Trombino’s Bistro Italiano – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Trombino’s Bistro Italiano on Academy

In describing George Lindsay’s character Goober on his self-titled show, Andy Griffith said Goober was the type of person who would sit down at a table and say, “Hey, this is great salt.”  Had he dined at Trombino’s Bistro Italiano, I believe Goober might have limited his compliments to the salt (okay, maybe he would have added the bread).

Our three experiences at this venerable Northeast Heights Italian bistro have us shaking our head in wonder at how this very popular dining destination continues to thrive–and more amazingly how its loyal patrons invariably send me e-mail questioning my parentage after I write something disparaging about Trombino’s.  We feel like Bob Newhart as the only sane diners in an assemblage of taste bud deprived patrons who continue to pack what we believe to be a restaurant the quality of its cuisine which is a step down from the corporate chains that are often the target of my derision.

We can understand one bad meal–an unappetizing appetizer here, an occasional overdone entree there–but to go three visits and have our taste buds either lulled to sleep or tortured into submission is too much.  Ironically, it was the axiom “Mangia bene, Viva Bene” (“he who eats well, lives well”) on the menu that first caught my eye and heightened my expectations that we might indeed have a good meal at the restaurant formerly known as “Trattoria Trombino.”

So, am I the only Albuquerque diner who’s ever experienced a bad meal at this extremely popular restaurant…the only diner who isn’t bought in?  Trombino’s “Best of City” awards in just 2005 include Best Italian Restaurant from the Alibi Reader’s Choice Restaurant Poll, Albuquerque The Magazine’s Best of the City and Citysearch…but I’m not crazy.  Everybody else is.

The parade of mediocrity started during our introductory meal at Trombino’s in 2000 when we were left aghast by fried shrimp reminiscent of the heavily breaded “all you can eat” shrimp served at restaurants such as Sizzler and an uninspiring marinara sauce not even as good as the one served at the Olive Garden.  Remarkably the service was slow and lines were out the door (this being Albuquerque, the Olive Garden must have been packed) with ravenous customers salivating at the prospects of their meal.

During our second visit, we were determined to try something more unconventional in the hopes that it would give us a truer (or at least a reasonably favorable) impression of this highly regarded and yawning dining establishment.  It started off well with an appetizer of Mussels Zafferano, Atlantic blue gold mussels steamed in a spicy saffron white wine sauce.  This was among the very best saffron sauces we’ve had in the Duke City, but several of the mussels were either gritty, too chewy or we couldn’t extricate them from their shells.

An entree of Chicken Involuntini featured three lightly breaded chicken breasts stuffed with proscuitto ham, fontina cheese and sage served over spinach with a side of garlic butter pasta.  The proscuitto, in particular, was de-fanged with no discernable taste, a commonality it had with the entire entree.  Similarly mundane was an entree of grilled homemade Italian sausage (mild and spicy) served with seasoned red potatoes. We couldn’t envision any self-respecting Italian restaurant in Chicago or Boston serving such lifeless sausage.

Not even dessert could save the day.  Not surprisingly considering our luck at Trombino’s, the chocolate delight (delizia al cioccolate), a French baked brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, Torani chocolate sauce and whipped cream didn’t leave much of a lasting impression either.

A “third strike and you’re out” visit in 2006 resulted in the uneven performance we had come to expect from Trombino’s.  An appetizer of stuffed clams was baked to a crusty, crumbly and desiccated brown.  An order of lobster ravioli was so mind-numbingly boring in comparison to the Indigo Crow’s version of this entree that we wondered how Trombino’s could possibly have gone so wrong. Next time we want to “mangia bene” at an Italian restaurant, we’ll go elsewhere.

Trombino’s Bistro Italiano
5415 Academy, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 30 June 2006
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Lemonade

Taco Cabana – Albuquerque, New Mexico

One of Albuquerque's two Taco Cabana restaurants

Few, including founder Felix Stehling, would have envisioned that the humble San Antonio taco stand he launched in 1978 would eventually expand to more than 130 restaurants throughout Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and a few other states or that it would serve over 46 million guests in a year.  In a scant few years, the self-proclaimed “original Mexican patio cafe” has become a popular and powerhouse alternative to Mexican fast-food industry leader Taco Bell and restaurants of that ilk.
Today Albuquerque has three Taco Cabana restaurants, all thriving.  Much of the attraction is the generous portions of relatively inexpensive and mostly familiar Mexican food served in a colorful, lively environment.  An extensive offering of “cooked to order” Mexican fare includes nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas and rotisserie chicken.  In the respect that meals don’t languish under a heat lamp, it’s more of a full-service restaurant than Taco Bell and is infinitesimally better, too.  While the Duke City has much better Mexican restaurants, Taco Cabana provides a faster alternative.

Chicken Flameante, an entire chicken

For us, the draw to Taco Cabana (especially on balmy summer days) has always been the aguas frescas (literally translated as fresh waters) in watermelon and cantaloupe flavors as well as the traditional Mexican rice beverage, horchata.  Unfailingly fresh, they can slake the most stubborn of thirsts.  Alas, their availability is subject to the whims and pratfalls of distributors who may not always be as reliable as thirsty patrons would like.  True to its Texas roots, Taco Cabana also serves a red cream soda, albeit one made by Barq’s.

Our first dining experience in a New Mexico Taco Cabana didn’t take place until more than nine years had elapsed since we returned to the Land of Enchantment.  From past experiences in Texas, we wanted to avoid the Tex-Mex stylings of Cabana’s cuisine, so we both ordered the grilled chicken which was marinated in a blend of citrus juices, herbs and seasonings then grilled over an open flame.  It was certainly better than the loathsome rotisserie chicken sold in so many local grocery stores (you know, the hummingbird sized chicken with a leathery coating).

Cheese Quesadilla

In June, 2006, we made a U-turn when we noticed that Taco Cabana was offering grilled pupusas, the thick, hand-made corn tortilla stuffed with sundry ingredients (El Salvador’s national snack).  Alas, Taco Cabana’s version bear little resemblance to the pupusas you’d find at any self-respecting Salvadoran restaurant.  The corn tortillas are much thinner with a gritty corn masa texture and resemble thick tacos.  The “grilled” part turned out to be fajita meat, tomatoes, melted cheese and grilled onions.  Not surprisingly, the pupusas aren’t served with curtido (a pickled-cabbage relish with a taste more than vaguely reminiscent of something between coleslaw and sauerkraut).   To say these pupusas were a disappointment is a vast understatement.

Rice and beans

Taco Cabana offers a nice salsa bar with thin, fresh chips and several salsas of varying heat intensity.  The pineapple salsa may bring to mind a doctored up image of a jar of Gerber baby food spiced with hot peppers.  While it looks like baby food, it does pack a punch.

Taco Cabana
3301-01 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 25 April 2010
COST: $$
BEST BET: Roasted Chicken

La Esquina Restaurante – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

It’s pretty common knowledge that several years ago, a state legislator submitted a resolution to declare “red or green chile” the official “state question“. On April 8, 1999, Governor Gary Johnson signed the bill making the resolution law. Less known is the fact that the New Mexico state legislature also passed a resolution approving an official state answer.  It’s no surprise that “red and green” or “Christmas” has been adopted as the official answer of the great state of New Mexico?

Why red or green? In the hundreds of restaurants throughout the Land of Enchantment in which chile is served, you’ll invariably be asked to state your preference–red or green.  The fact that the state legislature approved resolutions for both a state question and answer signifies just how important the chile industry is to the economy of the Land of Enchantment. In 2004 New Mexico produced 106,850 tons of chile (25% above 2003) valued at 50.33 million dollars, making it the number one (legal) cash crop in terms of sales in the state.  

One of the Duke City’s best practitioners of the art of preparing and serving excellent red or green chile is La Esquina Restaurante on the Galeria Mall in the bowels of the First National Bank building at Tijeras Avenue and 3rd Street.   La Esquina (the Corner) is one of the Duke City’s best kept secrets, frequented heavily during lunch hour by patrons whose daily occupations happen to place them nearby and during happy hour when those people need a friendly place to unwind.  For those of us who don’t work nearby and don’t otherwise have a reason to be downtown, thank God for Friday when La Esquina serves dinner.  

Although I’ve known about La Esquina for years, it took an intriguing Chowhound post from a Los Angeles resident to motivate our inaugural visit.  That Angelino indicated La Esquina’s unique salsa established the standard by which he has measured all salsa since.  Sure enough, the salsa was both sensational and unique.  It also exemplified why the answer to New Mexico’s official state question isn’t always “red or green.”  Sometimes it’s “Christmas” as in both red and green. 

This salsa is fashioned with red tomatoes and included plenty of hot green chile to give it a festive yuletide appearance.  While not as piquant as the salsa at Sadie’s or Garduño’s, it packed a nice, tongue tingling taste that prompted the endorphin rush which makes green chile so addictive.  The accompanying chips are lightly salted and fresh.  In its September, 2012 edition, Albuquerque The Magazine named the salsa at La Esquina Restaurante the fourth best in Albuquerque from among 130 salsas sampled throughout the city.

La Esquina’s menu isn’t half a mile long as you’ll find at other New Mexican restaurants.  Instead it features a few New Mexican standards, ostensibly all done as wonderfully as those we experienced.  Each dinner entree is accompanied by your choice of guacamole or con queso, both of which were excellent.  Neither was particularly piquant, but each was a great representative of its grenre.  Entrees also include your choice of two of the following: pinto beans, papitas and posole, all of which were wonderful accompaniments to outstanding entrees.  Very few restaurants serve beans that really make you take notice, but La Esquina does with perfect pintos you could eat by the bowlful.  The posole, dressed with red chile, is also noteworthy while the papitas were cubed and fried to perfection.

The enchiladas are stuffed with your choice of chicken or beef and a sharp cheddar cheese.  With green chile and a fried egg atop, they’re exemplary enchiladas, among the city’s best.  Unlike at other New Mexican restaurants where it’s only the plate that’s hot (as in just out of the microwave), the enchiladas were out of the oven hot–definitely prepared to order.  Even better, La Esquina also serves blue corn enchiladas.

La Esquina’s taco plate features three beef or chicken tacos in which the meat is well seasoned and the shells just soft and greasy enough.  These tacos compare favorably to those served at the legendary Chope’s restaurant.  The burritos are stuffed with beans and shredded pot roast meet and are as good as any burritos you’ll find anywhere in Albuquerque.

After this effusive diatribe, it’s probably no surprise that we found La Esquina’s sopaipillas to be among the best in New Mexico, easily among the top five.  They were puffy clouds lacking the seemingly requisite greasiness many other New Mexican restaurants don’t pad off their sopaipillas.  Slightly thicker than most, they were a great way to finish a superb meal at a state treasure that shouldn’t be a secret.

La Esquina Restaurante
30 First Plaza, N.W. #60
Albuquerque, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 16 June 2006
COST: $$
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips; Sopaipillas; Posole; Papitas; Enchiladas; Tacos; Beans; Guacamole; Con Queso

La Esquina Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q – Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas has established itself as one of America’s, if not the world’s, preeminent dining destinations. Many of the world’s most famous and successful chefs have launched flamboyant restaurants that celebrate their self-aggrandizing greatness in magnificent pantheons of gustatory grandeur.

Fortunately for true gastronomes who don’t worship exclusively at the tables of gastronomic glitterati, Las Vegas has also attracted its share of chefs with whom those of us of the common clay can identify–chefs who didn’t refine their skills at a snooty culinary institute but in the backyard on the family grill. With a recent influx of pit masters migrating to Las Vegas from America’s heartlands, Sin City may someday compete with Memphis, Kansas City, Texas and South Carolina as a bastion of barbecue. Witness:

  • Mike “The Legend” Mills, a four-time world champion at “Memphis in May,” the most prestigious barbecue competition in the world chose Las Vegas as the site of his four Memphis Championship Barbecue restaurants. In recent years his restaurant has been a mainstay on the annual “Best of Las Vegas” awards.
  • It’s been said that when it comes to Texas barbecue, all roads lead to the award-winning Salt Lick Barbecue restaurant in the tiny backwater town of Driftwood, Texas. That may have been true until 2006 when Salt Lick launched its one and only franchise outside of Texas within the confines of the Red rock Resort in Las Vegas?
  • Buckingham’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Q is perhaps the very best barbecue in the Ozarks and now in Las Vegas, sole site of its only franchise outside of Springfield, Missouri.

Don’t assume that because of its gentrified, British sounding name Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q is a high-end establishment with starched linen-tablecloths and a bowtie-sporting wait-staff. Take a close look at the “Buckingham” logo–a rodeo wrangler on a bucking pink pig–and you’ll understand the sobriquet.

The restaurant’s interior is almost stark in its decorum. Several pink pig figurines adorn the counter while vintage photographs of starlets and golfers of bygone eras festoon one wall. Speakers play both kinds of music–Country and Western–while a sole television is tuned to a station playing old western movies. An unfurled banner over a counter proclaims Buckingham Smokehouse as winner of the 2006 Editor’s Choice award for best barbecue in Las Vegas.

The Buckingham Smokehouse is co-owned by Marc Leeds and Mike Simpson, a gregarious entrepreneur whose ambitious visions of expansion could mean as many as ten restaurants by decade’s end. Simpson is the consummate host with an impressive business pedigree and an obvious customer orientation. Since purchasing the restaurant in May, 2006, he has both opened and closed every day, slowly implementing the personal touches and marketing campaigns that will have his fine swine on the lips of all Vegas diners.

If you had to work 80 hour weeks, too, you’d want to be surrounded by the olfactory arousing aromas of hardwoods as they weave their slow-smoked enchantment on some of the very best pork and beef in the west. The menu is replete with all the usual barbecue standards. What sets them apart is savory, slow-smoking that imbues meats with a rare combination of tenderness, moistness and deliciousness. Two sauces are available–a fiery sauce with a genesis in the Ozarks and a sweet Georgia sauce. Both are excellent, albeit absolutely unnecessary because the pork and beef need no amelioration.

The pit combo for well under $20 can easily feed two hungry diners. The turkey-platter-sized combination plate includes the very best hickory smoked chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. It was, in fact, the very first poultry I’ve ever considered worthy of the plumes of hickory smoke. The sliced beef brisket, a USDA quality cut, dry-rubbed with spices was a formidably delicious bounty comparable to the brisket you’ll find in Texas. The pulled pork is sinfully tender, the hot links spicy and juicy and the ham mouth-watering and surprisingly lean.

Buckingham Smokehouse’s signature piece are its baby back ribs which are profusely meaty and as tender enough for denture-wearers. The pigs from whom these ribs were extricated were obviously well fed. In general, all the meats are of obviously high quality.

The combo also includes two sides: a tangy horseradish coleslaw that bites back and molasses perfected pit beans. The menu will also soon include Brunswick Stew, a Civil War era concoction that includes a medley of meats and vegetables. The Georgia-based recipe of “Grandpa Davis” is circa 1887 but has the timeless goodness savvy diners will appreciate.

For dessert, you can’t beat the peach cobbler a la mode. The peaches are reminiscent of those your grandma may have canned–fresh, sweet and delicious. This is some of the best cobbler of any sort we’ve ever experienced.

For a taste of Buckingham’s incomparable barbecue, I’d gladly don my chaps and sit astride a bucking pig.

Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q
2341 North Rainbow Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada
LATEST VISIT: 10 June 2006
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Pit Combo (Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Pit Ham, Ribs, Quarter Chicken, Hot Link), Horseradish Coleslaw, Pit Beans, Peach Cobbler Ala Mode

505 Southwestern – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Area code 505 was one of the original area codes established in 1947 and for nearly 60 years, that sole area code sufficed to serve all of New Mexico.  With the state’s surging population, however, numbers available with the 505 prefix were eventually exhausted.  The Federal Communication Commission provided area code relief in the form of a second area code (575).    

A new area code for the Albuquerque area wasn’t in the makings, but it would not have had implications for 505 Southwestern which would not have changed its name even had the area code changed.  575 Southwestern Chile Factory & Cool Stuff To Eat just wouldn’t have the same poetic lilt.

In the mid 1990s, 505 Southwestern was one of our favorite dining destinations in the Albuquerque uptown area where the festive atmosphere and imaginative menu shouted “fun” while the frequently changing menu seemed to get better with each iteration.  One of the first things your eyes trained on when you entered the restaurant was an ominous looking iguana in a large tank.  Since iguanas are renown salmonella carriers, we were relived iguana wasn’t featured fare on the menu.  The 505 featured an excellent Sunday brunch and one of the best desserts in town–the Magoo.  The pasta dishes were delicious and the New Mexican entrees were good as well.   

Rather than eulogizing the 505 Southwestern restaurant, let me expound on just how good the 505 Southwestern in its new iteration is.  First of all, it is a chile factory with an industrious production line churning out salsa and chile products for distribution throughout hundreds of retail stores.  In fact, the restaurant is open only from 6:30AM to 2:00PM Monday through Saturday and accounts for only one percent of the 505’s business.  

Featuring a variety of sandwiches (on buns or as tortilla wraps), tacos, burritos, pastas, salads, soups and even pot pie, this reincarnated restaurant includes some of the best items featured at its predecessor.  A tortilla wrap called the “Chilly Philly” featuring marinated (in a wonderfully sweet sauce that includes hoisin and ginger) thin sliced beef with grilled onions, Monterey Jack cheese and green chile is my early favorite.  That marinade (available for sale) is also used on the fajita wrap and other entrees.

An order of salsa includes a cold red salsa and a heated (in every way) green chile salsa whose genesis is the green chile grown in Hatch, New Mexico.  Chile con queso is also excellent and the blue and yellow corn chips are unfailingly crisp, relatively low in salt and delicious.

The menu offers two burgers which you can request on a flour tortilla or on a bun.  The green chile cheeseburger is a charbroiled beef patty decorated with piquant green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato, but not sloppily thrown together as in many restaurants.  The lettuce and tomatoes are finely chopped and the chile is dolloped generously on the bun.  It’s a very good burger.

The 505 Chile Bowl should not be missed and best of all, it’s tailored to your tastes.  You start with your choice of chicken, carne adovada, beef or turkey which is then mixed with Spanish rice, beans and cheese and smothered in a red or green chile sauce.  The carne adovada is especially good–tender shredded pork bathed in a savory red chile.

Oh, and the 505 Chile Factory still has its mascot, albeit a plastic iguana posed by an indoor waterfall as if vigilantly looking out after its digs.

505 Southwestern
500 Broadway Blvd SE
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 10 July 2006
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chilly Philly, Fajitas, Salsa

Windy City Pizza & Subs – Las Vegas, Nevada (CLOSED)

Ask any Chicago transplant to list the five things they miss most about the Windy City and it’s a good bet the list will include Italian beef sandwiches, a staple in Chicago. Chicagoans grow up worshipping at the tables of Italian beef sandwich shops and are almost as passionate about this sloppy sandwich as they are Da Bears.

After my several first two experiences with Italian beef, my reaction was “okay, so what’s so great about these” then we visited Johnnie’s Italian Beef and I had an epiphany. Now my nights are (Italian) spiced with dreams of gravy running down my arms and the sounds of giardinaire crunching in my mouth. Italian beef sandwiches are an absolute “must have” during our visits to the Windy City.

Several years ago during one of our frequent sojourns to Las Vegas, we discovered Mastro’s Italian Beef a scant three miles from our Vegas residence and struck up a friendship with Mike Mastro, the affable proprietor. Mastro evinced the adage that “you can’t trust a skinny chef.” A formidable man, he shared our passion for Italian beef authenticity and crafted the very best example of that sandwich we’ve ever had outside of Chicago.

Trepidation set in when we found out that in mid-2003 Mastro sold his business and to an Indian (from India) no less. Nightmares of of Italian spices being replaced by Indian curries (wonderful in their own right, but not on Italian beef) set in. There was nothing to fear. The new proprietor would do the City of Big Shoulders (they got that way from carrying home large bags full of Italian beef sandwiches) proud. Windy City Pizza & Subs carries on in the Mike Mastro tradition.

The Italian beef sandwich is still formidable—a masterfully created, incredibly delicious sandwich scaling nearly as high as the Sears Tower with slow-roasted beef, sliced thin with natural jus with a blend of Italian spices served on a fresh-baked roll. I don’t know from what part of India the owner came, but surmise it must have been from the windy part.

A savory alternative is the oh so spicy sausage sandwich, or better yet, have a combination Italian beef and sausage sandwich with hot, spicy giardinaire. There’s just something special about thinly sliced beef and spicy sausage competing for your rapt attention then having that giardinaire sneak in to water your eyes. It’s almost a religious experience.

Equally authentic is the Chicago Hot Dog, garnished with yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, juicy red tomato wedges (in Chicago, the tomatoes are often green), kosher pickle, a dash of celery salt (the not so secret ingredient which really sets Chicago dogs apart) and spicy (an understatement) sport peppers. You haven’t been to Chicago if you haven’t consumed at least one of these beauties.

While Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza, what isn’t as commonly known is that some of the city’s pizzerias also craft a cheesy, thin-crust pizza that’s maybe not New York good, but is more than palatable. Windy City Pizza & Subs does an excellent take-out business with many patrons hefting two large boxes for a memory trip back home to Chicago.

Visit Windy City Pizza & Subs at any time and you’re likely to run into Chicago transplants relishing in Da Bears’ recent success or (until 2005) lamenting the White Sox’ recent woes. It’s like going home.

Windy City Pizza & Subs
2521 South Fort Apache
Las Vegas, NV
LATEST VISIT: 9 June 2006
COST: $$
Italian Beef Sandwich, Chicago Style Hot Dog, Italian Beef & Sausage Combo Sandwich, Pizza

Satay Malaysian Grille – Las Vegas, Nevada

While Albuquerque has come a long way toward becoming a cultural melting pot, a dramatic dearth still exists when it comes to a pot of another sort–the pot in which enculturated diners might find simmering some of the world’s most flavorful cuisine: Ethiopian, Basque, Russian, Hawaiian and Malaysian, for example.  Fortunately, more cosmopolitan dining destinations such as Las Vegas are only a short flight away.

Las Vegas diners have embraced the Satay Malaysian Grille, the first Chinatown area restaurant to feature the fragrant spices, pungent curries and distinctive flavor combinations that have long made Malaysian cuisine a favorite of savvy diners.  Talk about a melting pot.  The population of Malaysia is comprised heavily of ethnic Chinese and Indians so it stands to reason that their cuisines would play a major culinary influence in the development of their cuisine.  Proximity to Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam certainly wielded some influence as well.

The Satay Grille is named for the popular grilled skewers with which aficionados of Thai cuisine are familiar.  Regarded as “street food” throughout the Far East, satay has become a popular American favorite, perhaps because of its similarity to the skewers prepared on many a barbecue grill. 

A satay combination at the Satay Grille yields six marinated and grilled over an open flame skewers (three of chicken and three of beef) of perhaps the most moist, tender and delicious satay you’ve ever experienced.  The satay is so thick that in comparison, satay served in some Thai restaurants may resemble emaciated strips of carne seca (beef jerky).  The accompanying peanut sauce is also thick, punctuated subtly with curry and other spices.  Unlike some peanut sauce we’ve had elsewhere, it was not at all cloying. 

A visit to a Malaysian restaurant isn’t complete without an order of Roti Canai, a rich, multi-layered bread which resembles Indian naan, not only because it is served in wedges, but because of its texture.  Unlike naan which tends to be somewhat flat and dry, roti is almost buttery in its composition and is more fluffy than flat.  The roti is served with a pungent and delicious red curry sans coconut milk.

The appetizer menu includes items listed as “Indian style,” “Thai style” and even “Filipino style.”  Filipino style would be the lumpia, deep-fried egg rolls stuffed with minced pork, beef, shrimp and shiitake mushrooms.  The cigar shaped lumpia are served with the sweet chili sauce which is ubiquitous in Far East cuisine.

One dish sure to please even the most ardent of curry enthusiasts is the curry laksa, a soup concoction featuring both thick yellow noodles and vermicelli in a thin broth of heady red curry with just a subtle coconut influence.  The soup also includes shredded chicken, fish ball, fried tofu and bean sprouts, all served in a swimming pool sized bowl.  It is quite simply one of the two or three best curry-based soups I’ve ever savored despite somewhat chewy, non-white chicken pieces.  

Noodle nuts could take the easy route and order Pad Thai, the traditional Thai noodle dish, but the more adventurous diner will order Char Kueh Teow, Penang style flat rice noodles stir-fried with chives, bean sprouts and eggs.  It’s rather similar to Pad Thai without the almost dessert-like sweetness of the dish. 

You’ll want to save your sweet tooth for the Satay Grille’s dessert offerings, the most popular among Malaysians being roti gula, which features the aforementioned Indian style bread topped with brown sugar and condensed milk.  This dessert is both savory and sweet in almost equal proportions.  It’s a wonderful way to finish a memorable meal.

Satay Grille is sure to become an even more popular dining destination as word of mouth spreads among adventurous diners.  It is one of the three very best Malaysian restaurants in which I’ve dined, a true find!

Satay Malaysian Grille
3755 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 102
Las Vegas, NV
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 9 June 2006
COST: $$$
BEST BET:Rotay Canai, Lumpia, Satay Combo, Curry Laksa, Char Kueh Teow, Roti Gula

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