Old Martina’s Hall – Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

Old Martina’s Hall in Ranchos de Taos

Between the years 2000 and 2014, The Taos News had the prestigious distinction of being named the best weekly newspaper in the United States by the National Newspaper Association. Although the most famous words in American journalism–“all the news that’s fit to print”–don’t grace its masthead, The Taos News has fairly and objectively reported news of events and personalities that seemingly can exist only in Taos county. Readers like me marveled at the periodical’s ability to refrain from punchline-pocked cynicism when, for a couple of years, three topics perhaps more appropriate for Jerry Springer or The National Inquirer ostensibly dominated the front page.

One topic was the dysfunctional shenanigans of the Questa school board, the behavior of whom warranted a state-mandated suspension. Another was the hubris and arrogance of the five-member Taos County Commission who, despite a spate of unpopular decisions, thought enough of themselves that they named three new buildings in their own honor (so Bill Richardsonesque). The third topic which graced The Taos News repeatedly was that Commission’s refusal to issue a beer and wine license for Old Martina’s Hall in Ranchos de Taos, an absurd, self-serving drama that dragged on ad-nauseum. Obviously the second and third most news-worthy topics were interrelated, not an anomaly in a county historically replete with nepotism.

Bar at Old Martina’s

If that diatribe seems a bit rancorous toward Taos County, it’s not intended to be. Taos County has always been a quirky and special place, albeit long in patience and tolerance with duplicitous political wrangling. In 1981, Merilee Danneman wrote a book entitled Taos by the Tail, a collection of columns she wrote for The Taos News from 1974 through 1979. In her “nostalgic look back at a magical place in a time long ago,” Danneman attributes “everything I need to know about politics” to the Taos County Commission. It’s neither comforting nor funny to see that while the players have changed, political dynamics in Taos County remain the same. It’s the way it is and has always been in Taos County.

By denying a beer and wine license on the grounds of Old Martina’s Hall proximity to the San Francisco de Asis Church, perhaps the County Commission thought themselves to be taking a higher moral ground than previous Commissions. Factors such as precedence and history didn’t seem to matter to these paragons of virtue. You certainly didn’t see any “excuse me while I save the world” righteous indignation on the part of previous Taos County Commissioners who, for generations, allowed the edifice to serve as a rowdy dance hall (and venue for Dennis Hopper’s wild parties).

Dining Room at Old Martina’s

Old Martina’s Hall dates back to 1790, predating the San Francisco de Asis Church by a quarter century.  Sitting directly across the street from the Church made famous by the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe and the photographs of Ansel Adams, the stately adobe structure had fallen into disrepair and appeared ready to return to the dirt from which it was built.  That’s when an unlikely benefactor stepped in.  German cosmetic manufacturer and visionary entrepreneur Martina Gebhardt had visions of restoring the historic dance hall to its halcyon days as a community treasure, a milieu which had long served as the site of weddings and community gatherings. 

Martina spent more than two-million dollars renovating the long-derelict Old Martinez Hall, transforming the crumbling Pueblo Revival building into an enchanting edifice with massive adobe walls and stout viga-and-latilla ceilings.  Though her efforts weren’t universally appreciated, she persevered and after years of contentiousness (and the antics of the Taos County Commissioners), Old Martina’s Hall reopened in 2012.  Renaming the venerable structure from Old Martinez Hall to Old Martina’s Hall was a small concession for restoring an important historical center of community life.

Healthful Minded Fruit Plate

The new Old Martina’s Hall is a magnificent structure inside and out, a perfect complement to the Spanish Colonial church across the street.  Imposing and stately from the outside, it’s a breath-taking experience at every turn when you step inside.  The front room is a combination bar and dining room with light and dark wooden accents throughout.  Bright lights stream into the main dining room where you’ll want a seat by the window facing the Church.  The capacious dance hall is a splendid venue for dinner and a show or dinner and dancing.  New Mexican art, including contemporary and venerable weavings, festoons the walls.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus offer a tempting variety of diverse and delicious delicious served in a unique casual-fine dining atmosphere.  Old Martina’s Web site describes the fare as a “marriage of refined European simplicity with traditional New Mexican dishes.”  The dinner menu showcases a number of fine-dining quality seafood (picture pan seared sea scallops with pomegranate beurre blanc, quinoa pilaf and shaved fennel) and chops (carnivores can’t resist rustic grilled Berkshire pork porterhouse with apple pinon green chile chutney mashed sweet potatoes and anise creamed spinach).

Duck Enchiladas with Posole

Lunch isn’t quite as elaborate (or expensive) and the menu is somewhat abbreviated, but you’re bound to find something exciting…and the accommodating wait staff may even allow you to order something from the breakfast menu.  For the calorically conscious diner, the Healthful Minded Fruit Plate (seasonal fruit served with Greek yogurt, housemade granola and honey comb) is a good choice.  Unlike so many yogurt-granola dishes, this one isn’t rot-your-teeth-sweet.  That’s courtesy of the Greek yogurt which is somewhat thicker and more sour than other yogurt.  Because it’s so sour, the contrast with the sweetness of fruit tends to be more pronounced.  A bit more granola would make this dish even more enjoyable.

Surely New Mexican colonials were no strangers to duck, but it seems that only relatively recently has duck  been widely incorporated in New Mexican dishes.  Though not as traditional on New Mexican entrees as are other proteins, duck certainly lends its unique and delicious flavor profile to any dish in which it’s used.  The duck enchiladas at Old Martina’s are superb!  Rolled blue corn tortillas are engorged with a generous amount of moist, flavorful duck and slathered in your choice of red or green chile (ask for both) unadulterated by cumin.  Both the red and green chile have a pleasant, but not incendiary, piquancy.  Melted white and yellow Cheddar lends a salty richness to the dish while the posole and whole beans are wonderful accompaniment.  A small dollop of guacamole leaves you wanting more.  Frankly, a bit more of everything served on this plate would have been more than welcome.

Pumpkin-Pecan Tart

Desserts are far from standard fare as you’ll see when your server ferries them over to your table.  Next to deciding which Taos County site you’ll visit next, determining which one to order may be the hardest decision of your day.  I couldn’t even default to my usual choice–ordering something I’ve never previously had–because several dessert items fit that criteria.  Ultimately it took a coin flip to settle on the pumpkin-pecan tart, a  miniature pie-shaped pastry resembling pecan pie.  Pecans and pumpkin go surprisingly well together, a melding of diverse flavor profiles that serve as flavor and textural foils for each other. 

If walls could talk, the massive walls at Old Martina’s Hall would probably sing out with alacrity as they once again play witness to family functions and celebrations Taos County-style.

Old Martina’s Hall
4140 Highway 68
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
(575) 758-3003
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 20 April 2016
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Duck Enchiladas, Pumpkin-Pecan Tort, Healthful Minded Fruit Plate

Old Martina's Hall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mimmo’s Ristorante And Pizzeria on Coors

My sisters present quite a dichotomy. On one hand, it’s as if they’ve never set foot in the Land of Enchantment. Case in point: In a recent family instant messaging session, they discussed our mom’s delicious red “chili.” A disgrace, I know. Our mom, a spry octogenarian, has never made “chili,” but has always prepared some of the best “chile” in Taos county. You can almost excuse one of my sisters as she’s lived in Texas for many years, but my other sister is married to a guy from Hatch. On the other hand, you can take the girls out of New Mexico, but you can’t take New Mexico out of the girls. On Valentine’s Day, my sisters took our mom to Buca Di Beppo, a mediocre chain restaurant serving “family style portions” (if you’re a family of NFL offensive linemen). Only in New Mexico do hordes frequent Buca di Beppo when there are so many better options available—options such as Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria.

From the outside, Mimmo’s has the look and feel of a typical casual Italian restaurant, but step inside and you can’t help but notice right away that this venerable restaurant has a devoted following.  If long lines and crowded tables portend an excellent meal, then Mimmo’s is one of the Duke City’s premier Italian dining establishments.  On busy nights hungry patrons queue up from the restaurant’s entrance to the host’s station to get their names on a list for the next available table.  Mimmo’s has no pretensions to being a trendy Northern Italian restaurant.  This is a classic Southern Italian and Sicilian restaurant with more than a touch of New York City thrown in.  It’s reminiscent of the “red sauce” Italian restaurants on the East Coast which is appropriate because its roots are deeply New York.  Mimmo’s is a family restaurant in the classic sense of the word, too.  It’s not uncommon to see several tables pushed together with family members of several generations sharing a bountiful repast.

Mimmo’s capacious dining room

Set your expectations high at Mimmo’s.  It’s not the type of restaurant for which you have to dress up, but you’ll be treated better than at most of the so-called four-star restaurants or those stereotypical chain Italian restaurants with their saccharine service and family-style portions.  Even if your visits are spaced out by several months (or years), the wait staff will remember having served you before–or at least they’re professional enough to give that impression.  The nattily attired–white shirts, black slacks and ties–wait staff is unfailingly polite, accommodating and energetic.  Most of the wait staff has been with Mimmo’s for years.

Even before you’re seated, your olfactory senses will respond to the arousing authenticity in the air as the aroma of seasoned sauces wafts toward you.  You’ll want to grab the nearest menu and find the genesis of those enticing emanations.  As in many Italian restaurants, portions are generally “right-sized” only if you’re famished (meaning the portions are humongous).  Your order is at your table within minutes after you order with a significant number of orders being for the special of the day.

Silver Trays Brimming with Red Sauce Favorites

Popular among couples with children and diners looking for good value is Mimmo’s lunch hour buffet, an all-you-can-eat feeding trough brimming with pizza, salad, soup and pasta.  Similar to many buffets, items are kept warm under serving lamps, but they’re turned around rather quickly by the ever-vigilant wait staff.  The frequent replenishment of buffet items ensures freshness and that hot items stay hot.  The buffet allows you to craft salads your ways with a variety of fresh ingredients and thick, creamy salad dressings.

The menu is a veritable compendium of Southern Italian and Sicilian favorites–heavily sauced pastas of all types as well as pizzas resplendent with all the usual ingredients and then some.  Some of the restaurant’s entrees are accompanied by salad, garlic bread, vegetables and spaghetti while pasta entrees include your choice of salad or soup and garlic bread.  It’s not uncommon to leave Mimmo’s with a doggie sack or two.  The make-your-own-salad allows you to be as creative and generous as you wish.  For me, that means as much blue cheese dressing as it’s humanly possible to carry.  Beneath all that blue cheese are some of the freshest salad ingredients to grace a salad bowl in Albuquerque.

Underneath all that blue cheese is a pretty good salad

In 1949, Louis P. De Gouy wrote The Soup Book which included nearly 800 recipes for thin and thick soups, hot and cold soups, instant soups and soups taking hours to prepare.  He called good soup “one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”  Some of the soups at Mimmo’s have that effect on diners, especially the tomato soup which is creamy and delicious.  Served piping hot, it’s the type of soup which can quell the cold of winter.

2 May 2010: Mimmo’s cream of mushroom soup has the distinction of having more mushrooms than any soup of this genre we’ve ever had–especially considering some cream of mushroom soup only seems to hint at the proximity of mushrooms.  Fetid fungi can be tasted in every single sip of this soul-warming soup, some mushrooms covering much of the spoon.  It’s an earthy, soul-warming soup as comforting as you’ll find anywhere.

Affettati Misti For Two

23 April 2016: Mouth-watering appetizer options abound, including an antipasto which could easily make a meal for one.  That would be an appetizer called affettati misti (mixed cured meats), an antipasto comprised of salami, proscuitto, olives, ham, Swiss and provolone cheeses and an assortment of pickled vegetables that may include tomatoes, carrots, celery and more.  It is one of our favorite antipastos in Albuquerque even though it’s more than doubled in price in the years we’ve been ordering it.  The affettati misti is meant to be shared and even at that, it might fill you up if you’re not careful.  It’s served with a sliced loaf of delicious, crusty bread which can be used to craft sandwiches from the cold-cuts or dipped into a mix of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Some say the secret to great Southern Italian food is in the sauce.  Mimmo’s seemingly has a sauce to satisfy any palate–Carbonara, Marinara, Alfredo, Fra Diavalo, Bolognese, Béchamel and others.  None of the sauces are subtle either in flavor or in profusion.  Pasta-based entrees tend to swim in sauce, which is not entirely a bad thing because the sauces are fairly prototypical examples of Italian sauces done well.

Rigatoni and Scallops Amatriciana

The carbonara sauce, for example, is very rich.  I’ve had carbonara on the East coast that was so rich, you couldn’t finish it thanks to a profusion of pancetta and a deluge of heavy cream.  Mimmo’s carbonara approaches that level.  One of our favorite sauce-based entrees has been the Gamberi Fra Diavalo, shrimp served in a sauce which translates to “Brother Devil.”  The sauce earns its sobriquet because it’s not only delicious, it’s fiendishly piquant thanks to the liberal use of incendiary peppers.  At Mimmo’s, this is one sinfully delicious entree.

Where Mimmo’s truly excels is in the pizza department with a pie that is better than we’ve had at pizzerias raved about by the cognoscenti.  Don’t let the buffet pizza be your measuring stick for the greatness of Mimmo’s pizza.  Order one of the menu standards (the Mediterranean pizza is terrific).  Better yet, have Mimmo’s craft one for you with the ingredients of your choice.

Baked Ziti

2 May 2010: Make it Sicilian style, a rectangular pizza with a thick crust.  Its body is similar in texture to focaccia bread, save for the wonderful crunch on the bottom.  Some Sicilian pizza is upwards of an inch thick and is almost casserole-like.  Not so at Mimmo’s where the pizza is probably just over half an inch thick including toppings.  The toppings are unfailingly fresh and delicious and even though the green chile isn’t particularly piquant, it’s got that unmistakable roasted flavor New Mexicans love.

Sicilian pizza is very popular in the New York area–even though there’s no way you can fold it in half vertically the way many New Yorkers like.  It’s stiff enough to be held by the rim without it drooping over and spilling ingredients all over you, but only the bottom is crunchy.  The rest is like soft focaccia.  Mimmo’s pizza sauce is applied thickly, but it’s redolent with Italian spices (garlic, oregano) and is better than the restaurant’s Marinara sauce.  If possible, a Sicilian pizza from Mimmo’s might taste even better after being refrigerated (and it’s fabulous just out of the oven).  Considering there are bound to be leftovers, that’s a great thing.  A large pizza will generally tide you over for lunch and dinner with a slice or two left over for breakfast.

Garlic Bread

29 March 2008: The wait staff raves about Mimmo’s Quatro Formaggi (four cheese) pizza.  Atop a thin, chewy canvas and a thin slathering of oregano and basil blessed tomato sauce is a rich blend of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola and parmesan cheeses.  This is a pizza so rich you’ll want to cut that richness with other toppings.  Two which do the job well are meatballs and garlic.  This pizza is not too heavy or crust-laden so the focus is squarely on the ingredients.  Because it is so rich, two people may not be able to finish an entire pie.

2 May 2010: Perhaps the richest entree at Mimmo’s is a special–mushroom stuffed ravioli with scallops absolutely buried under a thick carbonara sauce.  This is most definitely a two meal ordeal, a pasta dish so rich you can feel your arteries hardening.  As my friend Bill Resnik would say, it should come standard with an angioplasty.  My gosh, this is a rich dish!  Okay, you’ve got the point–it’s rich.  It’s also very good, addictively so.  The mussels are sweet, fresh and tender.  The mushrooms are earthy and fleshy and the carbonara sauce is redolent with pancetta.

Limoncello Cake

24 April 2016: Baked ziti, a classic Italian-American hybrid showcasing a medium-sized tubular pasta baked with a “chunky” meaty sauce is a specialty at Mimmo’s. Served in a casserole dish, this rendition is very reminiscent of baked ziti as it’s prepared and served in the East Coast. That means it’s served piping hot with a blanket of molten cheese melted atop layers of pasta and rich, red sauce. Rhee Drummond, the Food Network’s “Pioneer Woman” likens baked ziti to be “almost like a lasagna that forgot to use lasagna noodles. Messy. Gooey. Decadent. Ridiculous. In every sense of the word.” That’s how you’ll find the baked ziti at Mimmo’s.

24 April 2016: It speaks volumes about a restaurant that is willing to change the way it serves a dish to accommodate a customer. For one thing, it says that restaurant has a customer first policy that engenders customer loyalty and repeat visits. Secondly, it means dishes are prepared to order; they’re not waiting under some heat lamp for a server to pick them up. On a Sunday, for example, the special of the day was spaghetti all’ Amatriciana with scallops. Explaining my lack of dexterity with spaghetti noodles, I asked if the dish could be made with rigatoni instead. Our server didn’t even bat an eye. The dish arrived as requested—a mound of rigatoni with bits of pancetta, a slathering of olive oil and red hot peppers in a slightly piquant sauce. New Mexico chile lovers will appreciate this dish. 

Chocolate Cannoli

24 April 2016: Mimmo’s offers some terrific desserts, all shipped fresh from Roma Food Enterprises in New Jersey.  The cannoli are generously stuffed (on the premises) with rich ricotta embellished with chocolate chips.  The shell has a crispy, light texture but it doesn’t crumble when you press your fork down on it.  Best of all, you can have either the traditional cannoli or a chocolate-coated cannoli and both are good.

Our favorite Mimmo’s dessert is an Italian cream cake (sometimes called Italian Wedding Cake) so rich and luscious, you can gain weight just looking at it.  It is an edible work of art, three layers of heavily iced white cake sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, topped with caramel and edged with toasted coconut.  No two recipes of Italian cream cake are alike.  Mimmo’s version is a winner.

Mimmo’s has the look and feel of a neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York or Boston.  It’s a little piece of Italy in Albuquerque.  You’ll remember the friendly service almost as long as you’ll fondly recall the well-sauced meals.

Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria
3301 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 831-4191
Facebook Page

LATEST VISIT: 24 April 2016
# OF VISITS: 14
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Affetati Misti, Sicilian Style Pizza, Quatro Formaggi Pizza, Cannoli, Italian cream cake, Tomato Soup, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Gamberi Fra Diavalo, Baked Ziti, Spaghetti All’Amatriciana, Lemoncello Cake

Mimmo's Ristorante and Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Naruto – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Naruto on Central Avenue in the University of New Mexico area

During a 2015 episode of the Travel Channel’s Delicious Destinations, glaborous host Andrew Zimmern articulated what may be the very best–or at least most comprehensive–definition of comfort food ever. “Comfort food,” he explained, “makes us feel good. Every culture has its favorites–satisfying classics carried throughout the generations. Simple recipes loaded with carbs and full of love. It’s the taste of a feeling: warm, cozy, hearty and homey. Comfort foods satisfy more than physical hunger. They’re the feel good favorites that connect us to our past, family and cultural classics that fill us with sustenance and warm feelings at the same time.”

At first browse, it appears that Zimmern’s definition applies solely to the act of consuming comfort foods, however, read closely and nowhere within that definition is it explicitly stated that comfort foods have to be eaten in order to be warm, cozy, hearty and homey. Nor do we have to masticate, graze, sup or savor comfort foods in order to feel good or to satisfy more than our physical hunger. Whether deliberate or unintentional, Zimmern’s definition can also apply to acts other than eating one’s food. Indeed, for some of us, the sense of warmth, coziness and comfort from food can be derived from acts other than eating it.

Naruto’s long, narrow dining room

That may be especially true for ramen, arguably the most popular comfort food in the world. In Japan, ramen is so revered that several major cities boast of museums designed to pay homage to this national dish. Considering the veneration with which they revere this sacrosanct food, you might think the Japanese consider ramen as strictly for degustation, for lovingly luxuriating in its nuanced flavors, studiously imbibing its fragrant aromas and ruminating about the sheer delight of enjoying such sheer deliciousness. You might even believe Japanese would consider it heretical, perhaps even blasphemous for ramen to be used as a “play thing” or worse, as bath water. You would be wrong on both counts.

Since 2007, a Japanese spa has been offering patrons the opportunity to luxuriate in a tub filled with ramen. While health regulations mandate that only non-edible (synthetic) noodles be used in the hot bath water, real pork broth is added. The broth not only renders the water brownish, it imparts collagen which ostensibly has the salubrious benefits of helping improve the bather’s metabolism while cleansing the skin. Frankly, a tonkatsu (pork bone) broth sounds just a bit greasy and there’s no telling what bodily nook and crannies those noodles will sneak up into.

Jim and Janet Millington, founding Friends of Gil (FOG) members

We joked about the ramen baths with our friends and founding Friends of Gil members Jim and Janet Millington who joined us for our inaugural visit to Naruto, an Albuquerque ramen house open since December, 2015. The Millingtons were already planning a visit to a ramen museum in Tokyo during an upcoming sojourn to the Land of the Rising Sun. I tried in vain to talk them into indulging in a ramen bath, but Jim has too much respect and love for ramen. Like me, he would rather eat a tubful than bathe in it. Googled images of ramen bathers did little to make the ramen bath concept more enticing. In fact, our Japanese server found the notion rather silly.

It’s becoming a tradition that Jim and I break in new ramen restaurants together. On 24 April 2014, we made our initial excursion to the delightful O Ramen on Central Avenue across the street from the University of New Mexico (UNM). Surprisingly, only one (currently vacant) storefront separates O Ramen from Naruto which occupies the space which previously housed the Mint Tulip Vegan Café. Out of concern and curiosity, we walked the twenty steps or so from Naruto to O Ramen and were very happy to see nearly every seat at both ramen houses occupied. It makes sense that collegiate types would appreciate having two ramen houses in close proximity (after all, ramen is a dietary staple for students).

Gyoza

Naruto may be new to Albuquerque, but it’s got a New Mexican pedigree. Founding owners Hiro and Shohko Fukuda opened the Land of Enchantment’s very first sushi bar some four decades ago. Since its opening in 1975, the Shohko Café has been considered one of the very best sushi restaurants in the Land of Enchantment, earning first place in the Santa Fe Reporter’s annual “Best of Santa Fe” edition from 2009 through 2014. Not strictly a sushi restaurant, Shohko serves a number of ramen dishes as well as soba or udon noodles and many other Japanese favorites.

The transformation from the Mint Tulip Vegan Café to Naruto is startling, an aesthetic and functional make-over. Bar stools overlooking the exhibition kitchen give diners a window to the real transformation which goes on everyday at Naruto. That’s the transformation of fresh ingredients into some of the very best ramen in New Mexico. There are similarities to the ramen at O Ramen, but it’s distinctive enough that comparisons will be in order. The menu showcases eight different ramen dishes, including some heretofore unavailable in the Duke City. We’re talking miso ramen, seafood ramen and vegetable ramen here. Also available are a number of entrees including kimchi fried rice, a chashu bowl (sliced pork with ramen noodles) and gyoza.

Miso Ramen with Tempura Shrimp

6 February 2016: If your experience with gyoza is similar to ours, you’ve found there’s very little to distinguish gyoza at one Japanese restaurant from another. Worse, there’s little to distinguish gyoza from dumplings you’ll find at any Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurant in town. At first bite, we could tell the gyoza at Naruto is different. It’s better…legions better These pulchritudinous pan-fried dumplings are stuffed with the usual minced pork, but that’s where similarities end. The greenish tint of the pork is courtesy of Chinese leeks and scallions. They infiltrate the pork with an herbaceous quality no other dumpling in memory possesses.

6 February 2016: The gyoza isn’t accompanied by the usual soy-based dipping sauce served with most dumplings in the Duke City. Instead, you’ll find a condiment caddy at your table replete with everything you need to impart as much additional personality to your gyoza (or ramen) as you’d like. The caddy includes a pickled ginger that’ll water your eyes, pickled garlic that’ll ward off a family of werewolves, chile oil that’ll have you coughing and sputtering and another oil whose undoubtedly delicious qualities escape me.  Darn, that means I have to visit Naruto again…and soon.

Tonkatsu Super Rich Ramen: Murky, Cloudy Deliciousness

6 February 2016: Tonkotsu ramen is porcine perfection, an intensely porky elixir concocted by culinary wizards who, over many hours of simmering time, transform pork bones into an opaque broth with a rich, butyraceous flavor and the aroma of heaven. Naruto offers two versions of its Tonkotsu ramen, the standard “as good as winning the lottery” version and a super-rich version that’s even better than winning the lottery. The super-rich version includes Japanese pickled mustard greens, black mushrooms and chashu pork as well as any additional toppings (there are eleven of them) you may choose to add. The ramen noodles are imported from California where they’re fashioned to Naruto’s exacting specifications. They’re transformative, as good as you’ll find anywhere in Albuquerque! This is comfort food ramen at its very best, a melt-in-your-mouth dish that will make adults swoon.

6 February 2016: Even better if you can imagine that is a Miso Ramen (green onions, two slices of chashu, bamboo shoots and kikurago) a relative newcomer in that Miso Ramen has been made in Japan only since the 60s. The broth combines “copious amounts of miso blended with an oily pork broth to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup.” Dismiss any notions you might have about miso soup; this one is many orders of magnitude better than any miso soup you’ve ever had at any Japanese restaurant.  The dashi stock, the base for any miso soup, is made in-house.  As with the Tonkotsu Ramen, there are twelve optional toppings. Try this special elixir with shrimp tempura; you’ll thank me later.

Shoyu Ramen

23 April 2016: During our second visit to Naruto, we sat in personal space proximity to a very uninhibited millennial couple.  By uninhibited, I don’t mean they groped each other or flashed other diners.  What they did may be an even bigger taboo in the oft prudish American culture.  They slurped their ramen so loudly we joked they risked ingesting the ceramic off the bowl.  Slurping ramen is perfectly acceptable, perhaps even expected in Japanese ramen and noodle restaurants (as detailed in my review of the Asian Noodle Bar), but not necessarily in Albuquerque.  My Kim and I are still too westernized to have initiated our own slurpfest, but we didn’t judge or condemn the enthusiasm other diners had for very slurp-worthy ramen.

23 April 2016: Unlike tonkatsu ramen which tends to be heavy and cloudy, Shoyu ramen (which can trace its origin back to the very first ramen) is light and clear. Known for its tangy, savory and salty flavor, the basis for Shoyu ramen is, of course, Japanese soy sauce. Naruto’s version is made with pork bones and a special shoyu base with such toppings as green onions, two slices of chashu (salty, sweet, fatty, pork belly braised until it practically melts-in-your-mouth), bamboo shoots, scallions, white onions and two halved soft-boiled eggs which have been marinated in multi-flavored seasonings. These hard-boiled eggs are indispensable on ramen, a wonderful flavor profile contrast to the chashu. As with the miso ramen, tempura shrimp make a wonderful additive. 

Kimchi Fried Rice

23 April 2016: Though more prevalent in Korea than it is in Japan, kimchi fried rice is no stranger in Japanese cuisine. Naruto’s version incorporates Japanese kimchi which doesn’t have nearly the personality and kick of Korean kimchi which is imbued with pungent properties from fermentation and a discernible level of umami (a pleasant savory taste imparted by glutamate). It’s a very good fried rice with many of the standard fried rice ingredients, but would be improved with the kick of Korean kimchi. Kimchi fried rice is one of only six appetizer-type items listed on the “Entrée” section of the menu, along with gyoza, fried rice, Takana (pickled mustard leaf) fried rice, chashu bowl and white rice. 

23 April 2016: Dessert options are limited, too, but who needs a compendium of postprandial sweets when you’ve got tempura green tea cheesecake, a wedge of creamy, moist cheesecake drizzled with cocoa powder served atop a swirl of chocolate. The cheesecake is coated in a light tempura batter that lends a slight crispiness to each bite. The tempura also adds a savory quality that wonderfully complements the sweet-tanginess of the green tea cheesecake. Sliced strawberries on the side add their own tang. This is a unique cheesecake, wholly unlike the deliciously decadent creations made by Eli’s Cheesecake Company of Chicago offered about half a mile away at Saggio’s.

Tempura Green Tea Cheesecake

Naruto’s ramen is made for luxuriating–not the type you do in a tubful of hot water, but for slurping merrily with a soup spoon.  Naruto is blazing new paths in culinary deliciousness.

Naruto
2110 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 369-1039
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LATEST VISIT: 23 April 2016
1st VISIT: 6 February 2016
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Miso Ramen, Tonkatsu Ramen Super Rich, Gyoza, Kimchi Fried Rice, Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream, Shoyu Ramen

Naruto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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