Pastrami & Things – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

During a 1997 episode of Seinfeld, the “show about nothing,” George Costanza and his girlfriend du jour discussed introducing food into their lovemaking. George listed as potential candidates: strawberries, chocolate sauce, pastrami on rye with mustard and honey. His girlfriend, unfortunately, failed to appreciate the erotic qualities of pastrami. Ultimately George met up with a woman who declared pastrami to be “the most sensual of all the salted cured meats.” Their lustful appetites took over and they succumbed to the pastrami inspired throes of passion.

I don’t know about pastrami being the most sensual of all salted cured meats, but do know there are few sandwiches quite as wonderful as a pastrami sandwich.

Alas, not all pastrami is created equal. The perfect pastrami finds its genesis as brisket given a salt and spice rub, dry cured, smoked, and cooked. Having grown up in bucolic Northern New Mexico, I had no idea pastrami existed until the Air Force sent me to Massachusetts. It was love at first bite. For two years I visited delis throughout New England and New York City in search of the best pastrami.

Since returning to New Mexico, I’ve lamented the fact that Albuquerque has been short-changed insofar as Duke City restaurants or delis offering a world-class pastrami product. Fortunately frequent trips to Chicago have proven to be fulfilling pastrami pilgrimages.

In 1999, the first Pastrami & Things restaurant launched its operations in the far Northeast Heights. Pastrami & Things is owned and operated by a lady originally from Miami, Florida–which may as well be a suburb of New York City where some of the best pastrami in America is made.

Just as it’s debated as to which city–Chicago or New York–makes the best pizza, you’ll get arguments from both sides as to which city makes the best pastrami. For my money, the Windy City beats Metropolis in this area and Pastrami and Things has done nothing to convince me otherwise.

In fact, I’ve appreciated the Reuben sandwich even more than the pastrami sandwich. A pound of pastrami, by the way, goes for $19.95. The most costly sandwich sells for nearly $9, but it’s a major downer to see that its preparation includes unwrapping pre-packaged meats ala Subway then shoving those meats into a thick, doughy sub roll. You won’t find such a chintzy practice at any New York City deli. An even better sandwich is called the “Empire” which features pastrami, coleslaw and Russian dressing. The chicken soup with matzo balls is quite good as is the potato salad.

For years people have jokingly called the hamlet of Rio Rancho “Little New York” for all the Big Apple transplants who now make their home in New Mexico’s fastest growing city. As such, it made sense that a second “New York style deli” make its home in the “city of vision.” Rio Rancho’s Pastrami and Things II had a nice breakfast menu that included several kosher items that just aren’t served in most other Albuquerque dining establishments. For example, you could get lox, kippers, matzo brie and lox schmear. The luncheon menu included several smoked fish platters, soups, sandwiches, combos and noshes (not just a Jewish thing any more).

When it first opened, customers were given the opportunity to wax poetic on the Rio Rancho restaurant’s walls with tributes to New York City. Ever the mischievous Dallas Cowboys devotee, my tribute read, “The New York Giants are the worm in the Big Apple. Dallas Cowboys rule!” Alas, like my poetry, the Rio Rancho version of Pastrami & Things are no more, having closed within two years of a promising opening.

Pastrami & Things
11200 Montgomery, N.E. #35
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 19 October 2004
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pastrami, Reuben Sandwich, Potato Salad

Shogun Japanese Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

It stands to reason that what is conceivably one of Albuquerque’s best sushi restaurants is named for the Shogun, the title accorded the supreme ruler of Japan for about eight centuries.

What most people may not realize, however, is that sushi originated in China as a method to preserve fish by pickling and fermentation. Sushi, as we know it today, began to take form in the 18th century Japan when seafood vendors wrapped fish with seaweed and rice as an edible and decorative package which ultimately evolved into the roll (maki) style. The nigiri style, consisting of a piece of fish on a bed of rice, originated in Tokyo sometime later. Sushi’s integration into the American culture began in the 1970s and today there are over 5,000 sushi restaurants in the United States.

In my 48 years on planet Earth, I’ve sampled probably 30 to 40 different sushi restaurants and won’t pretend to be an expert, but can say unequivocally that Albuquerque’s Shogun is among the very best I’ve ever had and may be in a class by itself in Albuquerque. The wasabi colored walls are the first indication that this restaurant is something special. Then there’s the sushi bar, an oval island encircled by floating boats that convey sushi treats to you. Ask to be seated in close proximity to the sushi chefs so you can watch their deft hands craft various sushi treats which are then launched on their floating platforms. Next prepare for a parade of freshly-made sushi floating right before your eyes.

You can pick and chose from the sushi line-up and at the end of your meal, your fare is based on the number of plates at your table. You can also opt to have your sushi meal custom-made for you from a menu that includes a wide variety of nigiri and maki style sushi as well as sashimi and vegetarian rolls. You’ll be hard-pressed to pick a favorite from among the delicately crafted gems that are not only palate pleasing, but which provide a feast for the eyes–truly edible art.

The rainbow roll is one such gem, living up to its name with an ultra-violet spectrum of different ingredients inside and out. It’s also drizzled lightly with just the right amount of Teriyaki sauce for a sweet and savory taste contrast. If you’re a New Mexico native, you’ve got to order the green chile roll in which the chile tastes as if freshly roasted on a traditional comal. With a little wasabi and soy sauce, it sizzles on your tongue. The calamari roll and shrimp tempura roll are served with warm calamari and shrimp respectively. Both of these rolls provide a crunchy sensation that seems to heighten the sushi’s texture. A spicy tuna hand roll lives up to its name with a flavorful piquant goodness. Shogun lives up to its name and reputation, too.

Shogun Japanese Restaurant
3310 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 15 October 2008
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Tuna Hand Roll, Rainbow Roll, Green Chile Roll

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