The simple word “blue” has connotations beyond being a color on the ultraviolet spectrum. It’s used to describe melancholy or depression (as in a blue funk or feeling blue). It’s also used to connote something that’s off-color, profane or indecent. If you dine frequently at the ABC Chinese Restaurant, blue can also mean something with a very positive connotation–the menu which features truly authentic Chinese dishes. Diners interested in that authenticity don’t bother with the red menu which is replete with all the breaded and fried sweet and sour dishes to which Americans seem to gravitate. The blue menu is for savvy diners and patrons of Chinese descent.
For years I’d heard from friends (including the proprietor of an outstanding Vietnamese restaurant in town) that ABC Chinese was one of the two or three best Chinese restaurants in the Duke City (along with Ming Dynasty). In his wonderful New Mexico Chow book, author Scott Sharot mentioned only two Chinese restaurants–Ming Dynasty and ABC Chinese, my old favorite and one of my new favorites respectively.
Mark June 2nd, 2004 as the day of my inaugural visit (but there will be many more). My dining companion, an Adkins devotee, had the bulgogi, one of a few Korean dishes on the menu (the red one). There was no fat or gristle on the savory barbecued beef. Neither was it too sweet or buried under vegetables as some bulgogi tends to be. I ordered fried chicken with black bean sauce. When done right, that sauce is a perfect melding of ginger, five-spice powder and other wonderful spices. At ABC Chinese, it’s done right. The fried chicken was poultry perfection, a whole bird with succulent white and dark meats upon which was slathered just the right amount of perfectly seasoned (garlic, ginger, scallions) sauce.
My second visit transpired on April 20th, 2006 when I had the pleasure of introducing Steve Coleman, my friend and fellow online restaurant critic to ABC Chinese. A Chinese food aficionado, Steve thought it at least equal (maybe better) to the best Chinese restaurant in his stomping grounds of El Paso. Even though he and I both share the opinion that the Southwest is a culinary wasteland when it comes to most Chinese restaurants, that’s high praise indeed!
One of ABC’s specialties is juke (sometimes spelled “jook” and otherwise known as “congee” or even “gruel”), a rice porridge you’ll often find on dim sum menus. ABC offers eight different jukes including a delicious ginger and scallion juke that exemplifies why rice porridge is such a popular comfort food in China. Juke is soothing on the stomach and is particularly comforting on cold winter nights, but it’s great at any time.
Hot pots are another ABC specialty where they are better than anywhere else in Albuquerque. In Asian countries, hot pot dishes are communal dishes served most often in the winter (trust me, they’re great any time of year). ABC’s hot pot dishes are imbued with a garlic and ginger sauce that also takes on the flavors of accompanying meats and vegetables. My early favorite is the b-b-q pork with oyster pot which blends the briny seafood taste of succulent oysters with slightly sweet Chinese style barbecue pork swimming in the aforementioned broth along with scallions, bak choy and other vegetables.
The ambience at ABC is throw-back and stereotypical while the service is wonderful. You’re treated like a guest. Prices are anachronistically low; you’ll do a double-take at the $3+ entrees on the menu.
ABC Chinese Restaurant
8720 Menaul, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 20 April 2006
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Bulgogi, Fried Chicken With Black Bean Sauce, Ginger & Scallion Juke, b-b-q pork with oyster pot