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Adelita’s Mexican Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Adelita's Mexican Restaurant

Adelita's Mexican Restaurant

No matter where you travel in Latin America, you’ll find grilled meat (carne asada) on the menu. Restaurants called parrillas which specialize in grilled foods also grill seafood (mariscos) and poultry.

Particularly popular in Argentina and Colombia, the mixed grill called Parrillada Mixta (or just parrillada) can be any combination of grilled meats, poultry and seafood.

Parrillada de carne asada.

Parrillada de carne asada.

My inaugural experience with parrillada in San Antonio, Texas left such a huge impression on my taste buds that I behave like Pavlov’s dogs upon seeing it on a menu. More often than not, I’m left disappointed because my very first parrillada set a nonpareil standard for excellence.

At Adelita’s, a Mexican restaurant launched in 2004, parrillada is on the menu in three incarnations–parrillada de carne asada, parrillada de mariscos and parrillada mar y tierra (sea and land).

While it’s not nearly as wonderful as in San Antonio, Adelita’s one of the few restaurants in New Mexico we’ve found which even offers parrillada. Served on an unheated metal grill, it is intended and enough for two people.

Three salsas are brought to your table before you even order.

Three salsas are brought to your table before you even order.

Adelita’s version of carne asada parrillada features carne asada, sausage, onions, green peppers and tomatoes, all grilled exceptionally well. Included with the parrillada are your choice of flour or corn tortillas as well as four corn tortilla quesadillas with melted Asadero cheese.

The parrillada mar y tierra is as disappointing as the carne asada parrillada is good. Generous portions of squid, shrimp and crab legs make for wonderful eye-candy, but when they’re served as salty as if just caught, they detract from any inherent flavors the accompanying meat has.

Parrillada is just one of many tempting items on a multi-page menu. One of the temptations I succumbed to was the caldo siete mares (seven seas soup), a seafood soup of shrimp, octopus, slams, crab legs, red snapper and mussels. With a little desalination, the soup would have been wonderful. I’m zero for two when it comes to ordering any seafood items and will probably stick to the land-based cuisine in the future.

Tostadas de ceviche

Tostadas de ceviche

Adelita’s serves three complementary salsas in the colors (red, white and green) of the Mexican flag. The green salsa is avocado-based and tastes like liquefied guacamole. The red salsa is made from blended chile pequin and competes with the white salsa (made from ground jalapenos) for most piquant.

Efrain Castillo has an amazing voice!

Efrain Castillo has an amazing voice!

The horchata, as sweet as leftover milk from a child’s cereal, is served on what might best be described as an ice cream sundae dish. It’s among the best in town as is the moist tres leches cake which positively oozes with milky goodness as you slice into it with your fork.

Adelita’s is a very colorful restaurant with orange walls and pillars around which paper mache vines wrap with yellow daisies and purple wisteria. It also fills a void in the north valley where authentic Mexican restaurants are rare.

On some Friday nights, you’ll be treated to the soothing stylings of guitarist and singer Omar Villanueva and his repertoire of romantic Mexican ballads. On Sundays, you might find Efrain Castillo, a young troubadour (pictured at left) with an amazing voice and an impressive repertoire of timeless Mexican songs.

Adelita’s
5700 4th Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 25 March 2007
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 17
COST: $$
BEST BET: Parrillada; Horchata; Tres Leches Cake; Tostadas de Ceviche

Roma Bakery & Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque's downtown district.

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque's downtown district.

Galdamez and Albertine.  If you saw those names on a building, you might expect to see them appended with “Attorneys at Law.”  That’s especially true if the building is in the area  immediately north of Albuquerque’s burgeoning downtown district, an area teeming with lawyers’ offices.

Instead, the building in which Oscar Galdamez and Bruce Albertine ply their own noble trade houses a diminutive and charming dining establishment, Roma Bakery and Deli.  You won’t see their named displayed in any officious self-aggrandizement manner, but it’s a good bet you’ll get to know their names soon enough.

That’s because frequent return visits are imminent, especially for hungry patrons lucky enough to live or work close to the restaurant.  The Roma Bakery and Deli launched in the summer of 2006 and despite seating for only about 40 patrons, this comfy, cozy diner has already established itself as a very popular dining destination.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

While delicious, made-from-scratch food is the big draw, it doesn’t hurt any that Oscar and Bruce are as outgoing as any restaurateurs in town.  Oscar, who does the cooking and baking, is from El Salvador but don’t expect any pupusas on the menu any time soon.  He goes to the Pupuseria Y Restaurante Salvadoreño for his pupuseria fix.  His restaurant launched four months after the popular pupuseria.

Finding a place to sit during the weekday lunch hour is a challenge so a lot of people call in to-go orders, sometimes for dozens of sandwiches.  An early lunch (or late breakfast), say at about 10 o’clock might be your best bet and if you’re not in a hurry, make sure to imbibe the ambience.

The first thing you see when you walk in is a pastry case under glass in which colorful, delicious looking Central American pastries and cookies are put on display.  If you do succumb to the tasty temptations, you’ll be heartened to learn that these pastries don’t derive all their flavor from sugar as do many of their American counterparts.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

Instead, these goodies showcase other distinct tastes.  The prominent flavors on the orange raisin scones, for example, are the citrusy freshness of oranges and the sunny sweetness of sultana (golden raisins).  The coconut butter cookies are indeed buttery and studded with smoked coconut flakes, but I digress…

The walls are festooned with giclee prints of original Julie Maas pastels, all very reasonably priced.  Interspersed among the colorful giclees are paintings of automotive designed concepts from the 1960s, all painted by Miller Johnson, a retired automobile designer.

Still another wall celebrates the longevity of perhaps the restaurant’s oldest patron, 103-year old Vega Fahey who was profiled in an Albuquerque Tribune article entitled “Still Singing Life’s Praises.”  One photograph on the article shows her crossing the street to dine at the Roma Bakery & Deli while other photos on a framed montage celebrate other aspects of her still active life in Albuquerque.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

The building which houses restaurant still has old-fashioned windows which open and close with a crank handle.  It’s one of the deli’s charms, along with the worldly eclectic music which plays mostly upbeat and concordant tunes continuously.

The menu features five deli-style sandwiches and two croissant sandwiches made on all-butter croissants made in-house.  Four salad options, a soup of the day and two breakfast entrees (breakfast burrito and breakfast croissant) are also available.

A chocolate chip cookie is served with every sandwich.  When you bite down on this cookie, you might forever swear off anything baked by an elf.  The chocolate practically oozes out with each heavenly bite.

Italian red pepper salad.

Italian red pepper salad.

Perhaps the most popular sandwich is the 5th Street Grilled Cubano, a slight departure from the traditional Cuban sandwich Americans have embraced with a passion.

This Cubano is crafted from tender marinated pork loin and Swiss cheese with fresh spinach, pickle and a Citrus dressing (a marinade of lime and orange juices, onion and garlic) all grilled on an in-house baked Roma baguette.  It is served warm and is as comforting and delicious a sandwich as you’ll find anywhere in the Duke City.

Perhaps even better (if possible) is a sandwich called The Rostisado.  This beauty is crafted with slow roasted beef, pepper Jack cheese, marinated Italian red peppers, lettuce and a proprietary Bistro sauce.  The roast beef is roasted on the premises (as are the pork and turkey) and it is piled high on the Rostisado.  The Italian peppers (roasted and marinated in oil and oregano) are so good, you might want to order a separate Italian red pepper salad (for a mere pittance more).

A separate deli case displays the deli’s various salads, all of which appear as fresh and inviting as possible.  The soup-of-the-day is made daily from fresh ingredients.  Monday is green chile stew day, a cause for celebration in Albuquerque.

Roma Bakery & Deli is open on weekdays from 7AM to 5:30PM and on Saturdays from 8AM to 3PM.  Make sure you get there early or you might not have place to sit.

Roma Bakery & Deli
501 Roma, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM
843-9418

LATEST VISIT: 15 March 2007
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: $$
COST: The 5th Street Grilled Cubano, The Rostisado, Red Pepper Deli Salad, Coconut Butter Cookies, Orange Raisin Scone, Pumpkin Empanaditas, Raspberry Margaritas

Roma Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Thai Basil – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Thai Basil, named for one of the most fragrant herbs in the world.

Thai Basil, named for one of the most fragrant herbs in the world.

Lemongrass, mint, ginger, lime, chile peppers and particularly Thai basil combine in congruent deliciousness to make Thai cuisine among the most popular ethnic cuisines in North America.

As one of the most popular culinary herbs in the world, basil is a richly aromatic, slightly spicy ameliorant to many of the best dishes proffered at all Thai restaurants.  Also known as “hairy basil” and by its Thai name of “horapa”, it is used in salads, soups, curries and as a garnish.

The aroma of Thai basil is stronger and sweeter than its Italian counterpart and it has a peppery flavor slightly reminiscent of star anise.  Vietnamese cooking also relies heavily on Thai basil.  It’s no wonder so many Thai restaurants across the country are named for this diverse and revered herb.

Albuquerque’s Thai Basil restaurant launched in 2004 on the site of the popular Thai Kitchen which closed earlier in the year.  Owned and operated by California transplants well versed in the art of Thai cuisine, it quickly established a reputation as one of the city’s best new restaurants.

The menu cover features three-dimensional elephants.

The menu cover features three-dimensional elephants.

The Thai Basil restaurant is perhaps more sparsely decorated than other Thai restaurants in town, but what festoons its walls is very interesting.  Thematically, the restaurant celebrates music.  In Thailand, music has evolved dramatically over the past six centuries so that eclectic musical genres are accepted.

On one wall are five wooden figurines of a traveling musical troupe, each member carrying or playing an instrument of some sorts.  Several musical instruments–woodwinds, string and percussion–festoon the walls.

Interestingly, instead of the heterophonic (one melody but multiple voices, each playing the melody differently or in a different tempo or rhythm) music you typically hear at many Thai restaurants, at Thai Basil, it’s modern pop music that is showcased.  That music resonates from a television showing what might be described as Thailand’s version of MTV.

The tables are highly lacquered in a rich cherry-like sheen.  Both artificial and real plants of several varieties are strewn throughout the restaurant.

Thai Basil offers a daily lunch buffet.  Above the buffet station is a placard reading “Eat what you take, take what you eat”  along with the warning that you will be charged for wasting an unreasonable amount of food.  The buffet is also available for take-out provided you abscond with a “reasonable amount” of food.

The menu depicts, in two dimensions, the national symbol of Thailand–the elephant.  More than 4,000 elephants, approximately half of them domesticated, are fighting for their survival in Thailand thanks to a decline in their natural habitat, ivory poachers and even extermination at the hand of man if caught trespassing into human settlements.

Tod mun,

Tod mun

Anyway, that menu features nearly two dozen lunch specials, all at very reasonable prices.  An asterisk (*) denotes hot and spicy dishes.  Diners can specify from one to ten, the level of spiciness they desire.

Fourteen appetizers are available, including beef or chicken satay which seem to be almost synonymous with Thai starters.

The Tod Munpla or deep-fried fish cakes are delicious.  Flecked with tiny green bean pieces and kafir leaves and redolent with red curry flavor, they are delicious on their own, but even better with the accompanying cucumber sauce.  The cucumber sauce is made with chopped cucumbers, cilantro and crushed cashews in a vinegary, sweet sauce.

Thai egg rolls, which tend to be somewhat smaller than their Chinese counterparts, show up on the menu in several varieties.  The one we like best are the shrimp rolls which come six to an order.  Deep fried crepes are stuffed with shrimp and avocado and are delicious on their own.  They’re served with a cloying sauce that could use some piquant additives.

Plating at Thai Basil is an art form.  Every appetizer and entree looks great in addition to generally tasting great.

Shrimp rolls, served six to an order.

Shrimp rolls, served six to an order.

For me, one of the measures of a great Thai restaurant is in how it prepares its curry dishes.  At Thai Basil, the green curry isn’t as sweet (coconut infused) as at other Duke City Thai restaurants.  It’s also far more piquant.  To be safe, I ordered it at the “eight star” degree of spiciness and at that level, my tongue was nearly seared.

The green curry is an excellent dish for showcasing the herb for which the restaurant is named.  In addition to coconut milk, green curry is crafted with bamboo shoots, green beans, squash and that olfactory arousing Thai basil.

Non-noodle entrees are accompanied by steamed jasmine rice which is shaped like a Valentine heart.  It may be a reminder of how heart healthy Thai food can be (if you order the right things, of course).

The seafood portion of the menu is intriguing as it offers entrees you won’t find at any other Thai restaurant in Albuquerque.  The wait staff delights in patrons who order such entrees as sweet and sour fish, apple trout, lemon trout or salmon curry.  These entrees, it seems, don’t ensnare as many “Occidental” diners as they do Thai transplants.

Don't fear the apple trout.

Don't fear the apple trout.

If, on the other hand, you’ve lived in the Orient in a past life and your propensity for authenticity extends to such un-Westernized tastes as the much maligned durian (the world’s most malodorous fruit), Thai Basil’s seafood entrees will definitely intrigue you.

My only disappointment with the apple trout is that the deep-fried trout isn’t marinated in the homemade green apple salsa then pan-fried together.  Instead the salsa was served on a separate plate and cold, much like a Thai papaya salad.

The trout is crispy and golden brown, albeit not a very substantial trout.  Fortunately, it is de-boned.  In addition to green apples, the salsa included onion, carrots, cilantro and jicama in a vinegary sauce.  Its taste is actually similar to papaya salad in that the dominant taste is neither sweet nor sour nor savory.  Instead, it’s a blending of several flavors that go well together, but don’t necessarily excite your taste buds.

If noodles are what you crave, Thai Basil serves some of the best Pad Thai (stir-fried small rice noodles, bean sprouts, ground peanuts and green onions with eggs) in town.

Pad Thai with shrimp.

Pad Thai with shrimp.

Pad Thai, which literally means Thai style frying, is the national dish of Thailand and perhaps the most popular entree among American aficionados of Thai cuisine.  In western restaurants, Pad Thai is generally covered in a red oil and can be a bit “heavy” tasting while the version typically found in the streets of Thailand is relatively dry and light.

Still, there are many ways to prepare it and you rarely experience a bad version of Pad Thai.  It’s one of the “safest” things you can order for someone who fears Thai food because it’s new and different to them.

At Thai Basil, the Pad Thai has the right combination of sweet and savory tastes and it isn’t quite as heavy as other Pad Thai we’ve experienced.

Only two desserts are offered on the menu: sticky rice with mango and Thai coconut ice cream.  With these two choices, who needs anything else.  When in-season, the mangos are sweet and juicy, a perfect complement to the coconut infused sweetness of the sticky rice.

Thai Basil
5201 4th, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 9 March 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Curry, Egg Rolls