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Sushiya Asian Fusion Cuisine – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sushiya Asian Fusion Cuisine on Juan Tabo in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights

Sushiya Asian Fusion Cuisine on Juan Tabo in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights

I don’t eat anything that a dog won’t eat. Like sushi.
Ever see a dog eat sushi? He just sniffs it and says, “I don’t think so.”
And this is an animal that licks between its legs and sniffs fire hydrants.”.

- Billiam Coronel

Sushi has come a long way in America.  There was a time–and not very long ago–that many Americans would have agreed with comedian Billiam Coronel’s assessment of sushi.  Fellow funny-man George Carlin certainly did: “I never eat sushi. I have trouble eating things that are merely unconscious.”

The attitudinal shift that has made sushi an explosive American phenomenon was at its peak in the ten-year period beginning in 1998.  Ten years later, there were five times as many sushi bars in the fruited plain and there appears to be no surcease to the popularity of what so many people poo-pooed as just “raw fish” just a few years ago.  Sushi has become so popular, so trendy that Food and Wine wrote in 1995 that “America is becoming a nation of sushi connoisseurs.”

The stylish interior of Sushiya

The stylish interior of Sushiya

There are over 330 sushi restaurants in greater Los Angeles, about 335 in New York City and nearly 300 in Dallas.  There are at least thirty restaurants in Albuquerque which serve sushi.  It’s served in Thai, Vietnamese and Asian fusion restaurants and it’s served in just about every part of the city.  The burgeoning popularity of sushi in the Duke City almost seems correlative to the explosive growth the city has experienced in the last decade or so.

In Albuquerque as in other cities throughout America, avant-garde chefs are bending tradition daily, taking liberties with time-honored techniques and especially in the use of creative ingredients.  Traditionalists might call it heretical, but Americans call it pretty darned good.  You probably won’t find a sushi restaurant in New Mexico that doesn’t offer its own succulent variation on a green chile sushi roll.

Hot and sour soup on the left and egg drop soup on the right

Hot and sour soup on the left and egg drop soup on the right

As in every city, the distinction of being the best sushi restaurant in the Duke City is in dispute with ardent supporters for several local purveyors weighing in.  Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott, a faithful reader of this blog long before we became friends and who has pointed me in the direction of several great restaurants, has eaten sushi “everywhere in town” and contends that Sushiya is not only “the best” sushi restaurant, but the “best new restaurant in Albuquerque in 2009.”  That’s the kind of endorsement and passion that motivated me to bump other restaurants on my list.

Sushiya is located in a Far Northeast Heights strip mall with Albertson’s as its anchor tenant.  It’s ensconced in the strip mall’s southeast corner and has prominent red signage on two walls so you won’t miss it.  Previous tenants at this location include Porky’s Pride BBQ.  Within months after its opening, both the Alibi and Local IQ had reviewed Sushiya, raving about the sushi.  More than 90 percent of respondents to Urbanspoon indicate they like it, placing it among the most popular restaurants in the Duke City area.

Monkey balls on a bed of lettuce

Monkey balls on a bed of lettuce

The restaurant’s signage is subtitled “Asian Fusion Cuisine” which denotes the inventive combination of diverse, sometimes disparate culinary traditions, elements and ingredients to form an entirely new genre.  True fusion cuisine transcends both historical and geographical boundaries to create unique hybrids.  Restaurants featuring the melding of French and Chinese cuisine are especially popular.

Sushiya’s menu is replete with items that don’t appear to fit the traditional definition of fusion cuisine.  The menu features Japanese items and Chinese items, but not in combination with one another (or at least no hybrids I could discern).  In this sense, you could consider The Range Cafe a fusion restaurant because it serves American food and New Mexican food—not necessarily in hybrid combinations, but both occupying space on the menu.

Japanese deep-fried dumplings stuffed with chicken

Japanese deep-fried dumplings stuffed with chicken

Semantics not withstanding, Sushiya does have an intriguing menu, one that will draw aficionados of both Japanese and Chinese cuisine.  The proprietors are from Taiwan, an island nation occupied by Japanese during World War II.  A notable Japanese influence exists in Taiwan’s cuisine because Taiwan was under Japanese rule for several years, so good sushi is definitely not out of the question.

The lunch menu features several bento box meals, a traditional Japanese packed meal served in sometimes elaborate boxes with internal dividers in which different foods are esthetically presented.  Japanese and Chinese appetizers include edamame (steamed and lightly salted soybeans) which are commonplace in sushi restaurants and other items which are not.  In addition to the seemingly de rigueur miso soup also commonplace in sushi restaurants, Sushiya also offers hot and sour soup and egg drop soup.

Sushiya09

Top to bottom: Energy Roll, Crunchy Roll, Geisha Roll, Green Chile Roll, Eel Avocado Roll

The rice and noodles section of the menu features fried rice as well as yaki soba and yaki udon, both stir-fried Japanese soba noodle dishes that provide a nice alternative to rice (especially if you prefer all your rice on sushi rolls).  Main entrees are categorized as “from the land” and “from the sea.”  A nice selection of veggies and sides features three different tofu items as well as other interesting options, some of which you probably won’t see in other Japanese or Chinese restaurants.

The sushi menu lists several salads, most incorporating seafood elements.  Sushi and sashimi are definitely showcased, both in signature items (all priced higher than ten dollars) and in even more expensive chef’s entrees.  Sushi is available in conventional maki and tempura rolls as well as nigiri (a piece of raw fish (or other topping) on top of a small oblong brick of sticky white rice).

Energy Roll (Spicy Tuna), Crunchy Roll, Green Chili Tempura Roll

Energy Roll (Spicy Tuna), Crunchy Roll, Green Chili Tempura Roll

Having an option other than miso soup is a surprisingly welcome departure from the more traditional sushi experience that seems inextricable tied to the smooth, but unexciting miso soup.  Sushiya’s hot and sour soup is as exciting as miso soup leans toward being humdrum.  It’s spicy (pepper hot, but not piquant) and sour (like a diluted vinegar), but not excessively so and it’s absolutely delicious, among the very best of its ilk in the Duke City.  The “hot” could also apply to the soup’s temperature which, thankfully, is not served lukewarm as too many Chinese restaurants tend to serve it.  The egg drop soup, as with most of its kind, needs a generous spraying of pepper to prevent it from being too bland.

An appetizer special called monkey balls (which has nothing to do with simian’s reproductive organs) is always intriguing and though we’ve never been besotted by this appetizer, we continue to order it (perhaps in hope that it will be as delicious as its name is interesting).  Sushiya’s rendition is about as good as we’ve had it at other restaurants which is to say good, but not great.  Interestingly, the monkey balls have been different at every restaurant in which we’ve ordered them.

Sakura Roll: Soy Paper, Shrimp, Tempura, Crab, Salmon, Hamachi and Tobiko

Sakura Roll: Soy Paper, Shrimp, Tempura, Crab, Salmon, Hamachi and Tobiko

At Sushiya, Monkey balls are mushroom caps stuffed with spicy tuna and drizzled with a spicy Japanese mayonnaise.  Bite into them and you’ll luxuriate in the moist, woodsy flavor of mushrooms complemented by a rich, spicy tuna.  Six monkey balls per order means you can share these treats with someone you love.  What could have made these better, despite the spicy tuna, is more piquancy.  The spicy tuna had the bite of a toothless dog. 

The appetizer menu also includes a de rigueur Japanese dumplings (Gyoza) which you can request be prepared pan-fried, steamed or deep-fried.  The dumplings are stuffed with chicken and served with a sauce whose flavor profile was entirely dominated by soy sauce, rendering it entirely too salty.  Because of the saltiness, the dumplings are better by themselves.  Oh, and you’ll want to request the low-salt soy sauce for your sushi rolls because the house soy sauce could use serious desalinization.

Unagi (Eel)

Unagi (Eel)

The sushi menu is replete with cleverly named, inviting delicacies with a nice selection of both raw and cooked sushi.  On the signature items section of the menu, you’ll find such intriguing sushi sobriquets as Buddha Belly, Yankee, Fantasy and Crunchy.  The Crunchy lives up to its name.  It’s shrimp, crab and avocado coated in a tempura batter and deep-fried.  The exterior is crispy thanks to a tempura that is lacy and delicate.  The interior is moist and delicious.  It’s a balanced maki roll any aficionado of tempura and sushi should enjoy.

Because we didn’t see a spicy tuna hand roll on the menu, the next best thing we found was an energy roll, a tempura based roll featuring spicy tuna.  Unfortunately the spicy tuna was hardly incendiary and would barely have registered on the Scoville Scale.  That served to showcase the native flavors of tuna, my favorite fish after having lived off it for two years in Massachusetts.  The wasabi was fairly anemic, too, so it did little to spice up the spicy tuna.

Goo Loo, made from a thousand year recipe

Goo Loo, made from a thousand year recipe

Our inaugural visit was a true tempura triumvirate experience.  The green chili tempura roll showcases the roasted flavor of New Mexico green chile, but lacks the piquancy this native enjoys.  As with green chile rolls at many sushi restaurants, I did marvel at how the roasted flavor shines.  Perhaps those secrets can be shared with some New Mexican restaurants who haven’t mastered that skill.

For me, it wouldn’t be a visit to a sushi restaurant without sampling unagi, a nigiri roll.  Unagi is said to have stamina-giving properties.  Containing 100 times more vitamin A than other fish, unagi is believed to heighten men’s sexual drive.  Japanese wives would prepare unagi for dinner to suggest to their husbands that they want an intimate night.  It’s all about the flavor for me.  Unagi is delicate and slightly sweet, not like barbecue but with the same properties. 

One of the more frou-frou sushi rolls we’ve found in Albuquerque is Sushiya’s Sakura roll.  Solely from an ingredient perspective, the Sakura is a serious roll with soy paper, shrimp tempura, crab, salmon, hamachi and tobiko.  It’s also seriously tasty.  The ornamentation and presentation is what makes it so frou-frou.  The roll is sliced into seven pieces which surround a plastic ice cube atop of which julienne carrots and daikon are strewn.  The plastic ice cube lights up and changes color.  It’s mildly entertaining.

If there’s anything that can pry me away from sushi, it’s something I’ve never had and the menu purported to offer that.  Described as “an authentic thousand-year old recipe sauteed in a sweet-savory sauce plated with tempura vegetables” is an entree called Goo Loo on the “From the Land” section of the menu.  Goo loo can be prepared with chicken, pork and beef.  Alas, it’s very much like the candied, sweet meats about which I rail often on this blog.  Put a few sesame seeds on it and you could have called it sesame chicken or sesame beef, depending on how you ordered it.  It was so cloying we had to temper it with a little soy sauce, not what a “thousand year old recipe should need.”

Sushiya is a welcome addition to the Duke City’s Japanese restaurant scene and one of the best indications in the city that sushi is here to stay.

Sushiya Asian Fusion Cuisine
2906 Juan Tabo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 275-4477
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 13 July 2013
1st VISIT: 16 January 2010
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: 19
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Monkey Balls, Unami, Crunchy Roll, Green Chili Roll, Sakura Roll, Geisha Roll, Energy Roll, Eel Avocado Roll


View Sushiya Japanese Restaurant on LetsDineLocal.com »

Sushiya on Urbanspoon

  • Barbara says:

    Goo Loo Yuk is Cantonese for Sweet and Sour Pork. I seriously doubt the recipe is a thousand years old, especially if it’s tomato/ketchup based.

    February 1, 2010 at 10:43 AM
  • Ryan Scott says:

    Thanks for going to Sushiya, Gil. It is a great restaurant with great food and nice and attentive people. Thanks also for the nice mention in your review!

    February 3, 2010 at 11:21 AM
  • Madeline says:

    Sushiya is my new place for sushi. Every time my husband and I go, it’s amazing. We love the Buddha Belly roll and anything with yellowtail. Make sure to do the Sushiya roll if you go; it’s based on “the chef’s mood” and always amazing. Sushiya has become my favorite restaurant in town. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a sushi “spot”.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:59 PM
  • Ryan Scott says:

    Alibi just gave Sushiya a very complimentary review as well…this place is just fantastic!

    June 9, 2010 at 9:25 AM
  • Nate says:

    Barbara – what makes you think Sweet and Sour Pork is tomato/ketchup based? You obviously don’t know much about the ingredients used in Asian cooking…

    October 14, 2010 at 8:10 PM
  • Barbara says:

    Nate,

    I know quite a bit about Asian cooking.

    Most recipes for Sweet and Sour sauce include ketchup, just Google “Sweet and Sour Sauce recipe “. I don’t know what Sushiya puts in their Goo Loo Yuk, but there’s enough red color there to make me suspect it’s tomato.

    I know that Goo Loo Yuk, prepared in the traditional Cantonese way, has a sauce that is tomato based. It also includes soy sauce, vinegar and typically includes fruit juice, usually pineapple but sometimes orange. When I learned to make it in the 70’s in Chinatown in San Francisco that’s exactly how my Chinese friend’s mom made it.

    It can’t be 1000 years old.

    Tomatoes did not make it to China until they were imported there from the New World. And that was less than 1,000 years ago.

    October 14, 2010 at 10:56 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    The Child Bride and I just made our 28th trip to Sushiya since January of 2010 which averages as about monthly. Lately however it has almost become almost weekly which probably means that I really like it and have become even older, fatter and lazier. We both love the hot and sour soup but a few weeks ago it became pretty much like everyone else s so we commented about our disappointment. It turned out that the old kitchen chef (not the sushi chef/owner) had returned to Taiwan and not left a recipe. I must have set off a research/study project in the kitchen labs as after a couple of weeks they had duplicated the old soup. I have become very lazy as I now order the Sushiya roll as I like being surprised at what shows up. In all that time I have only had one duplicate, a very spectacular heart shaped Valentine creation, and one that was “ok.” I am left with a tough decision, Baked Mussels or Monkey Balls? The always adventurist Child Bride never varies from the Terriake Beef Bento which her enormous appetite gives us her left over tempura for breakfast (don’t reheat by microwaving unless you like mush-lightly pan fry in sesame oil). After several quick deaths at this location and a slow start Sushiya seems to be doing well and everybody treats us as if we are their most important customers even though I am certain that we are not.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:30 AM
  • Ruben says:

    Monkey balls??? That carries the banner as the most unappetizing sounding dish ever listed on this website. lol. Other candidates for worst sounding menu items?

    July 15, 2013 at 10:11 AM
  • Edward Sung says:

    LOL yeah, I can’t bring myself to order “monkey balls” although they do, uh, look delicious. I don’t know that I’ve seen any names that compare, but probably the most common rolls whose names are actually gross if you actually think about them are “spider rolls” and “caterpillar rolls.” I picture a small child being offered that and crying (or being into it, if he’s Calvin.)

    July 15, 2013 at 12:44 PM
  • Schuyler says:

    Take a look at this list: http://maddieruud.hubpages.com/hub/Funny_Food_Names_-_List_and_Pics. As for the best sounding menu items, Bob of the Village People might recommend tatas and conchas.

    July 15, 2013 at 2:01 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    It is hard to beat the trifecta of spotted dick, shit on a shingle and toad in a hole.

    July 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM
    • Ruben says:

      [It is hard to beat the trifecta of spotted dick, shit on a shingle and toad in a hole]

      LOL How did that post make it past the moderator?

      July 15, 2013 at 4:10 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    William has sold Sushiya to Miss Vicky (not the one who married Tiny Tim of Tulips fame). She didn’t think to get a non-competition agreement, so after saying he wasn’t sure whether he would move back to Taiwan or New York, he is opening a new similar place at the former site of Linn’s (Juan Tabo and Lomas). Support Miss Vicky.

    June 30, 2014 at 8:21 PM
    • Dan S says:

      From KOAT website – July 2014:

      During routine inspections, the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department found several violations at Sushiya at 2906 Juan Tabo Boulevard NE and gave it a red sticker.

      Some of the violations included vegetables and lettuce stored at room temperature, expired food, severe food debris inside a microwave and dead and live roaches found throughout the kitchen area, along with mice droppings.

      —-

      Sorry Jim, I won’t be supporting Miss Vicky anytime soon.

      September 24, 2014 at 3:41 PM

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