In a 2011 interview, Green Bay Packers Superbowl winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed that during the National Football League season, the comments he hears most often from fans and the questions they ask him most have to do with Fantasy Football: “Is Jermichael (Finley) playing this week?” “Who’s starting at running back?”
Until rather recently, the questions most frequently asked this humble blogger were “what’s your favorite (restaurant or food)?” and “what restaurant would you recommend for a (birthday, anniversary or special event)?” Those questions have been supplanted by curiosity about Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (BOTVOLR), the most prolific (126 comments as of this writing) commentator to this blog. “What’s Bob like?” “Where does Bob get his ideas?” “What are Bob’s favorite foods?”
Bob’s comments are not only insightful and entertaining, they often reflect his civic-mindedness. He’s an unabashed promoter of his adopted hometown of Albuquerque, greeting visitors to our fair city as an ambassador for the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau. Although he’s quite fearless when it comes to trying new restaurants and food trends, some of his favorites include the old standards which have graced the area for decades: The Monte Carlo Steakhouse, The Dog House Drive In, Paul’s Monterrey Inn and one he’s recommended to me for years, Mr. Tokyo.
Bob tells me, “I’ve been eating their Shrimp Tempura for 8 years by driving up from down in the North Valley per the under $10 price for miso soup, rice, 5 shrimp and a half dozen variety of veggies always cooked and presented just right in a peaceful setting by courteous staff. Not to mislead, I have sampled other dishes and give them a thumbs up too, it’s just their Tempura has a hold on me!” Despite his rousing endorsement, it took a wistful moment of reflecting on the greatness of Noda’s Japanese Cuisine‘s tempura for me to accede to Bob’s recommendation.
Mr. Tokyo is tightly ensconced in the fairly nondescript El Dorado Square Shopping Center at Montgomery and Juan Tabo in the far Northeast Heights. From Montgomery, Mr. Tokyo’s storefront is obfuscated by the ubiquitous Walgreen’s and the restaurant is too tiny to be visible from Juan Tabo. In fact, if you’re not looking for it, you’ll probably pass it by and that would be a loss. After my inaugural visit, I found it easy to see why Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos appreciates this paragon of terrific tempura and teriyaki so much.
Mr. Tokyo has two distinct, albeit diminutive dining rooms with perhaps a dozen tables or so. Its wasabi-green colored walls are sparsely adorned with only a few pieces of Asian artwork on display. A perfunctory array of Japanese paper lanterns hang from the ceiling while paper screens cover the windows. Service is not only prompt and attentive, it’s very cute if you’re waited on by the owner’s ten-year-old daughter, a half-pint whirling dervish who seems to know all the regulars. Though she didn’t wait on me, her Air Force bound brother was quite pleasant and helpful.
Mr. Tokyo has served the Duke City since 1994. It has no pretensions to offering gourmet cuisine or to performing knife wielding feats of prestidigitation as some teppanyaki restaurants do, but by no stretch is it a shopping mall quality purveyor of Japanese fast-food. Think of it as a family owned and operated restaurant offering great value and very high quality food in a pleasant milieu. Think of it as a restaurant in which you’ll be treated to teppanyaki quality beef, chicken or seafood without the high prices and excessive showiness. Think of it as a little gem.
The menu is hardly a compendium, offering some eight appetizers. Save for the sushi and sashimi section of the menu, no category–tempura, hibachi, combinations, grilled udon, soup, fried rice or specials–on the menu even approaches a dozen items. Among the eight tempura items–vegetable, chicken, beef, shrimp, scallops, salmon, red snapper and seafood–are Bob’s long-time favorite, the shrimp tempura with mixed vegetables. It would behoove me to discover the dish which has ensnared Bob all these many years.
Though I ordered the shrimp tempura on the menu, what was brought to my table was hardly the bounty–five shrimp and a half dozen variety of veggies–Bob had described. My order consisted of two shrimp and a tangled nest of tempura battered, deep-fried vegetables, none easily discernible from the other. The large shrimp (an oxymoron) were quite good, an antithesis of the mushy, greasy tempura you’ll find at bad Japanese restaurants. The tempura is lightly battered and crisp with nary a hint of greasiness. Best of all, you can actually taste sweet, succulent shrimp neath the tempura. The tangle of vegetables is a tease which left me wanting the tempura-battered onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and green peppers Bob enjoys so much.
My entree, New York steak teriyaki prepared on a hibachi was excellent. Served with a stir-fry vegetable medley (julienned zucchini, onions, bean sprouts) and steamed rice, the portion size is an easy cure for a robust appetite. The steak, prepared at medium and cut the way a mother would, is resplendent in a sheen of teriyaki sauce. The sauce is more savory than it is sweet, quite unlike the thick, syrupy sauces some restaurants offer. Each piece of steak is tender and juicy with no fat or sinew anywhere. The stir-fried vegetables are a surprising treat while the rice is perfectly prepared and delicious.
Lest I forget (though it would be entirely understandable), entrees are accompanied by a bowl of miso soup, the only item not particularly noteworthy. Most miso soup served at restaurants is ready-made so it’s rarely more than edible. Often what distinguishes one restaurant’s miso soup from another’s is the temperature at which it is served. Mr. Tokyo’s arrived at my table barely tepid.
Great food, friendly service, good value, the opportunity to perhaps meet Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos. There are many reasons to visit Mr. Tokyo. My only regret is that it took me so long to do so.
11200 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 22 December 2011
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Shrimp Tempura, New York Steak Teriyaki