Unfulfilled promise, unrealized potential, what should have been, what could have been–these are among the most tragic sentiments of any vernacular. For the most part, those were also the sentiments echoing through our minds while and after we dined in one of the Duke City’s most serene and attractive Japanese restaurant settings.
We should have known better. Azuma is owned by the same gentleman who owns Albuquerque’s two China Star buffets, the Sam’s Club (with apologies to the Walton family) of Chinese buffets. China Star features sprawling troughs of nearly every conceivable Chinese food item in existence at a ridiculously low price that speaks volumes about the quality of the food. Azuma is “eye candy,” a beautiful establishment that may leave you agape at the realization it once housed a Black Eyed Pea restaurant. Unfortunately, as with many gorgeous women, attractive packaging doesn’t always translate to inner beauty, or in the case of Azuma, great food.
Our meal started off in grand fashion with a leafy salad graced by an orange ginger dressing my dining companions and I agreed was indeed something special. It melded sweet, savory and tangy flavors in a harmonious fashion that enlivened a fairly typical lunch salad. The downward spiral began with what was supposed to be miso soup, but which was more reminiscent of a slightly better version of the broth hospital patients are served after surgery.
Even more disappointing, albeit masterfully crafted and lovely to look at, was the sushi. In his typical cut-to-the-chase manner, my friend Bill Resnik described the “crazy roll” as “starting off really well, but never finishing the job.” What a perfect assessment! With our first bite of this tuna based maki style roll, we were both pleasantly surprised with the sudden burst of flavor combinations, but the more our taste buds did their job of flavor discernment, our surprise turned to disenchantment. The unrealized potential of the crazy roll was followed by sheer boredom with the caterpillar roll, an avocado imbued sushi whose green patina must be the color of envy for much better caterpillar rolls served elsewhere.
The most crushing blow, however, was when the seared tuna salad Bill and I each ordered arrived sans any searing. While neither of us disdains raw tuna there’s just something about a little searing that goes a long way. Worse, the salad was comprised primarily of iceberg lettuce, an ordinary lettuce to accompany an ordinary tuna. Our friend Mike Muller had salmon which he indicated wasn’t even as good as served at Pappadeux. Coulda, shoulda, woulda–maybe Azuma just can’t!
Azuma Sushi & Teppan
4701 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 10 February 2005
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Orange Ginger Salad Dressing