Sushi King – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
The path to becoming a sushi aficionado is, in some ways, an assertion of individualism. You might also consider it an expression in audacity.
Sushi, as most of us know, is not for everyone. Even the decision to try it the first time can be daunting. Some otherwise intrepid diners will never even get that far, the notion of consuming “raw fish” being too extreme for them.
Some will take the safe path and partake primarily or exclusively of “cooked” sushi, grilled fish enrobed in tempura batter and served warm.
Others, like my friend Maui Brian, take almost masochistic pleasure in dousing their sushi with wasabi incendiary enough to stream tears down their cheeks and leave them coughing and sputtering at every bite.
Still, others like Duke City Food’s adventurous blogger Andrea Lin are absolutely fearless, delighting in sampling sushi only the most broad-minded sushiphiles can appreciate. Think uni, the edible part of the sea urchin, a spiny echinoderm.
I also know sushi lovers who are base traditionalists. They shutter at the “spurious” nature of sushi served in Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese restaurants. Some are more contemptuous of Japanese sushi chefs who “Americanize” sushi by embellishing it with non-traditional ingredients and preparing it in non-traditional methods.
The staunch traditionalists probably wouldn’t appreciate the West side branch of Sushi King even though many of its offerings are traditional.
For one thing, Sushi King looks more like a malt shop than a sushi restaurant. That’s because the Sun Country strip mall store which houses the Sushi King was once Tip’s Coffee Shop, a 50s style burger and malt shop.
The 50s style speckled teal tables; teal and red vinyl seats and black, red and teal floor tile from the days of Tip’s Coffee Shop still remain as does the blue ceiling. Discordant (to my “left in the 70s” musical tastes) rap music resonates throughout the restaurant.
For another, Sushi King does not subscribe to the Buddhist teaching of “wabi” which means “quiet of tranquility.” Wabi values the ability to make the most of starkness and poverty by cherishing the subtle beauty found only in a very simple environment.
In neither decor nor music is Sushi King tranquil. In fact, it may be somewhat noisy in both.
Thirdly, the sushi chef might be from the Western hemisphere with no ties whatsoever to the Land of the Rising Sun. It brings to mind an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s fabulous No Reservations show in which the host visited a sushi bar in a Texas border town being run by a Mexican sushi chef who learned his trade from another Mexican. Such is the melting pot that is our fruited plain.
The original Sushi King opened in 2005 in a well trafficked downtown location on Central Avenue. It is considered one of the downtown area’s most hip and happening restaurants. The downtown Sushi King is renown for the freshness and variety of its fish. Andrea Lin assures me its uni is uniquely wonderful and in fact, her review for the Albuquerque Journal indicates “all of the sushi I have sampled here has been among the best in town.”
Similar to other Duke City sushi restaurants (and akin to New Mexican restaurants and salsa), Sushi King will have a bowl of steaming miso soup at your table within minutes after you’re seated. Seasoned with a salty miso paste, wakame seaweed and green onions, it is some of the best miso soup in the city and an excellent prelude of things to come.
Other appetizer choices include edamame (soy beans), egg rolls and various tempura and teriyaki offerings.
An interestingly named alternative are monkey balls (which have nothing to do with simians). Monkey balls consist of hot, cooked spicy tuna wrapped in a fresh mushroom then deep fried in tempura batter. They are then topped with thin, dried fish strips and a sweet and piquant sauce of Japanese mayonnaise and eel sauce.
You’ll love Sushi King’s version of monkey balls if you’re partial to mushrooms which are the prevalent ingredient you’ll taste. A thinner mushroom would allow a better balance of flavors such as with the monkey balls at Sakura Sushi
Sushi aficionados who appreciate the subtleties of sushi and its multifarious flavors will want to apply it with caution because just a bit will water your eyes.
9421 Coors Blvd, N.W.
LATEST VISIT: 24 April 2008
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Monkey Balls, Teriyaki Chicken (Maki Roll), Unagi (Maki Roll), Alaska (Maki Roll), New Mexico (Tempura Roll), Crunchy Shrimp (Tempura Roll)