Proprietor Nan Nguyen and his wife launched Asia Restaurant in April, 2002 and have experienced steady, if not spectacular customer traffic. Repeat business from faithful patrons in a small, intimate setting with only 12 tables give the Nguyens the opportunity to get to know their clients.
Although both from a small village in South Vietnam, Nan worked for years in a Chinese restaurant, hence a menu offering both Vietnamese and Chinese food. Our inaugural visit was shortly after the restaurant’s grand opening and typical of Albuquerque, the restaurant was packed with curiosity seekers.
We were the only diners during our second visit and had a splendid time discussing the nuances of Vietnamese cuisine. After learning of my affection for durian, the Nguyens concluded I must have been Vietnamese in a previous life and told me that durian rinds were placed under beds in poor households to keep roaches and bugs away. They contend that 99.9% of Americans won’t even try durian. So much for convincing Kim that durian is delicious once you get past its malodorous emanations.
The menu has changed considerably since our first visit. For example, the Asian golden crispy dragon bone featuring chicken enveloped by a crispy crust and served with delicious fish sauce is no longer on the menu. It was uniquely wonderful.
An expansive menu features pages of options including several family dinners for two or more. The family dinner we ordered included two Asia triangle egg rolls with fish sauce, two crab Rangoon pot stickers and to steamed pork baos, all of which were quite good. The uniquely shaped and not quite flat triangle egg rolls were surprisingly generously endowed with vegetables and shrimp. The family dinner also included soup–wonton soup for Kim and a meatball soup for me. Of the two, the meatball soup stood out for its savory broth laced with green onions.
Alas, our entrees were not quite as wonderful as their precedents–probably because we ordered Chinese entrees instead of Vietnamese. The sesame chicken wasn’t nearly as cloying as served at other Albuquerque Chinese establishments (a good thing) but it didn’t have the “grab you” properties the same entree would have at the Ming Dynasty. Similarly, the Szechwan orange beef lacked the sweetness so common with that entree at other restaurants, but was instead bequeathed with the sharper flavors of ginger and orange rind. It was much better than the sesame chicken.
During our first visit we ordered Vietnamese entrees and will do so during future visits. The steamed vermicelli with grilled beef and shrimp might be on our list, courtesy of some of the best grilling we’ve had in Albuquerque. The rice noodle with grilled pork and egg rolls was also delicious. Asia Restaurant is a very good Asian restaurant in a city blessed with outstanding Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.
4200 Wyoming, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 21 May 2005
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Asian Golden Crispy Dragon Bone