Flamez Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Flamez Bistro, Foods That Make Your Taste Buds Dance

Hold the pickles
Hold the lettuce
Special orders don’t upset us
All we ask is that you let us serve it your way

In 1974, Burger King introduced its most successful and long-standing advertising campaign, the heart of which was “Have It Your Way,” a catchy jingle designed to contrast just how flexible Burger King is compared to its largest competitor, the ubiquitous McDonalds. The earworm-inspiring jingle told us we could have burgers made especially for us—tailor-made, customized, prepared any way we want them. It implied that unlike its rigid and inflexible competitor, Burger King recognizes our uniqueness and they celebrate it with burgers that reflect our individuality, lifestyles and dietary considerations. There are, Burger King tells us, 221,184 ways to have the Whopper made our way.

It’s hard to fathom that nearly a quarter-million combinations are possible from a burger whose basic constituents are a flame-grilled quarter-pound beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and sliced onion. Only a fuzzy-math-proficient government accountant could possibly appreciate and explain how a Whopper can be made your way so many ways. Whataburger, which prides itself on delivering each customer’s burger made-to-order, advertises 36,864 different ways to make a Whataburger and that includes special requests such as grilled onions, jalapenos, triple meat and extra cheese. There aren’t that many differences between a Whopper and a Whataburger.

The cynosure of Flamez is an exhibition kitchen

If Burger King can boast of nearly a quarter-million have-it-your-way combinations, the aforementioned fuzzy-math accountant could probably come up with a googol ways to enjoy a burger at Flamez Burgers & More, a Duke City eatery featuring burgers you can build yourself.  Launched in August, 2012, Flamez takes “have it your way” to the nth level.  It starts with the selection of your burger: black Angus beef, American buffalo, Colorado lamb, Atlantic salmon, all-white turkey and even vegetarian.  All burgers are served with tomatoes, onion, lettuce, pickle and your choice of cheese.

Fromage fanatics will appreciate Flamez’ cheese options of American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Provolone, Blue Cheese, Feta Cheese, Gorgonzola Cheese, Dill Havarti and Goat Cheese.  Available for-a-fee toppings include bacon, green chile, jalapeño, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, Texas chili, avocado and fried egg. Ordering can be daunting, especially if your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach or you tend to get carried away experimenting with ingredients.  A sage might advise keeping it simple because too many items can overwhelm both the burger and the diner.

Black Angus Beef Burger with Swiss Cheese, Caramelized onions and Cranberry Sauce; Served with Sweet Potato Fries

20 October 2012: Keep it too simple, however, and you might miss out on flavor combinations that work exceedingly well.  I have in mind the eight-ounce black Angus beef burger my Kim enjoyed during our inaugural visit.  She dressed her burger with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and a cranberry sauce designated for a seasonal burger special featuring turkey, sweet potatoes and that cranberry sauce. If you appreciate complementary-contrasting sweet and savory flavors, this is a burger you’ll enjoy very much.  The cranberry sauce makes an excellent dip for sweet potato fries, too.  The black Angus beef, by the way, is steak quality beef specially blended from brisket, chuck and sirloin.  It’s ground on the premises.  The quality shows!

Burgers are served on a buttery bun that is challenged to contain all the ingredients, particularly if you pile on several moist ingredients.  It’s a delicious bun, a welcome respite from standard fare, but expect to get your fingers messy because there may not be enough bun to completely do its job.  Make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.  Another nit is that, contrary to the restaurant’s name, burgers are prepared on a flat top grill and not over an open-flame grill.  The burgers are, however, prepared to your exacting specifications and are well-seasoned with plenty of flavor and moistness.

Colorado Lamb Burger with a Fried Egg (Over Medium), Green Chile, Lettuce, Tomato and Onion; Served with a side of Tempura-Battered Onion Rings with Ketchup and “Secret Sauce”

20 October 2012: For some reason, most of the few restaurants in New Mexico which offer lamb burgers seem to think diners will appreciate lamb if its natural flavors are “disguised.”  The last two lamb burgers I had prior to our visit to Flamez were constructed with Moroccan Merguez spices and an al pastor blend featuring guajillo chiles respectively.  Though good in their own way, discerning the naturally luscious flavor of lamb was a challenge.  You might expect then that discretion in the selection of toppings would have been the wise thing to do, but the mad scientist experimenter in me won over and my Colorado lamb burger was topped with a fried egg (over medium), green chile, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Despite the heaping multitude of ingredients, the lamb is easily discernible if it’s prepared at medium-rare, the degree of doneness which best suits lamb. Its pale pink flesh makes it a silken marvel with a unique just-a -hint of gaminess flavor.  Flamez offers a green chile with a nice degree of heat, a huge plus for a market glutted with 98-pound weakling green chile.  A worthy accompaniment to a lamb burger are Flamez’ tempura-battered onion rings which are served with a “secret sauce.”  Unlike the tempura-battered onion rings at some Japanese restaurants, these are lightly battered and are almost translucent, sheathing a sweet onion.  These might be the best onion rings in town.  The secret sauce is terrific, but wholly unnecessary.

Carrot Bread Pudding with Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Cardamom Caramel Sauce

The “& More” on the restaurant’s name when it first launched as “Flamez Burgers & More” represents menu items ranging from “burger bowlz” to “burger saladz” and “sandwiches from around the world.”  The menu showcases five Burger Bowlz: All American, Comfort, Mexican, Asian and Italian, each of which are served with a grilled six-ounce hamburger steak.  The Italian burger bowl features spaghetti, mozzarella, Parmesan and tomato sauce.  Each of the five Burger Saladz feature one of the burger meats.  The Greek salad, for example, includes Colorado lamb.

The “Sandwiches From Around the World” menu provides a terrific option to burgers without having to give up bread.  Italian inspired sandwiches include a Caprese and a chicken sandwich.  From Greece comes a gyro.  Vietnam is represented by a beef banh mi (grilled flank steak, mayo, cucumber, marinated carrot and daikon).  Spain can boast of the Bocadillo de Jamon, the Middle East of Chicken Shawerma and France of the Croque Madame.  All sandwiches are served with kettle chips or a personal green salad.

Apple Pie (Deconstructed): Pie Crust, Sliced Apples, Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel

20 October 2012: The Flamez dessert menu offers only five items, but they range from the surprising to the sublime (Carrot Bread Pudding).  The latter is magical, two dense slabs of lightly sweetened bread pudding served with pecan ice cream drizzled with cardamom caramel sauce.  It may be worthy of Larry McGoldrick’s bread pudding hall-of-fame.  Flamez also offers a unique take on apple pie.  It’s a deconstructed apple pie served in a glass goblet.  The goblet is replete with bits and pieces of pie crust, tangy apples, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel.  Now if only someone could reconstruct baseball, another American institution, so that it’s interesting once again.

3 July 2020:  With more than 1,200 restaurants in an Albuquerque metropolitan area that encompasses over 9,297 square miles, dining options are plentiful.  Alas, because there are so many choices, return visits are often spaced far apart.  Such was the case with Flamez, a restaurant we thoroughly enjoyed.  In part because of the distance from our Rio Rancho home, almost eight years elapsed before our return.  Our visit was prompted by a gentle prodding from my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate.  Larry told me Flamez now has “really great seafood,” an expanded menu and a Dude-friendly patio for our debonair dachshund.

Asparagus Fries with Gorgonzola Aioli

3 July 2020:  The Flamez Bistro of our second visit was certainly not the Flamez Burgers & More of our inaugural visit eight years previous and it’s about much more than a name change.  This is Flamez all grown up with a sophisticated menu more reflective of chef-owner Salim Khoury’s prodigious talents.  This is fresh, local and sustainable fare at one of Albuquerque’s highest rated boutique restaurants, a restaurant that doesn’t even own a freezer.  With a tagline boasting of “foods that make your taste buds dance,” Flamez still boasts of “custom-blended fresh hand formed burger patties, hand-cut fries, fresh breads and buns that have been locally baked.”  This is what Duke City diners fell in love with.  Now there’s a lot more to love.

That includes fine dining fare which belies the casually elegant venue, an inviting space which the Albuquerque Journal describes as “informal luxury.”   As our fur-baby, The Dude, will attest, even the south-facing dog-friendly patio is a cut above.  So is the service, especially from a server we called “Rhonda” because of her resemblance to the “baddest woman on the planet.”  In addition to an expanded menu that includes even more burger options, the restaurant grew quite a bit when Flamez took over the space previously occupied by Starbucks.

Shrimp & Scallops Pot Pie

3 July 2020:  The menu includes two main sections: Flamez Classic and Flamez New.  The Flamez Classic menu is segmented into sections listing the burger and sandwich fare with which diners have become familiar: Choose A Burger, Sandwiches From Around the World, Specialty Burgers, Burger Bowls and Burger Salads.  It’s all very exciting, but our eyes gravitated quickly toward the Flamez New menu which lists Starters, Chef’s Seasonal, Soups and Salads and Sides.  Six of ten items on the Chef’s Seasonal section are seafood items which excited Professor Larry so much. 

From among the six starters, you’ll be hard-pressed to select just one. They’re all tempting, perhaps none moreso than the asparagus fries, a healthy alternative to conventional French fries.  Despite the name, these “fries” are not actually deep-fried.  They’re oven-baked after being lightly coated in a tempura-like batter that gilds each of the seven crispy spears.  By themselves, they take fried vegetables to a new level, but Flamez elevates them even more with a Gorgonzola aioli, a mildly sharp blue cheese for people who think they don’t like blue cheese.  

Ribeye Steak

3 July 2020: A popular stereotype would have you believe women have a harder time making up their minds than men do.  My Kim will point me out as an example that not all men are quick to make a decision, particularly when there are multiple options from which to choose.  One example of my decision-making modis operandi was certainly on display while studying the Flamez “Chef’s Seasonal” section of the menu.  Of the six seafood items on the menu, it took significant deliberation and four visits from our patient server before I had narrowed my choice down to two of them.  Ultimately I told her to “just bring me one of these two” assuring her that I’d be happy with either.   Rhonda brought me the shrimp and scallops pot pie, a unique to Flamez dish.

Living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for nearly eight years, we had seafood pot pie dishes by the boatful, but the concept seems lost on most New Mexico chefs who let being in a landlocked state hold them back.  Chef Koury could take his version to New Orleans and delight seafood savants in the Crescent City as much as the dish delighted me.  The shrimp had the snap of freshness while the scallops were light, delicate and sweet.  They transported me back to Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi where similar dishes crossed my lips quite often.  A flaky pastry shell was the canvas on which this seafood masterpiece held court with fresh leeks, asparagus and a transformative tarragon cream sauce which imparted a hint of licorice and a peppery, minty coolness.

Chai Tea Panna Cotta

3 July 2020: My carnivorous Kim was much more quick to decide what she was having–a ribeye steak (USDA choice the most flavorful cut with grilled asparagus and roasted garlic mashed potatoes).  More than any steak we’ve had recently, this ribeye was perfectly seasoned and tender.  It had a bit too much fat (not marbling) around the edges for my persnickety bride who doesn’t easily countenance excess fat.  She was more pleased with the grilled asparagus with which she dredged up what remained of the Gorgonzola aioli.

3 July 2020: While the shrimp and scallops pot pie earned my eternal affection, it was a dessert that imprinted itself most prominently on my taste buds and memories.  Since I couldn’t decide which of the five desserts to try, I opted for the one I would most likely not like (yeah, its weird logic, but it’s my nature to try everything): chai tea panna cotta (orange blossom honey and crushed pistachio).  Faithful readers know that the “the blogger who’ll eat anything” doesn’t like tea of any kind.  This dessert may make a convert out of me.  Notes of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger with their spicy, heart-warming qualities opened my eyes to possibilities (not that I’ll be drinking chai tea, but the possibility of incorporating it into other desserts).  My Kim’s chocolate mousse (chocolate ganache and chocolate shavings) would otherwise have been the dessert we’d be talking about for a while, but that chai tea panna cotta is a life-changer.

Chocolate Mousse

Chef Salim Khoury is a very accomplished chef with extensive experience at four-star restaurants.  It’s no surprise that Flamez would offer burgers with hundreds, if not thousands (maybe a googol) of ingredient combinations. What’s more surprising is that you can get coastal quality seafood in the middle of the desert at his elegant restaurant.  You truly can have it your way at Flamez!

Flamez Bistro
9821 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 275-0522
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 July 2020
1st VISIT: 20 October 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Apple Pie, Carrot Bread Pudding, Colorado Lamb Burger, Black Angus Burger, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries, Shrimp and Scallop Pot Pie, Ribeye Steak, Chai Tea Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse, Asparagus Fries

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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7 Comments on “Flamez Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. Seems this restaurant has a menu as wide as the Bayeux Tapestry. They’ve been in business for eight years which, fact alone, submits evidence they must be doing something right in meeting the eclectic expectations of the 505 area code.

    I have never been there and must try it soon, particularly the “Sandwiches of the World” offerings. Speaking of sandwiches, I thought of Becky when I came across this article “In America’s Sandwiches, the Story of a Nation” in which five “food historians” wax wonderful on the origins of five American classics.

    https://getpocket.com/explore/item/in-america-s-sandwiches-the-story-of-a-nation?utm_source=pocket-newtab

    1. Hi Tom: I took a look at the “sandwichez from around the world” on the menu of Flamez which includes pretty standard fare. Apparently, it’s quality that differentiates this eatery from the pack. On the other hand, I read the article to which you kindly provided a link and I was surprised at the sandwiches referenced when there are so many others with much more interesting provenances. Perhaps they didn’t sufficiently meet the stated goal of the piece.

  2. The Dazzler and I discovered Flamez nine days ago. Really great Cioppino.

    We returned five days later. Daz had Cioppino and I tried the Scallop and shrimp Pot Pie. This is NOT supermarket freezer junk, but one of the best seafood dishes I have had in New Mexico. The crust is phyllo and the white sauce is gently imbued with fresh tarragon, which got Daz over her fear of this wonderful (but sometimes treacherous) herb. Perfectly cooked seafood.

    Daz tried the panna cotta and I had the Carrot Cake Bread Pudding, and yes, Gil, It will appear on my Bread Pudding Hall of Fame List. as soon as I can get around to it.

    Flamez has earned a coveted spot in my regular rotation lunch list alongside with the spicy mussels at Joe’s Pasta House.

  3. It makes me sad to write this negative review because it’s really some of the best food out we’ve found in years, especially in the northeast.

    However, it seems the owner is a tad odd, and nasty.

    I’ve been on blood pressure meds for many years and under orders to avoid salt. So I always ask for my food to come with no salt. (Pretty hard in New Mexico.)

    I’ve been to Flamez several times and always politely ask, “no salt please” when ordering. The staff is always nice and assures me they will take care of it.

    What I began noticing, though, was that it seemed as if extra salt was being added. Then, a few days ago I was there on my own, and in a hurry. I ordered just a cheeseburger and a side-salad, and again asked for no salt.

    If you sit on a banquet against the wall there, you’re basically facing the cooking area, which is directly behind a four-foot high counter. I was looking in the direction of the kitchen and the owner was cooking. He leaned over and said something to a cook next to him, who turned and looked directly at me, then got a smirk on his face. It seemed odd … but I wasn’t sure what was up.

    When my food was served, both my burger and my salad (which is strange since I ordered dressing on the side) seemed salty … but, as I said, I was truly in a hurry, so I finished my food, paid my bill and left.

    As I was driving home, I was overwhelmed by the salt in my mouth and on my lips. By the time I got home, I couldn’t wait to brush my teeth and gargle to try to wash the salt off my tongue. I couldn’t get rid of the taste of salt all night.

    Clearly the owner himself had done it on purpose. And I truly have no idea why.

    As I said, this makes me sad but they’re off our list. (He doesn’t seem to want our business any way. Which is an odd way to run a restaurant.)

  4. Highly recommended to me so had a green chili cheeseburger today. All ingredients exemplary. However I like the meat formed to match the
    bun size. 3 tomato slices, plenty but all heaped in center of burger. Thick
    onion slices rather than chopped so could spread out uniformly. Not
    enough green chili, once again not spread out uniformly.
    Am anxious to go back and try more stuff, cubano particularly and fish
    tacos.

  5. I live right around the corner from Flamez and was very excited when I discovered they were building a burger joint by my place. I finally got around to having one of their burgers this last week and was not disappointed. The waitress was very friendly and the food was great. I had the black angus burger w/ cheese & fries and really enjoyed it. Everyone with me enjoyed their food as well. Will definitely be going back.

  6. Gil,

    Was on the lookout for a new burger joint to try and after seeing the positive reviews on Urban, went for a visit last Friday. One of the better burgers in town, I kept it simple for a good comparison and got green chile cheese burger (with swiss) and was very pleased with the quality of meat. I think the meat is what will make this place stay on the map for a while. Thanks for the the review! Appreciate having your blog to guide us to rare gems!

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