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Tune-up Café – Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Tune-Up Cafe, already a neighborhood standard

The Tune-Up Cafe, already a neighborhood standard

Dave Who? From 1981 until its closing in 2008, the converted residence at 1115 Hickox Street was the home of Dave’s Not Here, a quaint and quirky neighborhood favorite loyalist locals described as “unforgettable.” Perhaps “memorable” would have been more appropriate, because as the Eagles reminded us in their 1976 hit song New Kid In Town, “they will never forget you ‘til somebody new comes along.” That somebody new…the new kid in town… the usurper who made many of us forget about Dave’s Not Here is the Tune-Up Café.

When it first launched, the Tune-Up Café was always mentioned in the same breath as its beloved predecessor. Over time, however, the equally funky Tune-Up Café has carved out its own identity and it’s no longer just “that restaurant which replaced Dave’s Not Here.” Vestiges of Dave’s Not Here remain if you look closely, but for the most part, it can truly be said that Dave’s now truly gone. The shoulder-to-shoulder personal space proximity dining room hasn’t grown up any, but a small covered patio has been added. Not even a mirror on the dining room’s west-facing wall can make the Tune-Up Café any larger.

Dave Was Here Burger with Green Chile

Dave Was Here Burger with Green Chile

The Tune-Up Café is the brainchild of Jesús and Charlotte Rivera, both veterans of the Santa Fe restaurant scene. Jesús is originally from El Salvador while Charlotte’s roots are in Northern Louisiana. They’re co-conspirators in developing a menu interesting enough to intrigue the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives program which showcased the restaurant in an episode called “Neighborhood Favorites.”  Host Guy Fieri called the Tune-Up Cafe “a perfect example of what we’re looking for on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” meaning “they scratch-cook just about everything, the place is full of character and the neighborhood totally digs it.”

Not surprisingly, the Food Network worthy menu features some Salvadoran specialties as well as Mexican and New Mexican entrees with a smattering of American favorites, too. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends,  the Tune-Up Cafe can no longer be categorized as just a “neighborhood favorite.”  Fans of the Food Network’s “Triple D” show from throughout the fruited plain have made pilgrimages to the restaurant, too.  Many of them have returned.

The Cubano

The Cubano

The menu once paid a playful mark of respect to its predecessor tenant with a burger named “Dave Was Here,” but that burger has been rechristened the Tune-Up Burger. It’s one of three burgers on the menu, including a vegan made burger–the brown rice nut burger (a housemade patty served on a brioche bun). The similarities between the Tune-Up Burger and the burgers served by Dave’s Not Here start with the sheer size and volume of these behemoth burgers. Dave’s was famous for its 9-ounce beef patty and the Tune-Up Burger has got to approximate that prodigious size. There are similar burger toppings, too, like the green chile, grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms, but the Tune-Up Café also offers Cheddar, Jack, Blue, Manchego and Provolone cheeses.

While Dave’s Not Here obtained its beef from a local market, the Tune-Up Café grinds its beef daily. One of the biggest differences in the burgers is in the bun. The Tune-Up Café uses a sesame seed covered brioche bun instead of the standard, run-of-the-mill bun. The Tune-Up burger comes standard with homemade mayo, lettuce, tomato and a pickle spear. The rest is up to you. The green chile warrants a “gringo” rating in the piquancy scale, but it’s got a nice roasted flavor.

Salvadoran Pupusas

Salvadoran Pupusas

The brioche bun is hard-crusted and formidable. That means that unlike so many standard burger buns, it won’t wilt and wither under the weight and moistness of the ingredients you may choose to pile on. It also means the bun may be a bit chewy, but on the Tune-Up Burger, that’s a good thing. You’ll have to open up as wide as you do for your dentist with this two-fisted masterpiece. It’s a gigantic burger with a lot of flavor. All burgers and sandwiches are served with hand-cut French fries.

The Tune-Up Café serves up its own rendition of the seemingly de rigueur Cuban sandwich. Where many Cuban sandwiches in the area seem to be waifishly thin with parsimoniously portioned ingredients, the Cubano is thick and generously engorged with its ingredient melange. The canvass for the Cubano is a ciabatta roll which is dressed with a citrus and garlic marinated pork loin, cured ham and Swiss cheese. The menu indicates this sandwich is pressed, but you wouldn’t know it the way the ingredients bulge. In any case, the restaurant’s panini grill must be super-sized to accommodate this Cubano. It’s an excellent sandwich, one which can easily be shared. It’s one of three sandwiches on the menu, the most intriguing being a Ginger Chicken Sandwich on ciabatta with Provolone and basil aioli.

Cinnamon Roll

Cinnamon Roll

In New Mexico’s melting pot of cultural cuisine, one cuisine which has captured the fancy of culinarily intrepid diners is Salvadoran cuisine.  New Mexican diners who have embraced Salvadoran cuisine have one-up on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri who had never even had a pupusa until his visit to the Tune-Up Cafe.  He called it “crazy good,” effusively praising the “crispy, crunchy masa on the outside with the corn and the cheese oozing out of it.”  It warranted a high-five for the chef along with the comment, “you have completely train wrecked me, man.”

The pupusa is the national snack of El Salvador; it’s a thick, hand-made corn tortilla stuffed with sundry ingredients. Unlike New Mexican tortillas, Salvadoran tortillas are made with no baking powder and very little (if any) salt. They’re made with a maize masa. Of all the pupusas we’ve ever had, none have the pronounced corn taste of the pupusas at the Tune-Up Café. None are any bigger. Where the standard pupusa seems to be about four-inches in diameter, these are roughly the size of a pancake. Two different pupusas, served two per order, adorn the menu. Our favorite of the two is stuffed with flank steak, chile pasado and queso fresco.

Huevos Salvadorenos

Huevos Salvadorenos

Accompanying each order of pupusas is a Salvadoran cabbage salad somewhat resembling the pinkish pickled relishes served at some Mexican restaurants. Curtido is made with pickled cabbage, onions and just a hint of red pepper. The Tune-Up Cafe makes the best curtido I’ve ever had, so good it will postpone enjoying the pupusa itself. 

Another delightful Salvadoran entree is the Huevos El Salvadorenos, scrambled eggs with scallions and tomatoes, refried beans, pan-fried banana, crema and corn tortillas.  It’s not exactly a novel concept with similar offerings–the Huevos Motuluenos at Cafe Pasqual and Huevos Yucatecos at Tecolote Cafe–being familiar to Santa Fe diners.  The Tune-Up Cafe’s huevos would be much improved with chile, but with both red and green tinged with cumin, we opted against it.  The highlight of this dish is the melding of sweet, caramelized pan-fried bananas and the slightly sour-savory crema.  The huevos themselves are perfectly prepared.

Banana Pancake with real syrup

Banana Pancake with real syrup

Sweet-toothed diners who look for a high carb morning pick-up will enjoy the cinnamon rolls, spiral-shaped beauties large enough to share.  The cinnamon rolls are redolent with cinnamon and are iced generously.  The Tune-Up Cafe’s buttermilk pancakes are among the very best in town.  Best of all, they’re served with real syrup and can be topped with blueberries, bananas or chocolate chips.

In time we may forget what life was like without the Tune-Up Café.  It may already have supplanted its predecessor for local loyalty, a funky ambiance and a menu replete with deliciousness.

Tune-up Café
1115 Hickox Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 983-7060
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 January 2013
1st VISIT: 10 May 2008
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: El Salvadoran Pupusas, Dave Was Here Burger, Cubano, Hand-cut French Fries

Tune-Up Cafe on Urbanspoon

Chez Bob – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Chez Bob, one of Albuquerque's very best French restaurants

Chez Bob, one of Albuquerque’s very best French restaurants

Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of a meal there, it’s hard not to like a restaurant named Chez Bob. Much as poetic French words are apt to do, the term “chez” seems to impart instant credibility, authenticity and just a touch of haughtiness to any restaurant sporting that appellation–even though “chez” is just a preposition which means “at the home of.” So, Chez Lucien is essentially “at the home of Lucien.”  On restaurants, the term “chez” usually prefaces the name of the chef or owner, as in Chez Pierre or Chez Emile. 

The ordinary nature of the “Bob” portion of the name Chez Bob counterbalances the haughtiness of the term “chez” because Bob is one of those “every man names” we all trust. It doesn’t have those intimidating metrosexual qualities of Hollywood names such as Troy and Brad or the perceived hauteur of a French name. Bob is a vanilla name, a name your friends and neighbors might have. You would probably feel more welcome at a restaurant named “Chez Bob” than you would at one named “Chez Arnaud” which sounds more than a bit pretentious and expensive.

Simple elegance at Chez Bob

Simple elegance at Chez Bob

The Bob in Chez Bob is Robert “Bob” Maw. Bob’s vision is for Chez Bob to be the type of restaurant with which he grew up in New York, the type of restaurant which emphasizes great food, great service and a great experience for all patrons. He means it when emphasizing service, teaching his staff that it’s much easier to remake an entree than to make a new customer. His goal is to exceed the expectations of each and every guest. Chez Bob is well on its way to doing just that with a young, but very talented kitchen staff that includes chefs Jason Sanchez and Stephen Wood and baker-sous chef Rebecca Rodriguez who prepares the restaurant’s desserts, quiches and pear tart.

Before there was a Chez Bob, there was La Crepe Pierre, a charming little eatery in the plaza at Candelaria and San Pedro.  An year had barely elapsed when the restaurant moved to the far Northeast Heights and was rechristened Chez Bob for its owner.  The restaurant is ensconced in a sprawling shopping center, part of an urban infill effort on the northeast corner of Paseo del Norte and Wyoming.  Its de rigueur stuccoed facade is somewhat obfuscated from traffic and its signage, even though incorporating the Eiffel Tower, is subdued.  Being away from the well-beaten, well-eaten path in an out-of-the-way shopping center have made it a destination restaurant, one which diners from outside the neighborhood have in mind when they set out for a great meal.  My three visits have validated that Chez Bob is a special restaurant, one discerning diners should visit even if it may be a bit out of the way.

French bread at Chez Bob

French bread at Chez Bob

Chez Bob’s interior is as charming as the exterior facade is blase. Industrial style ductwork on the ceiling is barely noticeable considering everything pleasant to look at–from the colorful portraiture festooning the walls to the tile and cabinetry. The center part of the restaurant is lined with small tables in close, neighborly, proximity to one another, while comfortable booths brace against the north and south walls.  Linen tablecloths and napkins  adorn each table as does a full place-setting.  It’s a welcoming and cheery milieu with a casual elegance.

Service at Chez Bob isn’t haughty in the least.  It’s friendly and attentive without the wait staff hovering over you at every turn. The staff is trained well enough to understand that a casual glance here and then is enough to know when customers’ glasses needs refilling or more bread is needed at the table.  Bread is one of the few items not prepared on the premises.  Chez Bob showcases the freshest, wild-caught seafood and premium steaks with everything on the Continental cuisine menu prepared to order.  All sauces are freshly made from the highest quality ingredients.  Instead of sticker shock, your face will register surprise at the reasonable bill of fare.

French Onion Soup and Cream of Potato and Ham Soup

French Onion Soup and Cream of Potato and Ham Soup

The menu is an impressive array of mostly French entrees with a smattering of Italian cuisine for good measure.  All entrees are served with a side salad, starch of the day and fresh vegetables.  The “On the Hoof” section of the menu features only two items–Beef Wellington and Rib Eye Steak–but they’re better than steakhouse quality.  The “Wet and Wild Caught” menu includes seafood delicacies such as Diver Scallops prepared with your choice of three sauces: Provencal, St. Jaques, or Buerre Blanc.  Poultry offerings such as Duck a l’Orange adorn the Winged Creatures menu.  Diners also have their choice from among six savory or sweet crepes or from an impressive selection of Italian pasta dishes.

A thinly sliced loaf of French bread with chilled butter is a French restaurant staple and Chez Bob doesn’t disappoint. It is hard-crusted, airy French bread served with creamy French butter.  Diet be damned, you’ve got to have a few slices of the staff of life with your every meal here–some with butter and some saved so you can sop up the soups or sauces. 

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Cheese Plate: Gruyere, Fontina, Goat Cheese and Brie with Strawberries, Grapes and Crostini

The soups at Chez Bob are magnificent, none better than the traditional French Onion Soup. This heart-warming elixir is made from rich Chablis (a dry white wine) enhanced beef-based stock with caramelized onions served with a toasted gratin with bubbly Swiss cheese.  It’s not as aesthetically appealing as some soup crocks on which the golden, melting cheese blankets the entire top, but it is beefy, rich and fragrant and as delicious as soup gets.  Almost as good is a soup du jour offering of cream of potato and ham soup, a thick, creamy soul-warming bowl of sheer deliciousness. 

An Artisanal Cheese Plate appetizer showcases a variety of cheeses and fresh fruits with toasted crostini.  The cheese platter is a quadrumvirate of terrific cheeses any turophile will enjoy.  Good fortune will smile upon you if the four cheeses are Gruyere, Fontina, Goat Cheese and Brie, cheeses with varying flavor profiles, but not as much textural contrast (no hard cheeses, for example) as some would enjoy.  The chevre (goat cheese) is especially flavorful, whether you spread it on the toasted crostini or enjoy it by itself.  The fruits are seasonally fresh and delicious.  They make for an effective palate cleanser in between noshing on the cheeses or for a terrific sweet contrast afterwards.

Green Chili Chicken Alfedo Lasagna

Green Chili Chicken Alfedo Lasagna

The “Pasta de la Casa” section of the dinner menu features five Italian pasta dishes including one in which New Mexico green chile meets Italian chicken Alfredo lasagna. It’s a delicious melding of flavors: fresh pulled chicken with a fromage triumvirate of rich ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan layered and finished with a green chili (SIC) Alfredo sauce. If you’re tired of being beaten over the head with puddles of thick, red marinara sauce and spicy sausage, you’ll luxuriate in the elegance and richness of Alfredo sauce and a complementary cheese trio. The pasta is light and delicate despite being just a bit thicker than some lasagna noodles. This is a creamy, delicious entree served slab-sized.

Accompanying the lasagna is a vegetable medley of sweet carrots and green beans, both reminiscent of the freshness you might experience at a market in Provence. The carrots in particular are sweet and perfectly prepared so there’s just a slight snap when you bite into them–not quite al dente, but in no way mushy. The beans are similarly fresh-tasting and delicious.

Seafood Crepe  Large sea scallops, shrimp and mushrooms in rich lobster cream sauce

Seafood Crepe Large sea scallops, shrimp and mushrooms in rich lobster cream sauce

The pasta menu also features a more conventional New York style lasagna which showcases a house-spiced sweet fennel sausage in a slow-cooked real marinara sauce with three cheeses.  Bob Maw told me once that if his customers want something that’s not on the menu and the restaurant has the ingredients to prepare it, Chez Bob will do so.  His staff didn’t bat an eye when we asked for a couple slices of sausage.  We were brought two huge patties of sweet New York style sausage, blessedly kissed by fennel.  It’s a good sausage, the type of which you might enjoy several hunks of during a meal.

Savory crepes are a specialty of the house.  Prepared on real Krampouz creperies which are renown for their uniform temperature control, these are among the very best crepes in town.  The crepe de resistance is probably the seafood crepe: large sea scallops,shrimp and mushrooms in a rich lobster cream sauce.  The golden crepe is literally bursting at its seams with ingredients, all perfectly prepared and as fresh as if brought to the kitchen from a fishing boat.  The mushrooms explode with a uniquely robust and woodsy flavor.  The scallops and shrimp are sweet and succulent.

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Beef Wellington with Yukon Gold truffle mashed potatoes and haricot verts

There are five other crepes on the menu: Crepe Florentine (spinach in a garlic cream with Bechamel and Swiss cheese), Chicken and Mushroom Crepe, Beef Bourguignon, Salmon and Asparagus Crepe and Ratatouille, a traditional French vegetable stew popularized by an animated feature film by that name. It’s an impressive assemblage of savory crepes, but savory crepes tell only part of the menu’s story. Dessert crepes are among the very best way to cap a meal anywhere.

The menu describes the Beef Wellington as “soon to be famous.”  This is one elegant entree which deserves fame and acclaim.  It’s an excellent alternative to steak though it does feature a nine-ounce select beef tenderloin and house-made, rich mushroom duxelle (sauteed and finely chopped mushrooms) wrapped in puff pastry then topped with a brandy peppercorn cream sauce.  In both taste and aroma, the hemisphere of golden puff pastry is reminiscent of the thin crust which tops freshly baked bread.  The tenderloin is prepared to your exacting specifications, but any more than medium and you’ll lose some of the beef’s inherent juiciness.  Chez Bob’s recreation of a Beef Wellington pays a loving and faithful tribute to a timeless classic.

Diver Scallops with a Buerre Blanc Sauce

Diver Scallops with a Buerre Blanc Sauce

Even among people who aren’t especially fond of fish and who think shellfish stinks, you’ll rarely hear a disparaging word about scallops.  The delicately mild-sweet, oceany but not overly briny flavor of scallops and their soft, fleshy texture are oh so endearing.   Chez Bob offers fresh, wild-caught divers scallops seared in butter and served with your choice of three sauces: Provencal, St. Jaques, or Buerre Blanc.  The scallops are plump and delicious, so fresh they nearly melted at the press of a fork.   Buerre Blanc, a rich French sauce made from an acidic reduction whisked together with chunks of fresh butter.  It adds a complex, rich layer of flavor and unctuousness to the scallops.

The luscious home made desserts menu is replete with the types of indulgences with which we should all treat ourselves once in a while.  Though they’re likely heavenly, skip the Creme Brulee and bread pudding and head over to the dessert crepes.  There are six on the menu, all tempting, all juggernauts of flavor if the ones we had are any indication.  It’s ironic that crepes are the quintessential street food of Paris where trained artisans prepare them to perfection considering that in America, crepes are the decadent denizens of fine French restaurants.

Three Cream Lemon Crepe

Three Cream Lemon Crepe

The sweet and delicate Nutella Crepe was showcased in “100+ Things To Eat Before You Die,” a popular list which has been making the rounds throughout the blogosphere for years.  It’s a crepe I’d put near the top of that list  In 2005, Chez Bob earned a “Hot Plate” award from Albuquerque The Magazine for this delicious beauty which the magazine called “a literal taste of France.”  Nutella, a thick, smooth paste made from chocolate and hazelnuts is one of those decadent sweet things you don’t mind smeared all over your face as you lap it up.  It’s that good!  Topped with whipped cream and strawberries then drizzled with confectioners sugar, it is fabulous.  Cut into it with your fork and the sweet succulence oozes out in utter deliciousness.  Oh so good!

At the opposite side of the spectrum, at least in terms of sweetness, is the tart and delicious three cream lemon crepe.  Engorged with lemon curd and cream cheese, this crepe isn’t so tart that it purses your lips, but it will grab your attention and capture your taste buds with explosions of deliciousness.  This is an overstuffed crepe redolent with flavor and freshness.

Nutella Crepe

Nutella Crepe

Though it may not (yet) have earned a Hot Plate award, the favorite dessert of Chef Sanchez is the pear tart made with real almond paste imported from France.  This is a very rich, very buttery dessert you might need to share because it is just that rich.  Thankfully sliced strawberries lend a tangy contrast to the near cloying sweetness of the almond paste.  The golden-brown, buttery pastry shell is light and delicate and the fresh poached pears are glorious.  There are many elements in this dessert to like, but if your sweet tooth isn’t what it used to be, tread lightly.  This is one rich, rich dessert.

As of this writing, Chez Bob is proceeding with its expansion to the Nob hill space once occupied by the former Vivace at 3118 Central, S.E.  The Nob Hill location will be offering breakfast and lunch and should be open in late February or early March.  Dinner will eventually follow.

Pear Tart

Pear Tart

Chez Bob has the commitment of a service-oriented and passionate owner coupled with an energetic and talented kitchen staff now thought of more in terms of excellence than youth. It’s a restaurant at which you’ll feel right at home.

Chez Bob
7610 Carmel, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 23 January 2013
1st VISIT: 7 November 2009
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 23
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET:  Prosciutto and melone, Green Chili Chicken Lasagna, Seafood Crepe, Nutella Crepe, Three Cream Lemon Crepe

Chez Bob on Urbanspoon

Sushi Xuan Asian Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sushi Xuan, a neighborhood sushi restaurant on Coors

Sushi Xuan, a neighborhood sushi restaurant on Coors

Nay-saying economic analysts who perpetuate the notion that even neighborhood monopolies would take advantage of a captive market don’t know Carter, chef-owner of Sushi Xuan Asian Grill. Rather than taking an oligopolous stance as owner of the only restaurant in the entire West Mesa to serve sushi, Carter knows he’s serving his friends and neighbors. As a West Mesa area resident for more than ten years, he wants to serve them only the very best and would never remotely conceive the notion of gouging them.

Having been trained by a master sushi chef, Carter plied his knowledge and training in a number of sushi restaurants throughout the Duke City before launching Sushi Xuan. He prides himself on the high quality, freshness and creativity of the cuisine proffered at his restaurant, having fresh fish flown in three times a day. He filets it himself to ensure it meets his exacting standards then to ensure the fish is coupled with the freshest produce, he goes shopping every morning. This is certainly the kind of benevolent businessman we all want in our neighborhoods.

Carter prepares sushi for eager customers

Carter prepares sushi for eager customers

Sushi Xuan is situated in the timeworn Sequoia Shopping Center. Despite a storefront obfuscated from the high volume of traffic on Coors Boulevard, it’s earned a reputation that spans wider than its neighborhood. Much of that is courtesy of word-of-mouth, the very best and least expensive marketing technique any restaurant can employ. Because Carter’s reputation precedes him, guests visiting for the first time have high expectations and more often than not those expectations are exceeded.

In addition to great food prepared by an innovative and conscientious chef, Sushi Xuan prides itself in providing excellent customer service in a relaxed milieu. For the utmost in personal service, sushi savants will station themselves on the sushi counter where they can watch the gregarious Carter perform deft feats of prestidigitation with knives that put the “amazing” Ginsu knife to shame. Maybe it’s a good thing, several maneki-neko cats, a symbol of good luck, are strategically positioned throughout the colorful restaurant.

Egg Drop Soup and Hot and Sour Soup

Egg Drop Soup and Hot and Sour Soup

Despite the name on the marquee, the menu at Sushi Xuan Asian Grill is much more expansive than sushi. The restaurant carries a broad selection of Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese entrees and appetizers, but this is no “fusion” restaurant. Nor is it a traditional Japanese teppanyaki restaurant even though many entrees are grilled. If sushi is what you’re after, you might want to visit during “happy hour” seven days a week from 2:30PM to 5:30PM when sushi is twenty percent off.

As you’re contemplating the menu, your choice of one of three soups–miso, egg drop or hot and sour–will be delivered to your table. It’s a refreshing and very customer-oriented change to have your choice instead of the de rigueur miso soup. The hot and sour soup is among the very best in the city, but it’s available only in winter. It lives up to its name with lip-pursing qualities aficionados will enjoy. The egg drop soup is similarly an exemplar of excellence. Both are served steaming hot which means your enjoyment might be postponed briefly.

The Screaming Roll

The Screaming Roll

In Japanese restaurants, diners often forego appetizers and let the soup serve as a starter. Do so at your own peril at Sushi Xuan because the appetizer menu is a sterling model of authenticity and deliciousness, offering such timeless classics as edamame, gyoza, chicken Yakitori and calamari tempura. The menu also offers a number of salads including the Sunomono Salad (octopus, shrimp, squid with cucumber salad) and the ever-popular Viagra salad.

The sushi menu is extensive, belying the relatively small area in which Carter creates. There’s the requisite nigiri sushi (two pieces per order) as well as sashimi (six pieces per order) and hand rolls, but mostly there’s roll-type sushi, including a number of specialty rolls. Look for the latter on the Chef’s Special Roll and Chef’s Special Request menus. Specialty rolls, created in Los Angeles in the 1960s to attract more Americans to sushi, might be poo-pooed by purists, but they showcase the chef’s creativity and esthetic sense.

The Air Force Roll

The Air Force Roll

Among novitiates, especially New Mexican fire-eaters who believe pain is a flavor, there remains a mistaken notion that sushi rolls should provide an incendiary burn. They’ll use up all the wasabi and maybe even add some Sriracha to get the eye-watering, nose-running burn they want. This adventuresome lot would think the Screaming Roll is too tame. Inside the Screaming Roll you’ll find avocado, cucumber and crab while on top, the combustible quadrumvirate of salmon, tuna, tobiko, scallion and screaming sauce. Wasabi and Sriracha are wholly unnecessary. The screaming sauce, while mild compared even to some New Mexican chile, lends heat but not so much that you can’t enjoy the deliciousness of the other ingredients. That, not some masochistic thrill, really is the point of eating sushi.

As an Air Force veteran, my pride swelled at seeing an Air Force Roll on the menu. Carter invented this roll at the request of airmen from Kirtland Air Force Base who asked for all their favorite ingredients on one roll. My high-flying colleagues did me proud again.. The inside of the Air Force Roll includes shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber. It’s topped with shrimp, tuna, crab meat and a crispy, crunch topping. The Air Force Roll is a concordance of flavors and textures wrapped in a beautifully artistic package. It may just send you into the wild blue yonder with delight.

Thai Curry Chicken

Thai Curry Chicken

Carter proves he’s no one-trick-pony with his terrific rendition of Thai and Chinese food entrees.  As if to curry my favor, he prepared a very good version of Thai Curry Chicken, mostly white chicken and an assortment of vegetables (zucchini, onion, carrots, green and red peppers, cauliflower) in a yellow curry.  The yellow curry is allowed to shine because coconut milk is used in moderation.  This means a curry that’s not dessert sweet.  Vegetables are perfectly prepared, crunchy to the degree they should be and very fresh.

One of the specialties of the house is coffee chicken,  a dish invented by Carter’s father for Chow’s restaurant.  It’s an award-winning dish frequently ordered when sweet and sour entrees won’t do.  The flavor profile of this dish is mostly sweet with a faint hint of non-acidic roasted coffee for good measure.  The chicken has a double-fried texture meaning it’s very crispy and crunchy, almost as if overly breaded.  A few Thai bird peppers add just a hint of piquancy.

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Coffee Chicken

Sushi aficionados are torn as to what Albuquerque’s premiere sushi restaurant is. Sushi Xuan is almost always in the discussion. As long as Chef Carter is at the helm, this sterling sushi restaurant which offers so much more, will be on that short list.

Sushi Xuan Asian Grill
3250 Coors Blvd, N.W. # E,
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 352-9855
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 January 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Screaming Roll, Air Force Roll, Thai Curry Chicken, Coffee Chicken, Hot and Soup Soup, Pork Fried Rice


View Sushi Xuan on LetsDineLocal.com »

Sushi Xuan on Urbanspoon