe once described Burma as the “second most isolated country in the world after North Korea.)”  As its name declares, the restaurant serves both sushi and Asian food.  The latter is a rather broad umbrella, but it’s readily apparent from scanning the menu over the counter that the umbrella includes Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and of course, Japanese sushi. My eyes targeted dishes prefaced with “Myanmar style.”

You’ve probably surmised that the name “528”  has nothing to do with Highway 528 which runs through Rio Rancho.  The significance of the number 528 is borne from Buddha’s teachings of “metta” or loving-kindness.  “528” is used to symbolize the love within a family while the number “ 1500”  symbolizes love between partners.   That’s the way a very friendly, very shy young lady behind the counter explained it to me.  She also did her best to explain the Burmese dishes on the menu, going so far as warning me that not everyone likes the strong Indian curry used in the first dish that caught my fancy.

Spicy Vegetables Stuffed Fish Cake

13 April 2018: That would be the Myanmar style pork and pickled mango curry.  Perhaps the last dish to surprise me as much because of its sheer uniqueness was the Tortillas Florales with Indian Butter from Eloisa in Santa Fe.  Talk about a pleasant surprise!  After recently being subjected to a cavalcade of cloying curry dishes, I’d expected pretty much the same.  Instead, this was the most unique curry dish I’ve had in years, a melding of culinary cultures and techniques: pungent Indian curry, piquant Asian red chili, aromatic cilantro, potatoes reminiscent of those on Mussaman curry and of course, the sweet and mostly sour mango, all served with rice.  Every element was complementary, every bite delicious.

13 April 2018: Just as unique is the Myanmar style spicy vegetables stuffed fish cake appetizer, another theretofore new to me surprise.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Surprises abounded, starting from the piquant-citrus fragrance wafting from the dish, a bouquet very reminiscent of my favorite papaya salad from An Hy Quan.  The fish cakes were the color of scallops and were split in half butterfly style.  They weren’t so much stuffed as “vegetables” (mostly julienne carrots, cabbage and cilantro)  inserted into the butterflied center of each fish cake and tossed with a piquant citrus sauce.  Texturally, the fish cakes somewhere between marshmallow soft and chewy.  Altogether, this is a terrific dish, one which must be experienced to be appreciated.

Samosas

18 April 2018:  It’s always thrilling to run into culinary kindred spirits at restaurants you recommend.  John and Zelma Baldwin, globetrotters and gastronomes who have actually set food in Burma, not only visited 528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine because they read about it on Gil’s Thrilling…, they actually ordered what I recommended.   It made me very happy to see them enjoy dishes new to them and even moreso watching them study the menu as they planned what to order their next visit or five.  528 is the type of restaurant which inspires return visits.  One visit is certainly not enough when the menu is as diverse and delicious as this one.

18 April 2018: My introduction to the many of the foods of the exotic Indian subcontinent actually took place in England where our discoveries included chicken tiki masala (a dish actually invented in Scotland) and samosas.  Samosas are so beloved in England that one of the wealthiest women in the country got her start making and selling samosas from her home.  We contributed greatly to her wealth.  Samosas, triangular pastries stuffed with sundry items, are wonderful hand-held appetizers offered at many an Indian and East African restaurant.  528’s rendition is stuffed with potatoes, onions and cilantro served with a sweet-piquant chili sauce.  At five to an order, you’ll delight in biting through the crisp pastry to get to the soft potatoes-onions.

Myanmar Style Coconut Soup with Noodles

18 April 2018: After recently experiencing a cloying Thai curry dish redolent with coconut milk made even sweeter thanks to the probable addition of a spoonful or ten of sugar, 528’s Myanmar-style coconut soup with noodles (chicken, fish cake, egg, onion, coconut cream, noodles, crunchy noodles) redeemed my faith in savory coconut dishes.  Even without the curry of my cravings, this is a fabulous soup, reminiscent in some respect of ramen soups (courtesy of the hard-boiled eggs and slurp-worthy noodles).  While coconut milk is the basis for Thai curries, this Myanmar-style paragon of deliciousness is made with coconut curry which is much thicker and richer.  Sweet notes did emanate from the soup, but not dessert-sweet as some Thai curries tend to be.

20 April 2018:  Beth Porter describes the egg drop soup with noodle as “one of the best dishes in a long time. Ultimate Comfort food with great flavor.”  After prompting my first, second and third visits, Beth could recommend a brackish bowl of muddy water and I’d try it.  Thankfully the spicy and sour egg drop soup is much better than muddy water.  It’s better, in fact, than every variation of hot and soup soup in New Mexico save for perhaps the one served at the Pop-Up Dumpling House.  Served piping hot and redolent with sour notes, it’s a superb soup.  It’s also a rarity in that it combines  delicate, subtle egg drop with assertive, in-your-face spicy-and-sour and it works well.  528 offers everything from egg drop soup to Tom Yum Soup, all priced well south of a ten-spot.

Spicy and Sour Egg Drop Soup

20 April 2018:  Perhaps the only lamentable aspect of my visits to 528 has been seeing all the menu items crossed off the menu because they’re just weren’t moving.  The ten item appetizer section of the menu includes several items bearing Malcom’s last name (X).  One of the remaining items is pork balls (not pictured), eight pork meatballs served with a piquant sauce.  Each about the size of a small jawbreaker candy, they’re tinged with five spice, perhaps the most harmonious quitumvirate of spices available with notes of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Szechwan peppercorns.

20 April 2018:  Save for the Chinese sausage fried rice at  Ming Dynasty, I long ago gave up on finding great fried rice in the Duke City area. Fortunately my friend Bill Resnik doesn’t give up as easily. With Marco Polo-like passion, he persists in his search for a fabulous fried rice. He found two at 528: the Indian-style fried rice and the spicy fried rice.  The latter is in rarefied air, right up there with Ming Dynasty’s transformative Chinese sausage fried rice.  It’s got most of the same components (rice, egg, onion, garlic, tomato, bok-choy, carrot, green peas, pepper) of other fried rice dishes we’ve had, but unlike others, it’s not clumpy, gummy and starchy.  Every grain is impregnated with stir-fried deliciousness, every ingredient in perfect proportion to the others.  You’ll want to eat a mountain of this stuff!

Spicy Fried Rice

20 April 2018: 528’s inventory of Myanmar-style dishes is fairly limited and not all of them are prefaced with the term “Myanmar-style” so it pays to ask.  The quaintly named Ka-Chin Style Spicy Chicken may trigger recollections of the sound of a mechanical cash register when an amount is rung up popularized in Wayne’s World, but Ka-Chin is actually the northernmost state of Myanmar, a region inhabited by a confederation of ethnic groups.  If all their cuisine is as delicious as 528’s Ka Chin-style spicy chicken, I may just have to move there.  My friend Bill described this dish best–“intensely flavored.”  In this case “spicy” doesn’t mean “piquant” though there’s a bit of heat in this dish.  There are also savory, tart, pungent and sweet notes with the tart-pungent combination taking it to the nth degree.  This beauteous dish is made with tender, thin slices of chicken breast, red pepper, jalapeño, Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander and tamarind and it’s served with rice which takes some of the oomph out of its flavor bombardment qualities.

Ka-Chin Style Spicy Chicken

20 April 2018: If you want a dish that’s not nearly as intensive and every bit as delicious as the Ka-Chin style spicy chicken, 528’s spicy chicken basil (chicken, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, green beans, baby corn, Thai basil) is your hook-up.  Thai basil (horapa) adds a subtle anise-licorice flavor and perfume to every dish in which it’s used.  Those qualities are exemplified on this absolutely mouth-watering dish.  You’ll appreciate the crisp, fresh vegetables as much as you will the thin ribbons of breast meat chicken.  You’ll want to bathe every morsel of rice in the sweet-savory sauce.  Heck, you might want to dab a little of it on the back of your neck to hold onto it a bit longer.

Spicy Chicken Basil

20 April 2018: The affable owner (and shame on me for not knowing his name after three visits) learned how to make sushi in Pennsylvania and honed his skills in Oregon.  He’s been living in Albuquerque for twelve years now and believes he’ll stay.  He actually rented the space which currently houses his restaurant so he’d have the kitchen space to prepare sushi for his clients.  For year’s he had the sushi concession at Kirtland AFB’s commissary and now prepares sushi for the cafes at UNM’s north campus.  He operates 528 with his wife and father-in-law, allowing him to keep his prices ridiculously (and I do mean ridiculously) low.  Sushi at 528 will cost you about half what you’d pay at other sushi restaurants in the city–and it’s good stuff! 

At his recommendation, my first uramaki roll at 528 was the New Mexico roll (green chile, cucumber, avocado).  As often seems to be the case, Bill and I wondered how sushi restaurants manage to prepare green chile better than so many New Mexican restaurants do.  528’s green chile has the alluring roasted flavor aficionados love and enough piquancy so that you won’t need wasabi.  The vinegared rice wrap lends a sweet contrast to the piquancy of the green chile.  At ten individual pieces of sushi for under six dollars, this value-priced sushi is better than sushi twice its price.

New Mexico Roll

Sadly, my inquiry as to which of the listed desserts to try was met with the disappointing news that all were discontinued because they weren’t being ordered by guests. If they were as surprisingly delicious as the entree and appetizer, they would have been glorious.  528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine is set in a Lilliputian storefront with seating for no more than four people.  This little gem is too good to remain a hidden secret!

528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine
5312 4th Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 345-2104
LATEST VISIT: 20 April 2018
1st VISIT: 13 April 2018
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Spicy Vegetables Stuffed Fish Cake, Myanmar Style Pork and Pickled Mango Curry, Samosas, Myanmar Style Coconut Soup with Noodles
REVIEW #1037

528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 2 3 367