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Amerasia & Sumo Sushi – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Amerasia and Sumo Sushi on Third Street

Amerasia (Dim Sum) and Sumo Sushi on Third Street

Carpe Diem Sum–“seize the dim sum” at AmerAsia, the Alibi’s perennial selection for best dim sum in the city honors (diem sum, as spelled on AmerAsia’s menu is also a correct spelling). Dim sum, a Cantonese word that can be translated to “a little bit of heart,” “point of heart” and “touch the heart” has its genesis in the Chinese tea houses of the Silk Road.  Weary sojourners would stop at tea houses for tea and a light snack (ergo, touch the heart).  Over time, the popularity of the tasty little treasures offered at these tea houses led to larger restaurants serving dim sum meals until mid-afternoon, after which other Cantonese cuisine was made available.  Today, dim sum buffets are a popular offering throughout the United States.  Albuquerque’s most venerable practitioner of the traditional culinary art of dim sum is AmerAsia which has been serving Albuquerque since 1978.

Though AmerAsia has been around for nearly thirty years,  out of blind loyalty to Ming Dynasty we avoided trying it, reasoning  there is no way anyone could serve dim sum quite as good as the popular Cantonese restaurant.  Thankfully AmerAsia’s diem sum captured the unfettered affections of a Chowhound poster from Phoenix who calls herself “Tattud Girl.” For years, the Tattud Girl has been telling one and all about AmerAsia’s delicious treasures. In April, 2006, her posting included photographs of those delights. While one picture may be worth a thousand words, her photographs appealed to all ten thousand of my taste buds and prompted our first of soon to be many visits. The diem sum photos on this review are, in fact, courtesy of the lovely and talented Tattud Girl (who, as it turns out is quite the world traveler, also going by the sobriquet “Wanderer 2005.”

Hyangmi Yi delivers diem sum treasures to eager diners

Hyangmi Yi delivers diem sum treasures to eager diners

At the very least, AmerAsia proved that Albuquerque has room for two popular dim sum restaurants. At the very most, some say it’s every bit as good as Ming Dynasty when it comes to delicious diem sum…although Ming Dynasty serves more than twice as many dim sum items, including a huge array of seafood). For that all Duke City diners should be thrilled. AmerAsia serves diem sum for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11AM to 2PM and for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30PM. It is the perfect dining destination when one entree just won’t do and you want a multi-course meal that tantalizes your taste buds with varied sensations (including sweet, piquant, savory and sour).

The heart and soul of AmerAsia is Korean born proprietor Hyangmi Yi who enthusiastically greets all patrons and flits around the restaurant’s dining rooms pushing her tiny treasure filled cart. Hyangmi actually worked at AmerAsia for 24 years (she hardly looks any older than 24 years old herself) before buying the restaurant. She is part waitress, part greeter and full-time ambassador for the tiny restaurant and the craft she obviously loves. You can see the diners’ eyes light up as she approaches. Many appear to be seasoned veterans of diem sum dining and know exactly what they want. Most of the items are small (or at least served in small plates), giving the impression that you can try everything on the 22-item menu and still have room left over. We tried that and were able to sample fewer than half of the heart pleasing treats. Budget conscious diners beware because your bill of fare is tallied by adding up the number of plates on your table, each plate’s bounty costing $2.75.

Pork buns and more (courtesy of Kathy Perea)

While many of Ming Dynasty’s dim sum offerings are so authentic (such as chicken feet and shark fin soup) that many Americans shy away, AmerAsia’s diem sum is more innocuous, totally non-threatening to unacculturated diners. By no means does that imply AmerAsia’s diem sum is Americanized. You definitely won’t find heavily breaded and candied sweet and sour meats doused liberally with offensive sauces. Instead, you’ll find perfectly seasoned palate pleasing treats you’ll absolutely love, such as:

Sichuan Salad, a refreshing salad comprised of thick noodles and julienne carrots and celery in a slightly sweet vinegar dressing. The noodles are served cold and like many Asian noodles, can be eight to twelve inches per strand. They’re thick and delicious. This is an excellent way to start your meal.

Some of the very best diem sum anywhere!  Photo courtesy of Kathy Perea.

Some of the very best diem sum in Albuquerque! Photo courtesy of Kathy Perea.

Beef Noodles, a very spicy beef served over soft noodles with a broth nearly as piquant as the chili sauce on each table.

Chicken and Peanuts, steamed dumplings with julienne chicken, water chestnuts and peanuts. These dumplings might be reminiscent of something you’d have at a Thai restaurant.

Curry Pastry, a flaky pastry stuffed with curry pork and onion. The pastry is as flaky as you might find on a chicken pot pie flaky while the curry is sweet and pungent.

Beef Jiao Tzu, a dumpling stuffed with beef and garlic then deep fried. The breath-wrecking garlic and beef combination leaves a definite impression on your taste buds. This was the only item we ordered two portions of (more a consequence of being full than of preference).

Bao Zi, a steamed, white raised dough stuffed with Chinese barbecue pork. We’ve had steamed buns at several Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants but we’ve never had any as pork filled and delicious as these.

Sesame balls for dessert (Picture courtesy of Kathy Perea)

Scallion pancakes, delicious layered pancakes flecked with sweet scallions.

Chinese Spare Ribs, spareribs in a relatively mild Sichuan hot sauce. We actually expected something akin to the lacquered in sweet syrup Chinese barbecue spare ribs served at inferior restaurants. Amerasia’s spare ribs definitely were not of that ilk.

Crispies, crispy wonton skins covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon, somewhat reminiscent of beignets. These are a perfect way to end a wonderful meal.

In 2007, a second Amerasia was launched in a converted antique filling station on Third Street just north of Lomas.  For a while, Hyangami kept the original restaurant open, but eventually she closed the long-familiar Cornell restaurant which, though very charming, was quite space constrained and a bit “seasoned.”

Sumo Sushi

Sumo Sushi

Not only does the reborn 3,500 square-foot Amerasia have a well-appointed, stylish and expansive new home (150 guest capacity), Hyangami partnered with her brother Woo Youn in sharing the sprawling edifice’s space to house Sumo Sushi, a highly regarded 2007 entrant into the Duke City dining scene.  Sumo Sushi is an attractive milieu, starting with a semi-circular sushi bar on which a large ceramic sumo wrestler squats pensively as if to oversee the operation.  The sushi is, as reputed, some of the very best in town and the Japanese menu includes other traditional Japanese dishes such as tempura, teriyaki and udon noodles.

The green chile roll has a pronounced roasted green chile flavor which some New Mexican restaurants fail to capture.  The crunchy roll is coated on the outside with fried tempura batter crumbs that give it a nice texture and the inside is refulgent with cooked shrimp, cucumber and other complementary ingredients.  If your preference leans toward nigiri style sushi, the Vitamin A enriched unagi (fresh-water eel) is terrific.  Unagi is cooked and coated with a sweet sauce reminiscent of teriyaki.

Sushi at the Sumo Sushi restaurant on Third Street

Sushi at the Sumo Sushi restaurant on Third Street

AmerAsia has definitely captured the heart of many Duke City diners, giving every indication that even without a full Chinese menu, it is one of the four or five best Chinese restaurants in the city.

Diem Sum Images Courtesy of Kathy “Wanderer 2005″ Perea

Amerasia & Sumo Sushi
800 3rd St NW
Albuquerque, NM
(505) 246-1615
Web Site
1ST VISIT: 21 October 2006
LATEST VISIT: 4 February 2011
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 18
COST: $$-$$$
BEST BET: Sichuan Salad, Beef Jiao Tzu, Golden Dumplings, Curry Pastry, Chicken and Peanuts

AmerAsia - Sumo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Lindy’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lindy's on Route 66

Lindy’s on Route 66 is one of the Duke City’s oldest restaurants

In March, 2005, Albuquerque’s East Downtown area was featured on ABC television’s “The View” in a segment on the “top five up-and-coming” areas in the nation” as determined by real estate experts. Several blocks away sits Lindy’s Coffee Shop, an anachronism for which there will always be a place. Situated on historic Route 66, it may be a living reminder of Albuquerque’s nostalgic past, but has assured its future by serving hearty, homestyle meals for more than 75 years.

Lindy’s is one of Albuquerque’s longest continually operating restaurants, having launched in 1929 as the Coney Island Cafe. In the 1960s, it was purchased by Narke Vatoseow who renamed it Lindy’s Coffee Shop. Remnants of its past include a long lunch counter at which long-time patrons congregate to catch up, red vinyl booths that you stick to on hot summer days and vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia.

lindy02

Lindy’s on Route 66 has operated continuously since 1929

In 1999, Gourmet magazine feted Lindy’s in a feature called “Sentimental Journey Through America’s Main Streets.” In 2002, Jane and Michael Stern celebrated Lindy’s on their Roadfood Web site. Despite such national recognition and its longevity, many Duke City residents have never heard of this unassuming historical treasure–and it’s likely the folks at Lindy’s like it that way. It allows them to maintain the personal touch and comfortable pace its clientele has come to love.

Breakfast is served all day long and during breakfast hours you can order anything off the menu. American comfort food favorites, bounteous sandwiches, salads and New Mexican entrees hold prominence on the menu, but you can also order Mediterranean specialties. It’s a safe bet everything on the menu is somebody’s favorite.

Sour Cream Enchiladas

Sour Cream Enchiladas

My early favorite is the sour cream enchiladas, three flat cheese enchiladas served Christmas style (both red and green). The green chile sauce is slightly more piquant than the red chile and while neither will singe your tongue, they’re both very flavorful.  Most sour cream enchiladas I’ve had incorporate both chicken and cream of chicken soup, but at Lindy’s you can also have this entree with beef.  Another difference is that a huge dollop of sour cream is added after the rest of the entree is baked.  It imparts a mild and not too tart flavor that complements the chile very well.

Better chile is slathered on the Frito pie which includes a generous tossing of Frito corn chips garnished with a mountain of lettuce, tomato, onions and Cheddar cheese. Scale down that garnish and you’ll uncover one of the best Frito pies in the city.

Eggs, bacon and fried potatoes

Eggs, bacon and fried potatoes

Breakfast favorites include a traditional American breakfast of bacon, fried potatoes and eggs. The eggs are prepared to your specifications.  The potatoes are small, delicately cubed and well-salted spuds reminiscent of very good French fries with a soft texture inside.  The star of this triumvirate, however, is the bacon.  It’s the type of bacon only old-fashioned American diners seem to serve best–three six-inch strips of porcine perfection fried perfectly.  if you’re tired of bacon as stiff and dry as jerky, you’ll love the pliability of this bacon.  It’s crisp on the edges and beautifully bendable elsewhere with just the right amount of fattiness for flavor.

You can add a short stack of fluffy, golden brown pancakes with syrup to any breakfast for a pittance. The syrup comes unheated, but you ask for it to be nuked for a steamy syrupy treat.  The wait staff is very accommodating.

A short stack of pancakes

A short stack of pancakes

In its annual food and wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected Lindy’s nachos as the ninth best in the city.  The magazine described these nachos as having been “sent by the Greek gods themselves.”

In 2003, the Vatoseows launched Lindy’s American Cafe in a Northeast Heights former location of JB’s. Larger accommodations (seating for 140 patrons) than the downtown restaurant allowed for a more expansive menu, but the new cafe lasted just about a year. It must be true that there’s only one Lindy’s.

Lindy’s
500 Central, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2588

LATEST VISIT: 28 December 2008
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Sour Cream Enchiladas; Frito Pie; Pork Chops; Pancakes; Bacon

Lindy's Diner on Urbanspoon

Paradise Donuts – Bosque Farms, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Paradise Donuts in Bosque Farms

Paradise Donuts in Bosque Farms

Though often boorish and crude, America’s favorite everyman philosopher Homer Simpson is prone to occasional bouts of insight. Who can argue with such Homeric sagacity as, “donuts, is there anything they can’t do.” At first browse that statement may appear clouded, make that glazed, but it’s a statement replete with credibility–and not solely with police officers.

Cultural anthropologist Paul R. Mullins posits that one of the best ways to examine a culture is by looking at its eating habits and regional cuisines. He reasons that Americans don’t really have a culinary culture we can call our own, that the American culinary experience is an amalgam of appropriated customs and cooking techniques. The best evidence of this, in his mind, is the donut whose lineage can be traced to the Chinese, French, Germans and Dutch.

In his terrific tome Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut, Mullins examines the evolution of the donut and juxtaposes the rise and fall of its popularity against the development of America’s consumer culture. He exploits the negative stereotypes and perceptions surrounding donuts (think indolent cops and Homer Simpson’s obesity), detailing how the donut has been equally regaled and reviled, the latter often without merit. When it comes to donuts, Mullins argues, Americans don’t sit on the fence–they either love them or they don’t.

If you love donuts, I mean if you really love donuts, options, unlike their effect, are slim. Albuquerque has in recent years seen the demise, departure or diminished numbers of Krispy Kreme, Shipley’s Donuts, Winchell’s Donuts and even Dunkin’ Donuts. Whether it was an onslaught of health-crazed fanatics, reduced ranks in the police force or a combination of other factors, the Duke City can hardly be called the Donut City.

Paradise behind glass

Paradise behind glass

For donuts, Homer clones like me head to Bosque Farms and pay a visit to Paradise Donuts, a regional chain with superior donuts. In fact, these may be the very best donuts in the Land of Enchantment, not that there’s much competition. In business since 1967, Paradise Donuts maintains that the secret to its donuts is a flour blended to be as light and fluffy as air with an incredible shelf life. The other key is that Paradise Donuts, unlike their competitors, focuses solely on donuts.

These are beautiful donuts–imperfect orbs glazed or decorated with sprinkles or engorged with fruit and cream fillings as well as rectangular-shaped long johns, donuts twisted around themselves and even cinnamon rolls. The variety is incredible–buttermilk, chocolate, blueberry, vanilla cake, cherry, apple cinnamon, banana, chocolate chip, chocolate raspberry, pumpkin, strawberry lemon and oh so much more.

Variety is one thing, but where Paradise Donuts excel is in taste. The glazed donuts are melt-in-your-mouth sugary deliciousness, the kind of donuts that leave traces of luscious, lickable glaze on your fingers. The sprinkles are liberally applied to cover most of the top surface of donuts they decorate. The fillings and toppings are rich and delicious. Maple topping tastes like maple, lemon filling tastes like lemon.

A glorious six-pack of donuts

A glorious six-pack of donuts

Paradise Donuts are so good that on some days, the bakery runs out by ten in the morning. They’re so good, savvy donut addicts will call in and reserve a dozen or more. They’re so good you don’t mind the short drive to Bosque Farms, especially considering you can pick up a dozen donuts then have a burger at Benny’s Mexican Kitchen. These donuts will have you behaving like Homer Simpson. Mmmmmm donuts!

Paradise Donuts
1370 Bosque Farms Blvd
Bosque Farms, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2008
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 22
COST: $
BEST BET: Maple Iced Bar, Chocolate Cake Donut, Cinnamon Roll, Glazed Donut, Glazed Twist Donut