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

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.

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.

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. Future visits warrant exploring sushi dishes as well as other Asian specialties, but first there are other Myanmar treasures to sample. 528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine is set in a Lilliputian storefront with seating for no more than four people. During my brief visit, only one additional guest stopped by and that was to pick up an order of Chinese dishes. 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: 13 April 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Spicy Vegetables Stuffed Fish Cake, Myanmar Style Pork and Pickled Mango Curry
REVIEW #1037

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

Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar in Rio Rancho

From our home in northeast Rio Rancho, it’s about thirteen miles to the Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar on Southern Boulevard.  It would have been safer to run with the bulls at Pampalona than it was driving the half hour it took me to get to Nori.  In those thirty minutes, an impatient tailgater blasted her horn at me for having the audacity to come to a complete stop at a stop sign in our subdivision.  As she roared passed me on a 25 miles-per-hour street, she contemptuously extended her middle finger out the window (in the same way drivers espying the Dallas Cowboys plate on my car acknowledge the Cowboys are number one).  Once on Highway 528, I witnessed drivers running red lights, exceeding the speed limit by at least warp five, turning from the wrong lane and not using turn signals (even though the season of lights is approaching).  “Phew,” I thought “at least we don’t live in any of the other 48 states whose drivers are more impolite.”

Yep, you read that correctly.  A June, 2017 survey conducted by Kars4Kids ranked New Mexico as the second-most polite state in which to drive.  At this point you’re probably laughing uproariously or wondering how New Mexico’s notorious election officials managed to stuff the ballots for the Land of Enchantment and abscond with ballots from other states.  “More likely,” you’re thinking “the survey’s respondents included such paragons of impartiality as Governor Martinez, the New Mexico Tourism Department and former Albuquerque Mayor Berry’s effusive spinmeister.”  For those of us with lengthy daily commutes into the heart of the Duke City, there’s more credibility in little green men landing their extraterrestrial craft in Roswell than there is in a survey indicating New Mexico’s drivers are the apotheosis of politeness.

The interior of Nori

Chanting Frank Costanza’s “serenity now” mantra as you navigate the metropolitan area’s mean streets is hardly a match for crazed, oblivious and wholly impolite drivers…and not even Calgon can take you away when driving in New Mexico leaves you frazzled and harried.  Fortunately there are three havens of civility in Rio Rancho where you can find solace and regain your composure. One is Joe’s Pasta House where possibly the very best wait staff in the Land of Enchantment is as welcoming as your most comfortable slippers.  Another is Namaste where respect and graciousness are practiced daily.  The third and most recent addition is the Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar which opened its doors in October, 2017.

Until 2010 when it shuttered its doors, Noda’s Japanese Cuisine may have been the Land of Enchantment’s very best purveyor of sushi as well as a nonpareil paragon of politeness.  Other sushi restaurants such as Ahh! Sushi and Sushi King have tried to fill the void, but all have fallen short in comparison to the sublime greatness of Noda’s, a once in a generation restaurant which many of us miss direly.  Nori won’t make anyone forget Noda’s, but Rio Rancho diners who appreciate good Japanese food and professional service will like it very much…especially if your commute was as harrowing as mine.

Tonkotsu Ramen

It seems the template for Japanese restaurants emphasizes professionalism.  In the Land of the Rising Sun, good service is associated with professionalism, not friendliness.  Wait staff are trained to maintain a professional, polite distance.  Instead of the chatty, often insincere wait shtick practiced by servers at many American restaurants (particularly the cookie cutter chains), servers in Japan don’t engage in small talk (especially of a personal nature) or try to establish personal rapport with their guests.  It’s the way some of us like to be treated.  By the way, if you appreciate the impeccable timing of servers who don’t hover over you and ask how your meal is just as you’ve taken a hefty bite, you’ll like Nori.

Nori, the Japanese name for edible seaweed, is appropriately named as nori is indeed an ingredient in several sushi rolls and dishes.  Neither the Japanese menu nor the sushi menu feature any real surprises, but offer familiar standards prepared well.  Appetizers include such recognizable favorites as edamame, gyoza, egg rolls and tempura.  Ramen and donburi dishes make up the entrees portion of the menu.  The sushi menu includes all familiar favorites: nigiri (a slice of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice), sashimi (slices of very fresh fish served raw) and maki (roll-style sushi in which ingredients are often wrapped in roasted seaweed sheets (nori) and seasoned rice). 

Top: Buddy Crunch Bottom: Unagi

Over the decades, ramen has evolved from a staple of the Japanese working class to a mainstay of impoverished American college students to most recently, a trendy Japanese restaurant favorite.  The latter is ramen all grown up, the antithesis of the budget dorm food favorite.  There are many different types of Japanese noodle soups, but tonkotsu ramen may be the most revered. Two main components define tonkotsu: tangles or nests of thin, starchy noodles in a rich salty pork broth. Traditionally made by boiling pork bones for twelve hours or more, the broth is incomparable.  Nori’s version also includes two marinated hard-boiled eggs, scallions, niblets of corn and fatty pork cutlets.  It’s a satisfying soup, filling and tasty, but much better versions can be found in Albuquerque at O Ramen and Naruto (both of which would require matador-like maneuvering among polite Duke City drivers).

Rather than one of the appetizers on the menu, my starter choice was unagi, grilled freshwater eel served nigiri style. Unagi is much sweeter and more tender than its saltwater cousins and is said to have stamina-giving properties. Containing 100 times more vitamin A than other fish, it’s believed to heighten men’s sexual drive. Japanese wives would prepare unagi for dinner to suggest to their husbands that they wanted an intimate night.  While some may find the thought of eel repellent, “eel sauce” is a popular topping for various sushi rolls.  A thick sweetened sauce made from soy sauce, mirin or sweet rice wine and sugar, it’s akin to fish candy.

Several of Nori’s maki rolls are topped with a crunchy tempura flakes instead of wrapped in nori sheets.  Among them is the buddy crunch (shrimp tempura, salmon tempura, avocado, spicy mayo inside tempura flakes and the aforementioned eel sauce).  During my novitiate days of enjoying sushi, my Kim questioned whether it was really the incendiary wasabi I really enjoyed.  Back then I drowned maki rolls in combustible mix of soy sauce and wasabi.  With more refined and developed tastes, it’s the ingredients within the vinegared rice that now enthrall me most.  My buddy roll barely touched the soy-wasabi mix, allowing me to enjoy balanced flavors from fresh ingredients.

Nori Ramen’s wait staff can show the fruited plain’s second most polite drivers a thing or two about politeness.  Moreover, they can show you a menu of familiar Japanese favorites prepared well.

Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar
2003 Southern Blvd., S.E., Suite 116
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 796-5065
LATEST VISIT: 25 November 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Tonkotsu Ramen, Buddy Crunch, Unagi
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1007

Nori Ramen & Sushi Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fareast Fuzion – Albuquerque, New Mexico

On July 5, 2017, Fareast Fuzion Celebrated its Six Year Anniversary Serving Albuquerque

A Journal of Consumer Research study published in 2012 revealed that consumers equate eating meat with their concept of masculinity. To the dismay of spinach-lovers like Popeye, respondents indicated meat has a more masculine quality than vegetables. Study participants considered male carnivores to be more masculine than their vegetarian counterparts (ostensibly Bill Clinton was more masculine when he scarfed up Big Macs than he is now that he’s a vegetarian). “To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, all-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food,” wrote the researchers. “Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.” Researchers acknowledged that with a diet rich in manly meats, equally manly health conditions such as heart attacks are inevitable.

So, if we shouldn’t eat meat, what should we paragons of masculinity eat?  Certainly not quiche or kale!  Bruce Feirstein told us in 1982 that “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” Sure, that title was a tongue-in-cheek satire of masculine stereotypes, but could there be a grain of truth there somewhere?  More recently, an author who goes by the very macho nom de plume Manly M. Mann declared “kale is the new quiche and manly men don’t eat that crap.” He also revealed two things you’ll never hear a manly man utter: “Tossed salad, please” and “hold the bacon.” On a more personal level, Mr. Mann emphasized that brunch has no place in a real man’s routine. As an avowed brunch lover, does that mean I’ll have to turn in my man card?

The 300-Gallon Aquarium Behind the Sushi Bar

There’s been internet chatter lately declaring that real men shouldn’t eat sushi, especially when it’s prepared maki style. Maki sushi, more commonly known as sushi rolls, is the most popular type of sushi across the fruited plain—proof manly men might say that the “Oprahization” of America is alive and well. Those masculine detractors of dainty deliciousness wouldn’t eat maki rolls if they were soaked in beer and wrapped in beef jerky. Canned sardines on crackers yes, but pretty sushi rolls resembling stained glass windows, frack no! Never mind that the Japanese sushi chef is considered heir to the samurai tradition. Only if Chuck Norris himself told the so-called real men that sushi rolls are what make him the apotheosis of manliness would real men reach for a California roll.

Fortunately my Kim considers it extremely manly that I love sushi rolls (and that I’m willing to carry her weighty purse when she’s tired). For her, 2017 has become the year of the sushi roll. After several years of eschewing sushi for the pleasures of seared animal flesh, she’s developed a craving for sushi (and no, she’s not with child). Instead of her usual “whatever you want” when I ask what she’d like to have, she’s asked for sushi on three occasions this year. The challenge with fulfilling her request is that Albuquerque has very few al fresco sushi opportunities where we can spend time with our debonair dachshund The Dude (he abides). Thus far, we’ve found only two—Sumo Sushi and Ohana Hut, both of which quelled her cravings.

Left: Egg Drop Soup; Right: Miso Soup

Make it three. After unsuccessfully scouring my geriatrically advanced memories for other sushi bars with dog-friendly patios, Google revealed a heretofore untried purveyor of not only sushi, but Thai and other Asian cuisines. My search revealed that Fareast Fuzion is the first sushi restaurant listed on Yelp’s listing of the best ten sushi bars in Albuquerque. Another site, threebestrated.com named Fareast Fuzion as one of the three best rated sushi restaurants in the Duke City—and, if the site is to be believed, their ratings are based on a 50-point inspection which considers everything from checking reputation, history, complaints, reviews, satisfaction, trust and cost to the general excellence.

On July 5, 2017, Fareast Fuzion celebrated its six-year anniversary serving Albuquerque in the familiar location on Central which for many years was the home of Bangkok Café, one of the first Thai restaurants in the Duke City. Long-timers might remember that back in the mid-1990s when Thai cuisine was oh-so-exotic for Albuquerque, Bangkok Café was named one of the city’s twelve best restaurants by the Albuquerque Journal. With more than fifteen years’ experience as a sushi chef and nearly as many years experience preparing Thai food, chef and owner Kham Seme and his family are gracious hosts. Their warmth and hospitality offset the painful route–through a maze of orange barrels and deeply pocked detours–it took to get there as motorists deal with the light-rail folly only politicians seem to want. My Kim quipped that it would have actually been easier to drive to Thailand.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad

The restaurant’s cynosure is a 300-gallon saltwater aquarium behind the chef’s sushi station. Brightly illuminated to accentuate the water’s bluish tint, the aquarium is replete with several species of exotic saltwater fish, including a small shark which shirks attention (or perhaps it fears being sliced up into sushi). On the ceiling just in front of the sushi bar hangs a very impressive black kite somewhat resembling a Klingon bird-of-prey. A coyote fence separates the capacious patio from Central Avenue and hordes of frustrated drivers. Rivulets of water cascade down an exterior fountain, producing a soothing white noise effect. Our Dude relaxed in the shade as he took in the tranquil surroundings.

The menu is primarily Thai with a smattering of Chinese and non-sushi Japanese dishes as well. It’s a rather impressive, though not especially original menu grouped into related categories: soups, salads, noodle soups, Thai curry dishes, bento boxes, teriyaki bowls, fried rice, noodle dishes, stir-fried dishes and a kids’ menu. Appetizers are primarily Thai or Japanese. As you peruse the compendium-like menu, you may want to indulge in Thai iced coffee or one of the three teas: green, Jasmine or ginger. The former is a rather strong coffee offset somewhat by sweetened condensed milk. My Kim enjoyed the bite of the ginger tea.

Colorful Sushi

Shortly after ordering our chicken satay appetizer, our effusive server ferried over our soups of choice. For my Kim, it was a bowl of egg drop soup served hot to the touch. For me, only a bowl of miso soup should ever precede a meal of sushi. As usual, Kim’s choice was better (not that the miso soup wasn’t good). Egg drop soup Egg is made by “dropping” the whisked eggs very slowly into to boiling stock and stirring rapidly in one direction. The result is thin, wispy strands of silken egg. Rare (at least in Albuquerque) is the pronounced yellowish hue of this enchanting elixir. The miso soup, on the other hand, is on par with miso soup served throughout the city.

We found the chicken satay (four skewers) a bit on the chewy side and a challenge to extricate from the skewer. Displaying a nice grilled char, the chicken’s toughness made it more important that the accompanying sauces offset textural liabilities. The peanut sauce, ameliorated with coconut milk and red curry, has the characteristic sweetness of most Thai sauces and is very good, while the cucumber salad is probably the very best in the city. All too often cucumber salad tends to border on cloying, but this one had a delightful piquancy courtesy of very finely ground Thai chili peppers. We would have enjoyed the cucumber salad on shoe leather (but enough about the chicken).

Some of the Largest Sushi Rolls in Albuquerque

The sushi menu includes nigiri (slice of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice), sashimi (slices of very fresh fish served raw) and maki, the bane of real men. Sushi combos and sushi “happy” boats are also available. My Kim’s preferences lean more toward deep-fried fish than the raw fish real men might consider “bait.” Among the boatload of sushi we ordered (enough for her to enjoy over a period of three meals) were a “Super Crunchy Roll” (cream cheese, crab, avocado, white fish, deep-fried) and a “Crunchy Roll” (spicy tuna, scallop, tempura flakes on top, eel sauce). While their names might hint at similarity, they’re quite different. We found the Super Crunch roll to be too much of a good thing—good, but just a bit too much crunch, too much deep-fried texture.

As usual, we needed a “Japan meets New Mexico” fix which means green chile on a sushi roll. We found it in the Sandia Roll (salmon, tuna, yellow tail, shrimp, spicy mayo, tobiko and green chile) and the ABQ Roll (salmon, crab, avocado, special sauce and masago). In honor of visits to Maine, we also ordered (BOTVOLR will appreciate this) a lobster roll (lobster, cucumber, avocado, tobiko on top). As expected, it bore absolutely no resemblance to its New England counterpart. One commonality among most of the sushi rolls at Fareast Fusion is their size. Quite simply, these are the biggest sushi rolls you’ll find in Albuquerque. Our server told us some diners complain that they can’t devour them in one bite, but most sushi aficionados do believe bigger is better.

Super Crunch Roll

Fareast Fuzion is a restaurant where real men can get quell their carnivorous cravings with piquant curries which will test their manly mettles while the rest of us can sate our yen for sushi.  The staff is more than attentive and friendly and the ambiance is hard to beat.

Fareast Fuzion Sushi Bar & Lounge
5901 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 255-2910
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 16 July 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$-$$$
BEST BET: Chicken Satay, Thai Iced Coffee, Lobster Roll, Crunchy Roll, Super Crunchy Roll, Yummy Yummy Roll, Sandia Roll, ABQ Roll, Lady in Red Roll

Fareast Fuzion sushi bar & lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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