Malagueña’s Latin Tapas – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Malagueña’s Latin Tapas, Five-Star Dining From a Mobile Food Kitchen

Not long after Superbowl XL’s halftime show began, a veil of theatrical smoke enveloped the stage, dissipating slowly to reveal the legendary featured performers, the immortal Rolling Stones.    First the camera panned to a gyrating Mick Jagger who got the frenzied crowd rollicking with Start Me Up. When the camera focused on Keith Richards, my sister-in-law asked when the Cryptkeeper (from the 1990s horror anthology television series Tales From The Crypt) joined the Stones.  We spent the halftime show joking at the expense of the then-63-year-old rocker who looked much older thanks to a life of debauchery.

When the last commercial began before the game resumed, I reminded our guests that despite looking like a decrepit old duffer, Keith Richards was considered one of the best guitar players in the world (in 2015, Rolling Stone named him the fourth greatest guitarist in history.)  That didn’t impress them as much as watching a video afterwards of Richards playing Malagueña, a classical Spanish Guitar composition that evokes the spirit of Spain.   Malagueña, a composition which requires exceptional deftness and skill, was actually the very first song Richards learned.   No one in our party joked about Granny Clampett playing the banjo.

Molly and Javier Montaño

For Chef Javier Montaño, an Albuquerque native and (like me) a scion of Galicia in Spain, Malagueña resonates deeply.  When he and his beauteous bride Molly relocated from San Francisco to the Duke City, it made sense that their restaurant venture would be named for the profoundly soulful song which captures the essence of Spain so well. While well cognizant of the barbarous atrocities perpetrated throughout the Americas by Spanish conquistadores, Javier’s focus is on the positive cultural and culinary aspects of the Spanish influence.  Promising a fresh twist on Spanish and Latin American Cuisine, the Montaños are taking traditional ingredients from throughout Latin America and interpreting them in delicious ways.  After our inaugural sampling of Malagueña’s fare, my Kim called it “five-star food from a food truck.”

Yes, some of the very best Latin American cuisine in the Duke City exists not in a brick and mortar operation, but in a mobile food kitchen.  With thirty years experience as a chef, Javier well knows that the three keys to success as a brick and mortar restaurant are location, location and location.  A brick and mortar might come later.  For now, the Montaños are having a blast meeting and interacting with very savvy and receptive diners.  They’ve now had their mobile food kitchen for three months (as of July, 2017), but have enjoyed a promising start.  

Chef Montaño Shows Off Beautifully Marbled Wagyu Beef from Lone Mountain Wagyu in Golden, New Mexico

Before moving to San Francisco, Javier plied his chef skills at some of New Mexico’s most highly acclaimed restaurants including Scalo in Albuquerque and the Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe.  In the City by the Bay, he served as chef at Fog City and at Guckenheimer, a corporate food service provider.  Also in San Francisco he met and married Molly who worked at the time as a gourmet food representative.  Their passion for food is obvious.  Speak with them for just a while and you’ll come away impressed with their commitment to creating a harmonious interplay from the premium ingredients they use.

Take, for example, their use of beautifully marbled wagyu beef from Lone Mountain Wagyu in Golden, New Mexico.  Wagyu beef is beef self-actualized, as good as it can be.  It’s luxurious, buttery and high in saturated fats (which, contrary to some nutrition know-it-alls tell us has many health benefits).  Wagyu is regarded as some of the best beef in the world.  Beef this exclusive and premium shouldn’t be prepared on just any old grill.  Javier worked with an Argentine friend (and few people know beef as well as Argentines do) to construct an Argentinian-style pit for grilling meats low and slow in a shallow pile of glowing coals.

Surf & Turf Special

The results are some of the most unctuous, tender, rich and absolutely delicious beef we’ve had in quite a while.  Three thinly sliced seared strips of wagyu prepared at medium-rare graced the surf and turf special of the day that also included chimichurri, a spicy shrimp skewer on roasted Spanish potatoes with an aji amarillo aioli.  A surf and turf special of this caliber is usually served with cloth napkins and silverware, not on a paper food tray.  The three shrimp on a wooden skewer are fresh and firm with a characteristic snap when you bite into them.  They’re lightly dusted with a spice mix that gives them a lively flavor profile that complements a grilled flavor.  The roasted Spanish potatoes are sliced into small cubes and have sweet-savory notes that go so well with the aji amarillo aioli. 

Amarillo aji, a ubiquitous fixture in Peruvian cuisine, also plays a prominent part in another fabulous entree–the ceviche mixto.  Ceviche is the national dish of Peru and the coastal nation’s most popular dish: fresh, raw, white fish cut into smaller than bite-size cubes, marinated and “cooked” in lime juice and seasoned with Peruvian chili peppers (often aji), onions and salt.  There are literally hundreds of variations of Peruvian ceviche.  Malagueña’s version includes not only the fish of the day, but calimari and chicharrones as well as ginger, garlic and pepitas.  The aji amarillo, a thick-fleshed chile with a medium to hot heat level works very well with the lime and ginger to imprint the sensation of invigorating freshness in your mouth.  You haven’t had ceviche until you’ve enjoyed a Peruvian version of this manna from the sea.  Malagueña’s version would make a Peruvian swoon.

Ceviche Mixto

When my Kim ordered Malagueña’s lomo burrito, my first inclination was to dismiss it as just another boring burrito, the same as so many others.  Even after Javier cut it in half to reveal edible art reminiscent of a beautiful stained glass window, I remained a cynical skeptic.  Then my Kim slid a heaping forkful into my mouth.  The lomo burrito (marinated beef with chopped red onions, fries, tomatoes, rice, lettuce, sour cream and rocoto chile sauce wrapped in a thin flour tortilla) may be the very best burrito we’ve had in three years or longer.  Rocoto is one of Peru’s most piquant chiles, an incendiary pepper that’ll set your mouth on fire if you eat it straight off the plant.  Javier tames the chile in sauce form so that its emphasis isn’t solely heat, but the sweet-fruity notes that really define this pepper. The rocoto sauce allows the lomo (the Spanish term for loin) to shine. It’s tender and delicious with a magical marinade that compliments its beefy flavor.

After polishing off our entrees and being fully sated, you’d think we could walk away contented, but we wanted to have even more of the explosions of flavors that characterized our inaugural visit to Malagueña’s.  Our solution: take home two Choripan (Argentinian spicy sausage sandwich with chimichuri and salsa fresca on a toasted bun).  Choripan is in Argentina what the hot dog is in the United States, perhaps the ultimate street food.  Choripan is obviously a portmanteau from the words chorizo, a sausage, and pan, meaning bread.  Take my word for it, Malagueña’s choripan is better than about one-hundred-percent of the hot dogs you’ll find in the Duke City.  It’s better than a Wisconsin brats, too.  Wow, is this an excellent sandwich.

Lomo Burrito

As might be expected from a mobile food kitchen, Malagueña’s menu is on the small side, listing fewer than a dozen items.  If our initial visit is any indication, you’ll want to try them all.  Aside from the items so inadequately described above, the menu on the date of our visit listed chicken pintxos (sherry, garlic chicken skewers), salt and vinegar fries, papas bravas (seasoned crispy fries with smoked tomato aioli), a spring salad (greens, nectarines, feta, almonds and mint in a charred lime vinaigrette) and a coconut pudding (with coconut, peanuts and sesame).  Javier apprised us that he and Molly plan to change up the menu frequently to keep things lively and fresh.  Lively, fresh, delicious…these are the hallmarks of Malagueña.

When he’s not prepping for his busy days on Malagueña, Javier teaches students knife skills and how to prepare everyday foods at New Day Youth & Family Services’ Gourmet Grub, a cooking class with the goal of helping Albuquerque’s at-risk youth stay off the streets and gain valuable experience in the food service industry for their future. In this capacity, he works closely with his brother Sean, part owner and general manager of Monroe’s, one of Albuquerque’s most popular New Mexican restaurants.

Choripan, an Argentinian Sausage Sandwich

My Kim may have said it best: “Malagueña offers five-star cuisine in a food truck.”  It may be…make that it is the best mobile food kitchen we’ve experienced in the Duke City.  Javier and Molly are taking Latin American cuisine to new heights.  If you hear of them rolling down your neighborhood, run, don’t walk to this wonderful addition to the Duke City culinary scene.

Malagueña’s Latin Tapas
(Location Varies)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(415) 342-1461
Web Site | Facebook Page | Instagram
LATEST VISIT: 8 July 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Lomo Burrito, Ceviche Mixto, Choripan, Special Surf & Turf

Malagueña Latin Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14 comments

  • Gil, Wow, thank you so much for dining with us on Saturday. Javier and I are beyond thrilled by your review. The detail and accuracy with which you write should leave many journalists envious. I do not remember you taking any notes either. Malaguena’s is our dream. It took years of working hard for other people to get to a place where we can do what we love working for ourselves. Mostly we just want to bring people food that we would want to eat. We hope to offer Albuquerque something a little bit different. Javier is a perfectionist in his kitchen and it feels great to have his food receive such high praise. We are working on some new recipe ideas now. Not sure what the future has in store for us but we are sure enjoying the journey. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
    Bon Appetit!

  • BOTVOLR

    Well, seems like you are going to need a Food Truque subsection given your descriptions/pics herein especially having had my first food truck venture per your previous stop at TFK http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=43295 where I later went to substitute their to-die-for Hawaii 505 BBQ Pork concoction as they were out of the GCCS.
    – Speaking of “duffers” and Malaguena, makes me reminisce being a teen trying to roller skate to this duffer’s version http://tinyurl.com/y9c4lnga . Alas, your link to Keith is just a teaser for something like this http://tinyurl.com/l8zznmk Speaking of teasing, look at all the duffers herein http://tinyurl.com/yanoaygb Can only imagine ‘they’ be playing it this weekend at Mariachi Spectacular at Sandia Amphitheater. (Lest one not know it’s purpose preceding this culmination of a week: http://tinyurl.com/ol396uk )
    – Check “Calendar” on the website for upcoming locations of The Malaguena Truquee! Bienvenidos to them!
    – PS: Can you actually buy a slab like that pictured of the Marbled Wagyu Beef from Lone Mountain Wagyu in Golden, NM? Having that and some dipping sauces to munch on could seriously get me watching more football!

    • BOTVOLR

      Ya know, if you will pardon, my apologies to Charo. Eons ago Charo was often presented as somewhat of an airhead http://tinyurl.com/m26zza6. Looking back, one might but wonder if this was her kinda only way of being a “performer” given her ethnicity, language skills, looks, and being a woman in general in a past era. Lo, to my chagrin, I didn’t click on one of several clickables on the Right per the earlier guitarist, to add her as being proficient in the guitaring of Malaguena (and other music) as well. Viva Chica….http://tinyurl.com/y7q9wj8q

      • Roland

        Bob, if you were a fan of Johnny Carson, you might remember that he played along with her “Shtick”, but he always honored her talent as a musician and performer. She never failed to impress when asked to perform with Doc and the band or even as a solo artist. And… she and Johnny were funny together.

        • BOTVOLR

          Yo Roland….Thanks for the reminder RE very missed Johnny Carson (and Leno). Your yankin my chain brings in fuzzy remembrances. Tried Google Videos….many seemed to Guest Host with Charo. Separately, you’ll never guess who else’s show she was on…What a hoot: http://tinyurl.com/y7mso9s9

          • Roland

            Enjoyed the interview showing a rather astute businesswoman who knew how to find her way, after her father’s rather difficult interaction with the Franco regime. Seems he was lucky to get 24 hours to depart, given some of Franco’s cooperative efforts with Hitler. Sounds like Charo made the best of a potentially bad situation. And it paid off hansomely for her. Probably not the airhead she appeared to be at times. Way to Go!

    • The “Restaurants by Category” does include a category called “Mobile Food Kitchens” in which Malaguena, TFK Smokehouse and others are listed. The term “food truck” evokes images of roach coaches. Mobile Food Kitchens seems to be a more apt description.

      You can indeed purchase meats from Lone Mountain Wagyu. Go here for your next purchase of some unctuous, fabulous beef.

      • BOTVOLR

        Roach Coaches? Not sure where you be coming from Gil, but Alas, this is what comes to mind: Pardon and not meaning to cast aspersions on these Folks as these are only meant to be “representational”, I can’t help but to think http://tinyurl.com/y9zpktk6 or http://tinyurl.com/yb85u243 or RIP: http://tinyurl.com/y7j4jmyn might have been considered true Roach Coaches.
        Whoa! for those of Y’all into or have SOs into the Coloring Book fad, check this out http://tinyurl.com/y8eq5tnm
        – Thanks for the purchase tip for the Lone Mountain Wagyu meats! Alas, with all due respect for the Product Sets, I’ll have to somehow parlay my Social Security COLAS or gifting from family.

        • I first heard the term “roach coach” during basic training at Lackland AFB. During infrequent breaks, drill sergeants would bark out “smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.” The non-smokers among us would scurry (not unlike roaches) toward the “roach coaches” parked nearby.

          Wisegeek defines roach coaches thusly: The trend of calling a food truck a “roach coach” is a reference to the sometimes less than sanitary conditions inside. Many food truck operators strive to maintain cleanliness, but it can be challenging in a cramped, mobile environment. As a result, a roach coach can become quite attractive to cockroaches and other pests which feed on dropped food and appreciate dark, greasy corners.

          In 2009, New York Magazine noted that the food truck had “largely transcended its roach-coach classification and is now a respectable venue for aspiring chefs to launch careers.

          Out of the great respect I have for the great chefs who ply their trades in mobile food kitchens, I won’t refer to their motorized conveyances as either “roach coaches” or “food trucks.” The term “food trucks” doesn’t sufficiently convey the extent of the magic possible from mobile kitchens.

          Your perception makes great sense, too.

    • Just wanted to let Gil’s followers know we will have a Wagyu beef special tomorrow Saturday July 22, 2017 at Marble Westside. It will feature local Vidaverde tomatoes and M’Tuccis bread. Limited quantity… come early!

  • Sarita

    They have to come to Truckin’ Tuesdays at Civic Plaza! Have to! Have to! Have to!!!

    • Malaguena’s current schedule (posted in their Facebook page) doesn’t include Truckin’ Tuesdays, but perhaps Javier and Molly could be persuaded to attend. On Thursday they’ll be at the Marble Brewery. Maybe I’ll see you there.

  • Mike Owens

    Thanks for the heads up on this food truck, I’ll have to give it a shot. If you get a chance try Don Choche. Hangs out of the Marble heights location. It’s delicious, and reasonable.

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