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Cazuela’s Mexican Grill – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Cazuela's Mexican Grill

Cazuela's Mexican Grill

Here’s an interesting bit of Jeopardy level trivia which you might contemplate the next time you dine at this Rio Rancho spot: In the Spanish golden age, a “cazuela” was the gallery located above the tavern in the back wall of a theater–the area in which women were segregated. Today “cazuela” is a Mexican word for casserole meal.

Cazuela’s restaurant is a friendly, family owned operation, which in 2007, saw some significant changes, including the move to a much larger facility. The new location allows owner Francisco Saenz to expand his menu, extend hours of business and even cater large events. It’s got a banqueting facility that will accommodate large crowds.

The original site of Cazuela’s was a tiny, time-worn building that had seen better days. Saenz managed to infuse it with charm and warmth. A west-facing window included a bamboo curtain image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas (and, oh by the way, New Mexico, too).

A cazuela

A painting of a cazuela at Cazuela's

Over the years, Cazuela’s became part of the fabric of the community. When a motorist crashed through the building and forced the restaurant to close for several months, loyal patrons practically went into withdrawal. Though then ensconced in a tiny building, Cazuela’s obviously has a big heart–and a big menu that belied the restaurant’s size.

Cazuela’s is now situated in an expansive edifice which once housed Rio Rancho’s Sports Corral. The Corral’s batting cages are still part of the property, but gone are other facets of the long-time sports complex. Saenz practically gutted the building, investing significant capital in completely transforming it into a classy restaurant. With a lease to buy option, he has big plans for Cazuela’s.

Enter through the north-facing door and you’ll see why the restaurant is named Cazuela’s. A large painting of a casserole dish hangs prominently. There are several Mexican paintings hanging on the restaurant’s walls, all framed in the unique style of Old Mexico. An arched doorway takes you from the front dining room to a more expansive dining room. Several half-moon shaped arches throughout the restaurant give you visibility to a beautiful venue that facilitates tranquil and relaxing dining. Each table has the name “Cazuela’s” carved into it.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa at Cazuela's Mexican Grill

The dining rooms are bright and airy with plenty of room to spread out. Ceiling fans allow for air to circulate and help drown out the sound of the televisions in each dining room. Both table and booth seating are comfortable. The two most important thing about Cazuela’s didn’t change with its move to a larger facility.

The first would be service. Cazuela’s wait staff is among the most attentive in town. It’s a knowledgeable wait staff whose recommendations you can trust. From the moment you’re greeted until the minute you leave, the wait staff will make you feel like a welcome guest.  They check up on you frequently without being intrusive and they anticipate when you need a refill.

The second is the food. Sure, the menu expanded, but that’s just more of the same delicious food residents of the City of Vision have come to love. It’s fresh, flavorful and almost all made on the premises.

Taquitos with salsa and sour cream

Taquitos with salsa and sour cream

That starts with the chips and salsa. The chips are made from deep-fried corn tortillas. These are some of the best chips in town–thick and redolent with the flavor of corn. Your first order of chips and salsa is complementary and subsequent orders cost a pittance.

The salsa is also delicious. It’s a bit on the thin side, but makes up for that with a smoky and mildly piquant flavor invigorated with cilantro, tomato and jalapeno. If you can taste freshness in a salsa, this might be what it tastes like.

Cazuela’s serves breakfast all day long with a menu which includes traditional Mexican favorites such as chilaquiles, pancakes, eggs and bacon as well as New Mexico’s ubiquitous breakfast burritos.  The chilaquiles are terrific, some of the very best in New Mexico in large part because they’re made with those fabulous Cazuela’s chips.  This dish is simplicity itself–deep-fried tortilla chips smothered in green chile and cheese then topped with a fried egg.  The green chile is of medium piquancy and imbues the chips with both a softening quality and a memorable flavor.  The runniness of the yolk makes it even better.

Chilaquiles, some of the very best in New Mexico

Chilaquiles, some of the very best in New Mexico

You might not expect a Mexican grill to excel at pancakes, but Cazuela’s would give any pancake house a run for their money.  Whether you order a full-sized portion or a short stack (two pancakes), you’re in for a treat.  The pancakes are  nearly the circumference of the plate and are served with syrup tinged with more than a discernible hint of vanilla.  They’re served steaming hot so the butter melts easily.

Several caldos (soups) are also in the offering–posole, menudo, caldo de pollo (chicken soup) and albondigas (meatballs).  Appetizers include chile con queso with the same amazing chips that accompany orders of salsa. This con queso doesn’t become gloppy as some con queso is apt to become. It’s a multi-cheese blend with a nice consistency and good flavor.

Taquitos with salsa and sour cream are another option. Cazuela’s taquitos aren’t rolled up cigar-tight as you might find them in Espanola. Corn tortillas are engorged with a beef and bean amalgam then deep-fried. Served in orders of four, they are sizeable enough to share (not that you might want to, they’re so good).

 

A short stack of pancakes at Cazuela's doesn't mean a small stack

A short stack of pancakes at Cazuela's doesn't mean a small stack

Other staples of the expanded menu include daily specials, gorditas (considered the specialty of the house), tacos, burritos, enchiladas, combination plates and handmade tamales and tortillas. Visitors expecting New Mexico style cooking (and especially New Mexican chile) will be in for a pleasant surprise. This is old Mexico in all its culinary glory.

You might also be surprised by the restaurant’s rendition of gorditas (which mean fatties). Typically thick, deep-fried tortillas stuffed similarly to pita bread, Cazuela’s version actually has its ingredients piled on top.  These gorditas start with handmade corn tortillas topped with shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and melted butter then smothered with red and (or) green chile. Beef, chicken or carnitas (braised pork cut into small cubes) can also be added.

In 2009, Cazuela’s added more than a page’s worth of mariscos to the menu including ceviche which you can order as an appetizer or as a plate with rice and beans.  The tostadas de ceviche are available with either camarones (shrimp) or pescado (fish) marinated in citrus juices then piled atop a crisp taco shell with red onion, tomato and avocado slices.  Cazuela’s does something other Mexican restaurants don’t do.  It provides a small bowl of lime juice mixed with onion, cilantro, green chile and just a bit of flour so you can add even more citrus flavor to your tostadas.  It’s something other restaurants should duplicate because the mix of tangy citrus and piquant chile is terrific.

Gorditas plate

Gorditas plate

The green chile is incendiary and it’s not of the “Grown in Hatch” variety. It’s a thin, smoky sauce with the fiery constitution of jalapenos and an excellent flavor that may have you scrambling for a heat quencher such as milk.

Cazuela’s gorditas may not follow the gorditas template, but they’re very good. They’re served with Spanish rice and some of the best refried beans in the metropolitan area. Eat several of the specialty of the house and you’re bound to become a gordito yourself.

When on the menu at the previous location, parrillada lived up to its billing as a “special of the day.” It’s one of my very favorite Mexican entrees. No matter where you travel in Latin America, you’ll find grilled meat (carne asada) on the menu. Restaurants called parrillas specialize in grilled meats and sometimes grill seafood (mariscos) and poultry as well. Only a few restaurants in the Albuquerque area offer parrillada.

Parrillada with Carnitas

Parrillada with Carnitas

Cazuela’s offers two parrilladas plates. The Nortena is made with carne asada, sizzling bacon, bell peppers, onions, chorizo and white cheese. The Carnitas Parrillada substitutes cubed pork for the carne asada.

Served in one or two person portions, parrillada is served in a cast iron plate which seems to retain its heat throughout the meal. While heavily laden with ingredients for which angioplasties should come on the side, this is an excellent dish.

The parrilladas plates are served with beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream and corn or flour tortillas. Some diners make tacos out of the grilled ingredients; others use their forks to stab mouthfuls of grilled goodness. Any way you eat it, parrillada is delicious.

Tostadas de Ceviche with Rice and Beans

Tostadas de Ceviche with Rice and Beans

Dessert options include sopaipillas, fried ice cream and tres leches cake. Your server will ask if you want your tres leches cake topped with a drizzle of chocolate or with fresh strawberries. In either case, it’s a delicious and unfailingly fresh cake that you’ll enjoy.

There are many things about Cazuela’s you’ll enjoy. It’s a hometown favorite Rio Rancho residents can’t get enough of. It’s on Sara Road directly across from Intel’s RR4 complex, but even though it’s not on the well-beaten path, it’s a destination restaurant to which you’ll return if you give it one visit.

Cazuela’s Mexican Grill
4051 Sara Road, S.E.
Rio Rancho, NM
994-9364
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 31 March 2010
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Parrillada (Carnitas), Chile con Queso, Taquitos with Salsa & Sour Cream, Gorditas, Chilaquiles, Tostadas de Ceviche, Pancakes

Las Cazuelas on Urbanspoon

Cafe Green – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Cafe Green, just a few blocks south of Central on Fifth

Cafe Green, just a few blocks south of Central on Fifth

Brunch is the best of two worlds–not quite breakfast and not quite lunch, but the best of both. It’s a leisurely weekend repast which makes you feel you’re getting away with something, as if you’re defying your mom’s mandate not to have dessert before the main entree.  The feeling that you’re getting away with something delightfully illicit is reenforced as you lap up mimosas and Bloody Marys as fast as the wait staff can bring them to you.  Brunch even allows you to get away with laziness at least once a year when you have the excuse to drag mom to a restaurant where she and countless other moms can be pampered on their special day.

Americans have loved brunch since the 1930s when, according to culinary historians, passengers on transcontinental train rides would disembark in Chicago for a late morning meal in between trains.  It wasn’t until after the second war to end all wars that brunch became popular on Sundays.  Apparently the promises made in foxholes (where there are no atheists) were quickly forgotten because after World War II, there was a precipitous decline in the number of churchgoers across the fruited plain.  Instead, Americans began to sleep in late on Sundays as they recovered from Saturday night hang-overs.  After reading the funnies and lolling around the house for a while, they went out for brunch.  All the cool people were doing it.

The term brunch, a portmanteau of “breakfast” and “lunch” is believed to have originated in Britain in the late 19th century.  The phrase was coined in 1896 by Guy Beringer, in of all places, the long defunct Hunter’s Weekly.  He exalted the concept of brunch because it allowed staying up later and getting drunker on Saturday night then not being expected to wake up early for breakfast.

Croque Madame

La Croque Madame: Grilled ham and Fontina with a béchamel sauce fried egg on top with a side of fresh fruit

Alas, not everyone has a high opinion of brunch.  In his terrific tome Kitchen Confidential, fellow sybarite Tony Bourdain blew the lid off brunch, explaining that “brunch menus are an open invitation to the cost-conscious chef, a dumping ground for the odd bits left over from Friday and Saturday nights” adding that “you can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon, and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.”

New York Times columnist and writer Mark Bittman calls brunch “a huge fat-bomb,” no doubt a recognition that Americans will eschew fresh fruit and veggie frittatas to swill a few Bloody Marys with their heavy on the Hollandaise eggs benedict.  In his defense, Bittman’s recent foray into Michelle Obama inspired healthy food activism has probably starved his thought processes of the clarity made possible only with a diet replete with processed foods and animal products.

Some brunches offer sumptuous all-you-can-choke-down buffets with gleaming silver trays overfilled with fried, gloppy, saucy, sweet, savory and otherwise not-good-for-you options sure to be a big hit among caloric overachievers.  This is the arena in which ordinary Americans do their best to emulate the behavior of gurgitators, the competitive eaters who can eat more in one seating than most of us can eat in a week.  It’s where belts are loosened, fabric is stretched and civility (especially table manners) goes out the window.

Crab Benedict

Crab Benedict Two house-made crab cakes topped with poached egg and tarragon hollandaise

Albuquerque has its share of bounteous buffet brunches, the magnetically appealing, calorie-laden Vegas-style all-you-can-eat Bacchanalian feasts, but it also has the type of high-quality, off-the-menu brunch offerings that have lessened the frequency of my trips to Santa Fe on Sunday.  Restaurants such as the Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro, Lucia, the Gold Street Caffe, Sophia’s Place and a spate of others serve up brunch that’s worth climbing out from under the covers to indulge in.

Add the Cafe Green to the list of terrific brunch purveyors.  If the “Green” portion of the restaurant’s name evokes unappetizing thoughts of getting out of bed for a menu of dandelion salads and leafy vegetables, you’ll be happy to hear this charming cafe just a few blocks south of Old Route 66 on Fifth Street isn’t solely about raw foods.  Nor does the “Green” on the marquee necessarily perpetuate the concepts of the broad-based environmental “green” movement sweeping America.  For Sunday brunch, the restaurant offers a plethora of palate-pleasing, putting on the pounds entrees that defy any preconceptions you might have based on its name.

If you’re still not convinced this is not the type of healthful restaurant you avoid like the plague, perhaps the fact that there are only four salads on the menu will sway you.  One of those salads is a tarragon crab salad featuring fresh blue crab with butter lettuce topped with spring peas, radishes and creamy tarragon dressing.  A diet with a few salads like that hardly sounds torturous.

A side of wheat toast, bacon and green chile

A side of wheat toast, bacon and green chile

The restaurant’s Web site describes Cafe Green’s cuisine as “down-home, American style cooking offering only the freshest and best ingredients with great wine and excellent service.”  House specialties include seared scallops, gnocchi potato dumplings and chorizo ravioli, the last of the three being next on my list.  Sides include truffle fries, fried green beans, sweet potato fries, potato salad, side salad or seasonal fruit.   There are six sandwiches on the menu, perhaps the most intriguing being a blackened Tilapia Po’Boy (pan-seared tilapia filet with cilantro cabbage slaw and piquillo aioli on a French roll).  Surprises abound throughout the menu.

But it was brunch that first drew us to this converted home on Fifth Street, the promise of a new place to sate Sunday’s cravings for the sweet and savory melange of flavors that typify a succulent Sunday morning soiree featuring crepes, frittatas, quiche, pancakes, French toast, eggs and crab Benedict.  Now, that’s what you want to wake up for on a Sunday though Cafe Green does offer a few brunch salads for the die-hards.

Don’t dare call the restaurant’s La Croque Madame a French hot ham and cheese sandwich.  It’s not only more sophisticated than its American counterpart, it’s several orders of magnitude better.  Cafe Green’s version is crafted with grilled ham and Fontina cheese with a béchamel sauce and a fried egg on top.  The béchamel, an ultra-rich sauce that incorporates the calorific trio of butter, milk and cheese, covers even the fried egg, the flavor of which blends magnificently with the rich sauce.  As my friend Bill Resnik would say, it should come standard with a side of angioplasty.

Banana Cajeta Crepe:  Caramelized bananas and Goats-milk caramel with vanilla ice cream

Banana Cajeta Crepe Caramelized bananas and Goats-milk caramel with vanilla ice cream

Equally diet-devastatingly decadent is Cafe Green’s Crab Benedict, two house-made crab cakes topped with poached egg and tarragon hollandaise on an English muffin base.  This is a pretty traditional interpretation of the classic breakfast and brunch dish first created in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria more than a century ago.  This being New Mexico, I’ve long contended it should be a state law that all Eggs or Crab Benedict dish be embellished with green chile.  Since Cafe Green doesn’t subscribe to that notion, a ramekin of green chile did the trick, ameliorating the otherwise delicious, but wholly traditional dish, with piquancy and pizzazz.

Cafe Green’s brunch menu includes both savory (a spinach and ham crepe as well as a veggie crepe) and dessert crepes.  The star of the latter is a banana cajeta crepe, caramelized bananas and goats-milk “caramel” with vanilla ice cream. Though not a caramel in the true sense of the word, cajeta is cooked very slowly with sugar to form a complex and rich thick syrup much like a caramel.  In combination with vanilla ice cream and ripe bananas, it is fabulous–again, something that will make you feel you’re getting away with something sinfully delightful.

The Duke City has a few anointed restaurants on most people’s brunch circuit.  Cafe Green is off-the-beaten-path and perhaps off-the-radar for some, but it’s a restaurant which just might win you over, especially on those dreary, grey Sundays in which a late morning repast is in order.

Cafe Green
319 5th Street, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 28 March 2010
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $$
BEST BET: Crab Benedict, La Croque Madame, Banana Cajeta Crepe, Bacon

Cafe Green on Urbanspoon

Yanni’s Mediterranean Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque's best Greek restaurant.

No Yanni come lately is Albuquerque's best Greek restaurant.

The now defunct Albuquerque Monthly magazine titled a May, 1995 article “Yanni Come Lately,” heralding the arrival of a new Greek restaurant on Nob Hill.  More than a decade has elapsed since that article and Yanni’s Mediterranean continues to more than live up to the lofty accolades it has earned over the years. Yanni’s has been recognized by other national, regional and local publications for its outstanding cuisine.  It has also earned the unwavering devotion of teeming masses who patronize the city’s best Mediterranean restaurant.

In 1998, Gourmet magazine named Yanni’s a restaurant of distinction in the Southwest.  Southwest Airline’s Spirit magazine has also proclaimed it a great restaurant for Greek food.  More recently, readers of the Alibi voted Yanni’s as the best Greek restaurant in Albuquerque as well as the city’s very best restaurant overall in 2009.  Considering the vast improvements in the city’s restaurant landscape since Yanni’s launch a decade and a half ago as well as Albuquerque’s propensity for embracing the newest kids in the block, that’s a tremendous accomplishment for what is becoming one of the city’s venerable institutions.

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

Deep Mediterranean Blues Throughout the Dining Room

In that time, more than Yanni’s reputation has grown.  The restaurant now occupies much of a city block.  Immediately adjacent to the restaurant is a swanky 75-seat Opa Bar in which the most popular libations are available for every occasion.  The stylish bar offers the same lunch and dinner menu as the restaurant as well as an abbreviated happy hour menu which includes such non-Greek treasures as fish tacos with pico de gallo.   A commodious banquet room with comfortable and private seating for up to 100 guests provides state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment as well as a special banquet menu.

Yanni’s Mediterranean is the brainchild of Nick Kapnison and his wife Chris Kapnison, veteran restaurateurs and successful entrepreneurs who have a keen grasp of what their dining patrons want–hearty portions of reasonably priced cuisine served in a pleasant milieu by an attentive wait staff.  Their restaurant delivers!

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

Warm, fresh bread from Fano Bakery in every meal.

The south-facing Yanni’s is at the heart of Nob Hill on Central Avenue.  Its interior is awash in hues of azure, the shades and colors of the Aegean Sea.  Sculpted plaster busts and verdant plants sit atop truncated Corinthian columns.  The restaurant’s windows provide a panoramic view of the Nob Hill traffic and of the interesting shops that make this one of the city’s most diverse and interesting shopping districts.

Interestingly (and I’m certainly not complaining), the ratio of women to men always seems very high–or at least it has during the times we’ve visited.  Feminine pulchritude may account, in part, for consistently pleasant dining experiences at Yanni’s, but it’s degustation of outstanding cuisine that brings us back.

Spanakopita--there is none better in the Duke City!

Spanakopita--there is none better in the Duke City!

While you’re pondering the expansive menu, Yanni’s starts you off with some of the best baked bread in town (courtesy of Fano’s Bakery, a local institution).  It encapsulates all that is wonderful about the staff of life–a hard-crust surrounding a soft, yeasty bread.  When dipped into mixture of virgin olive oil and herbs (including chile pequin seeds), the character of the bread really stands out.  If you’re not careful, however, you can easily fill up on bread and still call it a great meal.

The mezathakia (appetizer) options are a veritable pantheon of prandial perfection (forgive the alliteration).  The challenge is in deciding which appetizer(s) with which to start.  If you favor simplicity instead of sophistication and sweet breath be damned, you can start off with Greek olives and feta cheese served with a generous amount of pita wedges.  The fetid feta spreads easily on the warm pita which tempers the acrid and salty fromage.  The olives are rich and briny.   You won’t find any better in the city.

A Greek Trio: Tzatziki, Skorthalia and Taramasolata with Warm Pita Wedges

A Greek Trio: Tzatziki, Skorthalia and Taramasolata with Warm Pita Wedges

A more complex flavor-rich starter features goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic served with pita wedges, a tasty triumvirate which spreads easily on the warm pita.  The soft, easily spread goat cheese and its strong and pungent, but very pleasant flavor is an excellent foil for the sweet acidity of the sun-dried tomatoes and the eye-watering garlic.   The resultant mix is absolutely delicious.

Still another tasty triumvirate features pita wedges with three easily spreadable dips: Tzatziki, a wonderfully refreshing spread made from yoghurt, garlic, and cucumbers; Skorthalia, a pureed garlic spread as pungent and eye-watering as freshly-cut onions;and Taramasalata, what some refer to as “poor man’s caviar” because it’s usually made from the salted and cured roe of either cod or carp.  The three spreads are intensely flavored, nothing subtle about any of them.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni's: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Another wonderful pasta dish at Yanni's: Penne pasta with poached salmon in a Cayenne cream sauce.

Not surprisingly, Yanni’s serves the very best dolmathes (wonderfully seasoned beef and rice stuffed grape leaves) in town.  Four of these wonderful treasures are served warm and drizzled with the whisper-thin tartness of Avgolemono sauce made with lemons.  You can also opt for dolmathes served cold and vegetarian style.

Yanni’s saganaki, a dish of flaming Green Kaseri cheese is almost as much fun to see prepared tableside as it is to eat it.  Alit courtesy of a common lighter and incendiary rum, the flames ascend toward the heavens, leaving blue and orange plume trails in their aromatic wake.  Your well-trained attendant turns the cheese over with but a steak knife, manipulating the flames so they lick the cheese, imparting high heat through and through and with an evenness that ensures every bit of the cheese is flame-kissed.

Lamb Chops Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Lamb Chops Marinated in Greek Oregano, Lemon and Garlic, Grilled to Perfection

Yanni’s appetizers are better than entrees at many other restaurants and you can easily make a meal of two or three of them, but you’ll want to partake of incomparably prepared main courses.  The menu categorizes them into traditional Greek dinners; vegetarian entrees; steaks, chops and seafood; pastas; calzone and pizza.  The specials of the day might fall into any one of these categories and are generally terrific.

The pastas are primo good!  In fact, a daily special of Greek meatballs and fettuccine with marinara constitutes the very best spaghetti dish I’ve had in New Mexico.  The meatballs were heavenly spiced and of divine texture, wholly unlike the sawdust meatballs served at many local Italian restaurants.  It’s the entree I look for every time we visit Yanni’s, an entree which truly earns the sobriquet “special.”  Perhaps that’s why the restaurant features it as a “special of the day” and not as a daily offering.

Greek style chicken

Greek style chicken

Another pasta entree, appropriately named Mediterranean Linguini, is a gem of a dish which includes Kalamata olives, fresh Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, sweet basil, virgin olive oil and marinara.  Talk about taste contrasts blending together to form something unbelievably wonderful.  The linguini, a wider noodle than spaghetti, is prepared at a bit more than al dente while the other ingredients are fresh and delicious, all perfectly prepared.

Still another pasta entree that came from the daily specials list to capture my heart is a penne pasta dish with poached salmon, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Cayenne cream sauce.  The piquant creaminess of the Cayenne sauce and well-seasoned salmon tastes play well on each other’s contrasts.  Salmon can be difficult to flavor and bad salmon is prone to “fishiness.”  Not so under the skilled skillet of Yanni’s chef where the salmon has a fresh taste, almost as if caught in the wild.   It is an absolutely perfect pasta dish!

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg.

A departure from pasta dishes to meat based entrees is like departing Paris for Rome.  Both are wonderful in their own right and each is done very well at Yanni’s.  The Greek style chicken entree is, like many entrees at Yanni’s, prolific enough for two people to share.  It is comprised of a breast, leg, thigh and wing, all slow-roasted and flavored with lemon and flecked with garlic and oregano.  The skin is crispy while the chicken is moist and delicious.

Partaking of Yanni’s bone-in pork chops is reminiscent of dining at a big city Chophouse where prime cuts of beef and pork are presented with pulchritudinous pork and beauteous beef clinging to a Flintstone sized bone.  At Yanni’s, the pork chops are marinated in Greek oregano, lemon and garlic then grilled to perfection.  These chops are moist and tender and at nearly an inch-thick, each and every morsel extricated easily from the bone is very satisfying.  Accompanied by roasted red potatoes potatoes resplendent in olive oil and Greek seasonings and deliciously bitter spinach, this is a terrific entree.

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

A fresh and delicious Greek salad

Several lamb based entrees are prepared in traditional Greek style and all exemplify all that is great about lamb.  Very little (if any) gaminess is ever found on Yanni’s lamb entrees, whether it be the lamb ragout, lamb chops or lamb shank.  Greek “fast food” in the form of Yanni’s gyros is an absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned amalgam of lamb and beef swimming in tzadziki sauce and stuffed into a warm pita bread pocket.  There may be no better gyros anywhere in New Mexico.

Entrees are accompanied by your choice of soup or salad.  For me, it’s a no-brainer.  The Avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with lemon and egg is the very best I’ve had anywhere.  Wholly unlike the sweet and sour soup you might find at a Chinese restaurant, it’s only mildly tart and blends tart and savory tastes in seemingly equal proportions.  The Greek salad is certainly no consolation prize.  Artistically constructed of Romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber slices, tomato wedges and lots of fetid feta, it’s as good and fresh a Greek salad as you’ll find anywhere.

 Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.

A wealth of dessert options (if you have room) will satiate the sweetest of teeth.  From the traditional baklava to an inspired baklava sundae, Yanni’s has a dessert line-up with which no other Mediterranean restaurant can compete.

Our recent favorite is Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek dessert made with a lemon-kissed custard in a crispy phyllo pastry shell.  The custard is (gasp, forgive the blasphemy) as good (if not better) as the very best natillas we’ve had in New Mexico while the light pastry shell cuts into the richness just enough so you’re not overwhelmed.  It is one of the best dessert options available in the city.

There are many reasons Yanni’s Mediterranean separates itself from the rest.  Quite simply, it provides one of the Duke City’s very best dining experiences.

Yanni’s Mediterranean
3109 E. Central
Albuquerque, NM
268-9250
LATEST VISIT: 27 March 2010
# OF VISITS: 8
RATING: 23
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Souvlaki, Greek Chicken, Mediterranean Pasta, Galaktoboureko, Gyros, Pizza

Yanni's Mediterranean Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon