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Mad Max’s BBQ – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Mad Max BBQ - the best in New Mexico

Mad Max BBQ - the best in New Mexico

NOTE:  In March, 2010, Max and Fran Montano entered into a lease to buy agreement with an enthusiastic owner who continued to use the recipes which made Mad Max’s the very best barbecue in the Albuquerque area.  By September, 2010 the restaurant was closed.  Max and Fran will continue competing in competitions throughout the region and will also cater events.  They will be missed as much for their warmth and great humor as for their outstanding barbecue.

Since the discovery of fire, man has viewed his domain as the great outdoors. The outdoors is from where man brought home the day’s victuals for early woman to prepare.  As the centuries progressed, descendents of troglodytic man (many of whom haven’t evolved much) have perceived cooking as a feminine affectation, taunting any other man who deigned to acquire culinary skills.

In 1952, George Stephen invented the original Weber kettle grill and with his innovative design, sparked a backyard revolution that transformed man. As a result of the Weber grill, the XY chromosome complement was no longer a handicap (or more accurately, an excuse) for men throughout the world when it came to preparing meals for their families. With Stephen’s invention, grilling outdoors was seen by man as an extension of his manly domain. Not surprisingly, man didn’t consider cooking outdoors as a liberating way to explore a “feminine side” he long denied.

Mad Max (at left) and his smoker. Brother-in-law Joe at right.

Today, backyard grilling is an year-round phenomenon plied by men attired with aprons emblazoned with the words “Kiss the Chef” and wielding the tools (which, in the kitchen would be called utensils) of their backyard domain. “Real” men still see cooking as woman’s work. Grilling is another matter. Man rationalizes that since the dawn of time, only he has had domain over fire while outdoors. The Weber grill made it possible for men lacking in any culinary skill (unless you consider eating a culinary skill) whatsoever to prepare edible–even tasty grilled food.

By nature competitive, man needed an arena in which he can display his mastery of the flame. That’s how competitive barbecue came about. Today, there are more than 130 sanctioned barbecue competitions across the fruited plain.

In competition barbecue, contestants (and not necessarily all testosterone-laden) vie for prize money sometimes reaching into thousands of dollars. Competitors prepare one or more item–beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken, sausage and sauces–to be judged on a variety of criteria.

Some of the many trophies and ribbons earned by Mad Max's barbecue

Some of the many trophies and ribbons earned by Mad Max's barbecue

Barbecue competition usually includes entertainment and sometimes fireworks, midway carnivals, beverage tents and a host of other family-friendly events. Competitions are generally a Chamber of Commerce dream, bringing barbecue fanatics, competitors and their money from miles around.

Since 2004, Rio Rancho has hosted the New Mexico Pork & Brew barbecue state championship, an event sanctioned by the prestigious Kansas City Barbecue Society whose mission it is to “celebrate, teach, preserve and promote barbecue as a culinary technique, sport and art form.”

The Pork & Brew event has truly brought outstanding barbecue to New Mexico. I know what you’re thinking–outstanding barbecue in New Mexico is an oxymoron. It’s almost as rare as say, green chile stew in Maine and clam bakes in Montana.

Mad Max's BBQ is portable

Mad Max's BBQ is portable

With but a handful of exceptions (Sugar’s, Josh’s and Powdrell’s) I thought so, too, until partaking of the sensational smoky meats at the Pork & Brew competition. Now I’m an unabashed shill for this annual event where, at least once a year, it’s possible to partake of porcine perfection, lip-smacking beef, mouth-watering chicken, delectable sausage–all imbued with flavors generated by low and slow smoke under the watchful eyes of fire masters.

Maybe it’s the combination of hot sun, long queues and the olfactory-arousing aromas with their irresistible siren’s call, but I truly believe the barbecue served during competition is unrivaled. No barbecue restaurant can hope to approach the outdoors experience and none can match the quality of outstanding competition barbecue.

Like most of the weekend warrior competitors at barbecue competitions, Corrales resident Max Montano “cut his teeth” in his back yard with his very own Weber grill. Family and guests fortunate enough to be invited to one of his backyard barbecues encouraged him to enter the competitive barbecue circuit, so proficient is his prowess at the pit.

The very best barbecue pork sandwich in New Mexico

The very best barbecue pork sandwich in New Mexico

Two years of competitive barbecue has validated the opinion of everyone familiar with Max’s culinary skills. He’s placed at every competition he’s entered, in most cases in several categories. Some seasoned veterans go years without ever placing while Max totes trophies and ribbons home every time, including from Rio Rancho’s Pork & Brew.

With the sobriquet “Mad Max” on his portable competition smoker, he took it a step beyond competition barbecue in February, 2008 when he launched Mad Max’s BBQ in Rio Rancho.

Because of requisite city inspections Max had to wait more than a month before taking his business indoors into the tiny, time-worn building that previously housed Cazuela’s Mexican Grill. He moved indoors on March 20th, 2008 after passing the white-glove going-over from the fire marshal’s office.

Barbecue brisket sandwich with baked beans

Two orders of baked beans and a barbecue sandwich

In the interim, he plied his business outdoors using a concession trailer which he parked in front of the building destined to be his restaurant. His portable competition smoker was stationed next to the trailer.

My inaugural visit to Mad Max’s came on the day before he got the fire marshal’s blessing to open. I was blown away. It was immediately obvious why he is earning awards in barbecue competitions. Mad Max knows barbecue!

Now, it’s one thing to prepare out-of-this-world barbecue outdoors. It’s another to bring that smoke-imbued greatness indoors. Several winners of the world barbecue championships in Memphis, Tennessee have launched restaurants in which their barbecue just isn’t as good as the ‘cue they prepare during competition when they baby-sit their smoke all night long.

Mad Max's plate with two meats (brisket and hot link)

A two meat platter with two sides of baked beans

My second visit to Mad Max’s transpired a day after my first, the result of not being able to get the great taste of his barbecue out of my mind. This visit was on the day the fire marshal cleared the way for Max to move his business indoors. It would be a good test as to whether or not Max’s barbecue could pass muster indoors. It does–and then some! This is the Albuquerque metropolitan area barbecue restaurant I’ve been waiting for as evidenced by four visits during its first two weeks in business.

Now that he’s finally indoors, Max will tell you that the restaurant is his wife’s domain. He’ll joke that it’s got his name on it because “Mad Fran” just doesn’t sound right. He also kids that Fran won’t share the recipe for the restaurant’s sauce, but only he knows the formula for the eight secret ingredient rub.

Max’s indoor smoker (pictured above left) is well-seasoned. It’s got the type of aroma you might want to bottle and sell to men like me who would use it in lieu of aftershave. Lucky the meats that enter this smoker!

A delicious fried appetizer at Mad Max's

Aside from making the smoke do his bidding, one of the secrets to Max’s barbecue is his eight ingredient rub. The flavors it imparts coalesce beautifully with the light and fragrant smoke generated by apple and fruit woods. The smoke is subtle and sweet, wholly unlike the astringent smoke you might find in barbecue in which mesquite or even hickory are used.

The sauce is also wonderful and you’ll applaud the fact that it’s served in small plastic containers instead of being slathered on thickly like a couple of local barbecue restaurant favorites do (perhaps to mask the flavor of inferior smoking). Max’s, or rather, Fran’s sauce, is more sweet than it is tangy and it also packs just a hint of piquancy. It’s somewhere between thick and thin and it’s terrific.

So, too, is the barbecue. Smoked sandwiches (your choice of pork, brisket, sausage or carne adovada) are served on a bolillo bread roll. Each sandwich is engorged with deliciousness, almost enough meat to make a second sandwich altogether.

Carne Adovada on a bolillo roll

Carne Adovada sandwich with coleslaw

There is no competition barbecue category specifically for smoked carne adovada, but Max’s carne adovada has earned awards in the “anything else” category. It’s a winner! The carne is moist and redolent with just a hint of smoke. It’s shredded into tender pieces and is slathered with pure, unadulterated New Mexican red chile with nary a hint of cumin. This is terrific carne adovada and it makes a great sandwich option.

Mad Max’s brisket sandwich will also imprint itself on your taste buds. It will make them very happy. This brisket isn’t sliced; it’s shredded into long, tender strands of beauteous beef. A handful of a sandwich, it serves as a wonderful canvas for Fran’s terrific barbecue sauce, but with or without sauce, it’s an excellent sandwich.

If you’re not in the mood for sandwiches, try a two-meat Mad Max’s plate with at least a couple of sides. It’s comes with about a pound of meat.

Mad Max's tacos

Mad Max's tacos

The shredded pork is reminiscent of the pork once proffered at the long defunct Johnny Ray’s which I consider the very best barbecue I’ve had in New Mexico. The brisket is sliced thin. It is tender and has the discernable smoke ring aficionados salute.

Other meat options include smoky adovada, beef sausage, hot link or chicken thighs. The sausage and hot link are long and thick with the hot link packing much more punch and flavor.

Unlike some barbecue restaurants, Max actually serves worthy accompaniment to his meat offerings. He offers several sides–baked beans, a German potato salad and coleslaw–and all are wonderful.

Flat enchiladas with smoked carne adovada

Flat enchiladas with smoked carne adovada

The baked beans are without a doubt the best in the Duke City area. They’re the type of beans you could eat by the plateful with just the right amount of sweetness ameliorated with brisket and a hint of chile. They’re the type of beans I order two portions of.

Lest I forget, Mad Max’s menu also includes several New Mexican entrees including flat enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas.  Country-fried steak and country-fried chicken are also available.  The enchiladas are served Northern New Mexican style which means flat and stacked (pictured above).  Stacked means engorged with layers of smoked carne adovada and topped with an excellent, rich red chile.  If Mad Max’s focused solely on New Mexican food, it would be one of the very best New Mexican restaurants in the Albuquerque area.

The handheld burrito with smoked carne adovada, hash browns, eggs and cheese could well be the very best in the metropolitan area. It’s a wonder the tortilla can hold all the ingredients, so generously are they stuffed. Breakfast is served from 6:30AM through 11AM. These burritos make it worth getting up.

Three rib dinner at Max's

Three rib dinner at Max's

No ordinary tacos are Max’s tacos which smart diners will order by the twelve pack. Though I would prefer soft tortillas to the crispy hard-shells, when those shells are engorged with carne adovada, beef brisket and shredded pork topped with lettuce and shredded cheese, you’ve got some of the best tacos around. Either or both salsa and barbecue sauce work equally well. An order of tacos includes a bowl of green chile invigorated beans and rice.

Two dessert options will provide you with a day’s worth of calories. Grandma Bea’s world famous deep fried cheesecake isn’t accompanied by an angioplasty, but maybe it should be.

Caloric overachievers might also opt for the curiously named Fran’s pickled piggy cake, a decadent masterpiece almost as tall as a cake plate is wide. It is a rich and delicious three-layer beauty replete with Mandarin oranges, pineapple and other mouth-watering ingredients. It will make a piggy out of you.

Fran's Pickled Piggy Cake

Fran's Pickled Piggy Cake

Barbecue skeptics who question why I would rate Mad Max’s above other well-established and very popular barbecue restaurants might be assuaged somewhat by a review published on the Alibi by Maren Tarro, a virtuoso of vocabulary. Maren spent many a year in Kansas City, one of America’s bastions of barbecue. She knows her stuff and she really liked Mad Max’s. Her credibility, when it comes to barbecue, is impeccable. So there…

If it’s true that there’s a fine line between madness and genius, Mad Max straddles toward the genius side. His barbecue is phenomenal! Now that he’s moved indoors, he’s able to expand his menu to offer St. Louis style ribs and other entrees. You might not even miss the outdoor dining experience because in Mad Max’s BBQ, there’s outdoor-quality, competition-certified barbecue indoors.

Mad Max’s BBQ
1600 Sara Road
Rio Rancho, NM
LATEST VISIT: 27 August 2009
BEST BET: Handheld Burrito (Carne Adovada, Hash Browns, Cheese); Smoked Carne Adovada Sandwich; Smoked Brisket Sandwich; Combination Platter (Pork, Brisket, Sausage); Baked Beans; Coleslaw; Fran’s Pickled Piggy Cake

Mad Max’s BBQ on Urbanspoon

J.J’s Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

J.J.'s Pizza on Menaul

J.J.'s Pizza on Menaul

“Locally owned and operated.”  It’s a concept I celebrate on my blog as I pay homage to intrepid moms and pops who risk it all to compete with the ubiquitous corporate chains.  I trumpet the fact that locally owned and operated restaurants can be unpredictable, that they prepare food to order instead of thawing something out which was shipped from corporate headquarters hundreds of miles away, that you can get to know the great families who own them, that those families have very personal investments and take immense pride in their products.

Justin (JJ) Salazar’s ideas as to what constitutes “locally owned and operated” mirror my own.  In his words, local should mean that “a business is owned by someone who lives in town (not just a mailing address), that there is no parent company (franchise) taking the proceeds to another town, and that the owner works in the business.”  JJ knows that “nobody cares as much as an owner and that it does no good if the owner’s not in the store.”  He plans on passing on his business to his children so you know his heart is in his investment.

J.J. grew up in Albuquerque, just a couple of blocks from Central Avenue in the UNM area where he frequented Nunzio’s, then the undisputed best independent pizzeria in town.  As a teenager he was fascinated with the art and science of cooking, particularly the chemistry and processes that create different breads.  This knowledge served him well as he moved up the ladder from driver to general manager in one of the busiest Pizza Hut franchises in New Mexico.

Before there were video games....

Before there were video games....

His time at Pizza Hut served to intensify his appreciation for independent pizzerias, an appreciation he would nurture in California where he immersed himself in studying and training for the day he would launch his own independent pizza restaurant.  It would take borrowing from every source he could find before J.J. would realize his dream, the type of personal investment many mom and pop restaurant owners make in their restaurants.  The price of a dream can be very costly.

From the outside, J.J.’s Pizzeria resembles many other independent pizzerias with little of the flash and panache of the behemoth pizza chains which are ultimately more style than substance and whose copycat products reflect the impersonal investment of their parent chain.  When you walk in, don’t expect the typical rehearsed wait schtick of insincere chains.  J.J. himself greets you as he might a guest at his home.  It’s yet another aspect of independent restaurants I appreciate.

Positioned above the counter at which you place your order is a menu which at first browse resembles the menu of many a pizzeria.  Pizza is available in small (a personal size eight-inch beauty), medium, large and extra large sizes.  A panoply of specialty pizzas includes meat lovers options (including a barbecue beef pizza) as well as vegetarian friendly pizzas.  You can also construct your own from a phalanx of available ingredients.  Eleven different hot subs, calzones, salads and even spaghetti are also available.

The Ranchero Pizza at J.J.'s

The Ranchero Pizza at J.J.'s

On one corner of the restaurant are positioned three video games.  No, not the modern hand-held video games.  J.J.’s got the precursors of today’s innovative digitally enhanced multi-platform games.  These are the video games of the 1980s, the type of which could be found in drugstores, laundromats and game rooms two decades ago.  J.J. grew up playing these games and still has a soft spot in his heart for them.

So what makes J.J.’s pizza different?  It certainly starts with the crust.  Dough is made fresh from scratch in the store every day, a recognition that living dough makes better bread than frozen dough.  The crust has deep hues of brown and gold, the speckled char to which all great pizzas aspire.  The crust is baked in a Middleby Marshal PS260 pizza oven which cooks hotter meaning the dough never comes out doughy and all the toppings are cooked thoroughly.   Only 100 percent never-frozen, real mozzarella cheese is used on each pizza.

During my inaugural visit, J.J. himself recommended the Ranchero (pictured above), a personal sized pizza topped with pepperoni, ground beef, bacon and green chile.  It was an astute recommendation from an obviously very proud owner.  The Ranchero is an excellent pizza!  It arrives at your table steaming hot and cooked all the way through.  The crust is pliable, with enough bend that it can probably be folded like New York style pizza.  It is a terrific crust, the type of which will remind you of great bread right out of the oven.  The sauce is thick, well-seasoned and hearty.  The ingredients, particularly the green chile, are top notch.  The green chile has a nicely roasted flavor and just a bit more piquancy than most Duke City pizzas.

A large pizza: half Ranchero and half barbecue beef

A large pizza: half Ranchero and half barbecue beef

Being an independently owned and operated family business means you have the latitude to do what you want; you don’t have to follow the corporate regimen.  If you ask for a unique combination (within reason), JJ’s can prepare it for you.  You can, for example, ask for a half Ranchero (pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, green chile) and half barbecue beef and it will be delivered to your table.

The barbecue beef pizza is topped with handfuls of barbecue beef and red onion, each slice offering some of both.  The beef has a faint smokiness and is imbued with a sweet and tangy sauce.  It’s the type of beef which would go well in a barbecue beef sandwich–which is a good thing because the menu offers it as one of eight hot subs–ranging in size from five-inches to ten-inches–on the menu.

The hot subs include turkey, Italian, roast beef, Albuquerque turkey, BBQ, club, ham and meatball.  You can also opt for a calzone, either a create your own (up to three pizza toppings) or have one of J.J.’s specialty calzones.

Cinna-munchies: 12 or 24 to an order

Cinna-munchies: 12 or 24 to an order

The menu also includes sweet stuff sure to please. For under two bucks, you can have an entire dozen of cinna-munchies, fried dough generously sprinkled with cinnamon and glazed with a white frosting. They’re surprisingly good, especially right out of the oven when they’re warm and beguiling.

Albuquerque has a surprising number of very good independent pizzerias.  When J.J. Salazar entered the fray, he knew his product had to be a cut above in order to compete. It is!  If personal investment, a terrific product and owner involvement count for anything–and they should–J.J.’s Pizza will win over a discerning Duke City market.

J.J.’s Pizza
4111 Menaul, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 883-6962
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 21 August 2009
1ST VISIT: 1 July 2009
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Ranchero, BBQ Beef Pizza, Cinna-Munchies

J J's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pho #1 – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Pho #1 where beef is number one seven times over!

Pho #1 Vietnamese Grill, home of the seven courses of beef

Beef.  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my pho spoon can reach. Okay, I’m no Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but if I were to count the ways I love beef, the count might stop at seven–as in the special seven courses of beef offered at Pho #1, yet another outstanding Vietnamese restaurant in the Duke City.

Launched in 2004, Pho #1 may well be on its way to earning its name. The seven courses of beef is one–make that seven–reasons why.  Other reasons include a stellar rendition of the name on the marquee; the restaurant’s pho has earned a reputation as among the city’s very best in a city that has embraced pho.

In a “Chow Down in Burque Town” forum entitled “Best Vietnamese Restaurant in Town” on the omnibus Duke City Fix, Albuquerque’s pho-fanatics weighed in on their favorites.  One of the most frequently mentioned was Pho #1.  Common reasons given were the large number of local Vietnamese families who eat there, the “to die for”soups and the genuinely nice family who owns and runs the restaurant.

Malodorous but delicious--a Durian Shake

Malodorous but delicious--a Durian Shake

With more than one-hundred items on the menu, not including the seven courses of beef, Pho #1 offers a veritable compendium of Vietnamese food favorites including a large selection of pho bo (beef noodle soup).  Pho is the classic Vietnamese fast food, served in a large soup bowl with fresh rice noodles topped with your choice of beef slices (rare steak, well-done flank, brisket, tendon, tripe, skirt flank and beef ball) then sprinkled with chopped green onion, cilantro leaves and sliced onion.  Each bowl is accompanied by a plate of bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, lime and basil.

Pho #1 specializes in beef noodle soup, the menu referring to it as “the adventurer’s choice” because of the near limitless flavor combinations in which it is available.  A small bowl of pho is the size of a wading pool, a large bowl the size of a swimming pool.  For a pittance, you can even upsize to an “extra large” bowl which is virtually the size of a pond.  It’s common at Pho #1 to enjoy an asynchronous symphony of slurping, the audible inhalation of noodles being heartily enjoyed by entire families, each member partaking of a different size bowl of pho (similar to the A&W restaurant of old concept of Papa, Mama, Teen and Child burgers).

Pho is believed to have salubrious qualities, but as a cold and flu remedy, nature’s very best soup is chicken noodle soup.  A prominent pulmonary specialist at the UCLA School for Medicine and his team of researchers have concluded that chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines.  Healthful to be sure, but you can’t discount the sheer pleasure of the deliciousness of a good chicken noodle soup.  Pho #1’s rendition is among the very best in the city; it’s no wonder Pho #1 is such a popular dining destination during cold and flu season.

Sate Beef Noodle Soup

Sate Beef Noodle Soup

One of the more popular phos is the #38, the saté beef noodle soup which originates in the Mekong Delta in the extreme Southwest part of Vietnam.  Saté is a roasted chili paste made with garlic, shrimp paste, shallots and other sundry ingredients.  Saté imparts a heartiness and spiciness to the broth and a fragrance that titillates the olfactory senses.  Floating atop the broth are cucumber and tomato slices which are softened by the heat of the broth and impregnated with its rich flavors.  The noodles are thin rice noodles almost too long to wrap your fork around so you’ll be well practiced in the art of slurping by meal’s end.  This is an excellent pho.

Lest I leave you with the impression that sensational soups and the aforementioned seven courses of beef are Pho #1’s sole claim to excellence, fewer than a quarter of the more than one hundred items on the menu are soup.  The menu includes a nice selection of rice dishes served with Jasmine rice, vermicelli bowls and chicken and beef entrees as well as several chef’s specials.  One thing I’ve discovered about Vietnamese menus is that they don’t aptly describe the deliciousness of the item you order.  That’s best left to gourmet high-end restaurants whose colorful descriptions don’t always measure up.

The menu doesn’t so much describe each entree as it does name it.  For example, #78 on the menu is listed simply as “stir-fried soft or crispy egg noodles with beef, chicken or seafood.”  That’s hardly inspirational, but one bite and you will be inspired.  My Kim has a passion for crispy egg noodles which are reconstituted in a sweet and savory brown sauce and topped with vegetables.  She’s had this entree at every Vietnamese restaurant in town which offers it and considers Pho #1’s rendition the very best in Albuquerque.  I’m inclined to agree.  The flat egg noodles are delicious in both their crispy or reconstituted versions and the sauce is simply fabulous.  It’s more sweet than savory, but with a pronounced hint of garlic.  The vegetables are perfectly prepared, just beyond the al dente stage so that they have a fresh and crispy texture and flavor.

Stir-fried crispy egg noodle with beef and onion

Stir-fried crispy egg noodle with beef and onion

Several years ago, the Beef Council hired deep-voiced actor Robert Mitchum, a paragon of manliness, to voice over its commercials with its slogan “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner.”  In Vietnam, seven courses of beef are what’s for wedding feasts.  Not so in Albuquerque where two Vietnamese restaurants–Pho #1 and Pho Linh–make seven a lucky number every day of the week by offering seven delicious courses of beef.

Before your first course is served, a bowl of uniquely wonderful fish sauce is brought to your table, but unlike the semi-clear fish sauce served elsewhere, Pho #1’s is a brackish brown with a pronounced peanut taste and includes julienne carrots, jicama and chile. It’s the fish sauce preferred by Asians (at heart) like me.

Next to your table is a large bowl of greens which includes jalapenos, mint, thinly sliced green apples, lettuce leaves, cucumbers and vermicelli noodles. A bowl of hot water and several spring roll wrappers accompanies the greens along with a “not yet” warning from the wait staff.

Loaf Leaf Wrapped Beef

Loaf Leaf Wrapped Beef

The first two courses you can actually consume are foreplay for your taste buds: grilled Hawaiian loaf leaf beef (pictured above) and grilled beef wrapped with pickle onion. Both have the consistency and look of sausage links but with unique taste combinations of sweet, spicy and slightly tart that will heighten your anticipation for the next courses.

The next two courses–fondue-style beef and sliced beef marinated in lemongrass and spices–are prepared at your table. A nimble fingered waitress will then teach you to craft spring rolls with the aforementioned greens, spring roll wrappers and the thinly sliced beef. You might never have better spring rolls and even if they fall apart on your hands, the residual aromas will linger pleasantly on your hands and on your olfactory memories.

The fifth course features razor thin slices of raw tenderloin and onion tossed with lime, crushed peanuts and basil. It may have been my favorite of the seven courses–even without drenching it in fish sauce–and is very similar to the beef Capriccio served at the incomparable Cyclo in Chandler, Arizona.

The sixth course is a steamed beef paste/meatball mixed with glass noodle and spices. The glass noodle has the consistency and look of a white pork rind but with a far superior taste while the beef paste/meatball will blow you away. It’s not the most attractive looking beef you’ll ever see, but beyond its lack of esthetics, it is a fabulous beef mound.

The last course, beef congee, is reminiscent of a the New Mexican entree arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) both in taste and consistency. It is our least favorite of the seven courses, but was still a wonderful way to end a meal.  It’s especially warming in the winter or on a rainy day.

Naturally you’ll want to wash down a delicious meal at Pho #1 with one of the restaurant’s outstanding shakes: avocado, jackfruit, green bean (yes, that’s green bean), pineapple, strawberry and durian, my favorite.  Durian, the world’s stinkiest fruit somehow makes for an outstanding shake.

Albuquerque is blessed to have several outstanding Vietnamese restaurants.  It’s disputable which one really is number one in the hearts, minds and appetites of Duke City diners, but one thing’s for sure–trying to figure out which one reigns supreme is a delicious adventure.

Pho #1
414 San Pedro, S.E.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 16 August 2009
COST: $$
BEST BET: Special Seven Courses of Beef, Durian Shake, Pineapple Shake, Stir-fried crispy egg noddle with beef and onion, Sate Beef Noodle Soup

Pho #1 on Urbanspoon