While you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, sometimes a book title will resonate deeply and you know you’re going to enjoy reading it very much. That’s especially true when a book title warmly reminds you of nostalgic memories long buried in your past. Such was the case when I espied Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood by award-winning raconteur Regi Carpenter. That title aptly described daily life for the long suffering Peraltas, our childhood neighbors in Peñasco. Mama Peralta, one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, was such a scatterbrained cook that she used the smoke alarm as a timer. She didn’t sear meat, she cremated it. Even the cockroaches at the Peralta home ate out. So did her children who had more meals at our kitchen table than they did at home.
“Wait,” you ask, “isn’t searing a technique practiced by great chefs?” In the hands of the right person, searing is indeed a culinary technique used to build deep savory flavors. Searing meats, chicken, fish and other proteins at high heat caramelizes their surfaces, imparting a deep-brown crust, especially on thick cuts. Searing crisps the skin on fish and imbues pork chops and other animal proteins a deep layer of flavor in a short amount of time. Alas, Mama Peralta’s idea of searing meat involved heat that was much too low (which allowed her to focus on the marathon phone call sessions in which she engaged at around meal prep time). As a result, the inside of the meat cooked at the same rate as the outside, resulting in very little browning, a zombie-gray pallor, ”carne seca” texture and a perpetually disappointed (and hungry) family.
For entirely different reasons, a visit to Seared, a high-end American bistro on San Pasquale Avenue in Albuquerque’s Old Town, also reminded me of our deliciousness-deprived neighbors. At Seared we experienced the type of deliciousness our neighbors never enjoyed when Mama Peralta practiced her unique brand of meat mummification and her family prayed after they ate. Perhaps divine intervention would have occurred had the Peraltas lived on a street named for the patron saint of cooks and kitchens. Then again, Mama Peralto often used the San Pasqual retablo hanging on her kitchen wall as a place to drape dish towels (we could never understand why she needed dish towels when all meals she prepared were served on paper plates).
Seared is located on southwest side of the weirdly confusing, labryinthic Old Town intersection in which Lomas Boulevard meets Central Avenue and San Pasquale crosses both. Getting there is a challenge, but your patience will be rewarded—just as it was more than a decade ago when Jennifer James–then a relative newcomer to the Duke City–plied her craft at the then occupant, Chef DuJour. More recently, the “plain Jane” edifice has been the home of Cheese & Coffee, a popular purveyor of specialty sandwiches, made-from-scratch soups and crisp, fresh salads. Habitues of Cheese & Coffee can still get their favorite sandwiches at the tried, true and trusted San Pasquale location. They just won’t be able to get them after 3PM.
Since late-August, 2017, at precisely 3PM, the 2,100-square-foot space begins its daily transformation from simple sandwich shop to Seared, an upscale American bistro “with a French and Italian twist.” The metamorphosis takes an hour during which white linen tablecloths are draped over dining room tables, silverware is laid out meticulously, moveable walls are rearranged and even the art is changed out. The art, by the way, includes colorful portraits of some of your favorite characters from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Signage is also changed out, a relatively easy feat considering there’s no flashy neon or LED involved.
Seared is the brainchild of Jan Barringer-Tenchipe and her husband and business partner Alejandro. Jan has owned the San Pasquale location of Cheese & Coffee for seven years, but with the notorious Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project having proven deleterious to business, she decided to offer Duke City diners another reason to visit the beleaguered Old Town area. Besides that, she and Alejandro had wanted to work together for a while. Seared aptly describes Alejandro’s cooking style, a style he honed in upscale and fine-dining restaurants throughout the city. During our inaugural visit, both Jan and Alejandro checked up on us several times. Their hospitality and commitment to great food and impeccable service is genuine and one of many reasons we’ll be back.
Another reason, of course, is the menu, a compelling bill-of-fare that defies ordering quickly. You’ll be hard-pressed to decide what to order. Everything listed is appealing. Should you visit on Sunday for brunch, you’ll have two equally enticing menus from which to choose–an intriguing brunch menu and the sumptuous daily menu. We opted for the daily menu, reasoning that we now have an excuse to return on a lazy, brunchy Sunday afternoon. Another excuse, not that one is needed, is a pleasant dog-friendly patio with plenty of shade behind the restaurant. You’ll want to peruse the herb garden where such fresh ameliorants as rosemary, basil, parsley and more can be found.
What surprised us most about the menu is how relatively inexpensive each entree is considering the generous portion size and quality of preparation. This is fine-dining at near cheap-eats prices. The appetizer menu ranges from salmon crudo to encrusted brie and a cheese platter offering a diversity of local and imported fromage. The soup and salad menu includes one of the best described chopped salads we’ve seen on any menu. If it tastes as good as it reads, it’ll be a hit among Duke City diners. Entrees showcase all your favorite proteins: pork, beef, chicken and fish. There’s also a vegetarian entree which just might convert some of us carnivores.
17 September 2017: It took us nearly ten minutes to decide which appetizer to request. Our choice, the fried asparagus served with a green chile ranch is a winner. Lightly coated in a tempura batter, the half-dozen asparagus spears are firm and crisp with none of the stringiness you find in poorly fried asparagus (Mama Peralta). Though addictive on their own, the housemade green chile ranch dressing elevates the fried asparagus to the “must have” appetizer level. The green chile ranch isn’t as piquant as the one now offered at Dion’s, but it, too, is so good it should be bottled and sold. Seeing a generous portion of the green chile ranch remaining after we had polished off the asparagus made it easy to decide what dressing would be gracing the salad accompanying my entree. The salad, an old-fashioned dinner salad with fresh, crisp greens, croutons, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots is terrific.
28 January 2018: In Japan, until some three decades ago salmon was eaten only cooked or grilled. That meant no salmon sashimi, salmon sushi or salmon crudo. Wait, aren’t salmon sashimi and salmon crudo the same thing? Both involve mastering the art of raw fish, but that’s where the similarities stop. Sashimi is about appreciating the purity of masterfully sliced fish while crudo, an Italian term, is very ingredient-driven. Seared’s appetizer menu includes a salmon crudo (citrus-cured salmon, pickled onions, carrot salad, wasabi aioli and soy ginger sauce) dish that’s not only beautiful, but is constructed from ingredients which work so very well together. The mild-flavored, pink-fleshed salmon is neither too rich or oily and it sings neath the wasabi aioli and soy ginger sauce. It’s meant to be eaten with the carrot salad which is garden-fresh and lively under the same saucy influences. Together this starter is a great way to start a meal at Seared.
17 September 2017: Often when unable to choose from two equally evocative entrees, I ask our server to surprise me, always assuring him or her that either choice will make me happy. The slow-braised French-cut pork chop made me very happy indeed. As with proteins which are “Frenched,” the meat is cut away from the end of the chop so that part of the bone is exposed, essentially giving it a built-in “handle” which makes it easy to pick up and eat. Another portion of the pork chop is roughly six-ounces of artfully prepared, absolutely delicious porcine perfection. The chop is positioned atop a creamy, delectable grain mustard sauce that’s been tempered a bit so as not to obfuscate the delicate flavor of the pork. The chop is served with a mound of rich potatoes au gratin and a fennel apple salad that rings with freshness. This chop competes with the bone-in pork chop at Mykonos Cafe for “best in town” honors.
17 September 2017: My Kim’s house cut loin steak proved equally formidable, reminding us of the many times we enjoyed loin steak in England. Though usually basted with chimichurri sauce, Kim asked that it be served on the side. No sauce was needed. Sliced thinly into medium-rare visions of pink pulchritude, the loin steak was fulsome and flavorful with a rich beefy flavor. The herbaceous notes imparted by the chimichurri appealed to me, but my Kim is much more a purist than I when it comes to the flavor of beef. Accompaniment for this terrific steak came in the form of roasted red potatoes and calabasitas (a substitute for broccolini). Both are equal to the task of sharing space on a plate with that magnificent loin steak.
28 January 2018: When used in the context of food, the term “grand slam” may inadvertently trigger thoughts of Denny’s grand slam breakfasts, a pick your favorite four-item array of breakfast favorites. Visit Seared for Sunday brunch and you’ll never again associate grand slam with Denny’s. Seared’s Grand Slam Chicken (thick chicken fried chicken nestled in two fluffy, homemade buttermilk biscuits along with a molten blanket of Cheddar, crispy sliced bacon all topped country sausage gravy) will forever be your favorite grand slam breakfast. This sumptuous sandwich reminds your humble blogger of the Charleston Nasty Breakfast from the Hominy Grill in South Carolina and if you read my review, you’ll see just how highly I think of that sandwich. Served alongside the grand slam chicken are some of the best roasted red potatoes in town. Not only are they perfectly roasted, they’re flecked with rosemary which imparts invigorating freshness.
28 January 2018: When Chef Alejandro ferried the Filet De Boeuf (an eight-ounces of local, grass-fed beef, roasted red skin potatoes and red onions, asparagus, red wine demi-glaze reduction and roasted garlic butter) destined for my Kim’s side of our table, I almost reached up to intercept it. The Chef’s mastery of meats and complementary sauces is in rarefied air. An artistic stacked food plate on a white background is how professionals do it, but a pretty meal doesn’t always translate to a delicious one. This one is both beautiful and delicious. Prepared at medium-rare, the filet is tender, juicy and tasty as well as devoid of any extraneous fat and sinew. The red wine demi-glaze is superb, so good you’ll be tempted to lick the plate so as not to leave any. The roasted red skin potatoes and red onions are worthy accompaniment as are the asparagus spears. This is the most expensive item on the menu, but it’s well worth the price.
17 September 2017: Jan is the baker in the family though Alejandro wishes she prepared her German Chocolate Cake more often at home. It’s simply the best German chocolate cake I’ve ever had at any restaurant, equal to the version made by my not-at-all Teutonic mom. One of the things we appreciated in this cake is that it is served at room temperature, not obviously thawed to order. The coconut-pecan frosting is slathered on generously, but not so much that it overwhelms the delicate chocolate cake itself. Another surprise we enjoyed is the sweet-tart raspberry jam spread atop the frosting. It’s goodness on top of goodness. The portion size is very lavish. Call it a sizeable slab of sumptuousness.
17 September 2017: For my Kim, the perusal of a dessert menu stops and ends when she espies sorbet. Her excitement is in triplicate when a sorbet trio is available. Seared’s sorbet trio features three of her favorites: mango, lemon and raspberry. All three flavors are fresh, lively and delicious with the icy coolness you appreciate most when temperatures are unseasonably warm.
Seared is one of the very best reasons to make your way to the Downtown area. Jan and Alejandro aim to please and their aim is certainly true.
119 San Pasqual, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 28 January 2018
1st VISIT: 17 September 2017
# OF VISITS: 2
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Fried Asparagus, French-Cut Pork Chop, House Cut Loin Steak, German Chocolate Cake, Sorbet Trio, Filet De Boeuf, Grand Slam Chicken, Salmon Crudo
16 thoughts on “Seared – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
Only a year late…Blush…(pardon, am playing the Aging Card or Los Anos) to check on consistency. OMG… only $23 (for the 5 oz option) for a Filet just as Gil described 1/28/18, which also includes a petite salad…my choice of Blue Cheese was bountifully full of the cheese! I added the French Onion (with soup spoon…LOL) which was tasty with stretchy cheese.
Pardon Oenophiles…I paired Fetzer Moscato with the entree.
Service was as unobtrusively attentive as previously.
A new “bevy of songbirds(?)’ now adorned a couple of the walls, while Br Ba’s Heisenberg remains.
T’was nice to get a courtesy check by the owner of this “budget” priced, fine dining venue.
(Addendum on coming from the West: go to the traffic light to then turn right onto San Pasquale vs going erroneously into a driveway in that far right lane…LOL)
Hope someone else taste-tests the fare this new year.
Very please with our inaugural visit to Seared. Fine dining at very reasonable prices! We stuck with Gil’s best bets (the pork chop, filet, salmon crudo and the german chocolate cake) and were not disappointed. We did enjoy the french onion soup – though they need to invest in some decent soup spoons – a teaspoon just did not cut it for me. We are looking forward to a return visit.
As noted to be at the labyrinth of Route 66/Lomas/San Pasquale: If coming from the West, be that ala crossing the Rio Grande or looping into Route 66 from Rio Grande Blvd as one might do off I-40, I found myself flummoxed… per the MasterPlan of Engineering ending up driving through the parking lots of some businesses in order to make a left hand turn into San Pasquale, as brought to us my ex-Mayor Berry….hard to tell in the dark. I.e. get into the gutter lane early. Once ya get into the parking lot of a beauty salon on San Pasquale, immediately exit and then into the lot of a health store along with Seared which has an electrified “OPEN” sign!
Met up with one of my Daughters/S-i-L/G-son for some fine dining, i.e. a place that serves a Filet at least on a Special Day. Let’s start with Ambiance which is unique in its going (tho I never saw it) from a coffee shop to fine dining each day about 3PM.
Alas, My D took off points, as per her O-CDness, and compares it to Artichoke, i.e. this place has a couple of walls decorated with pallate (or barn) wood; all being adorned however with original art. I, on the other hand, find that a bit nouveau arte with credit for white table tops, a sprig of flowers and cloth serviettes! No, it is not the Rancher’s Club; how about casual vs formal fine dining?
Service was attentive; I’m thinking other ABQians appreciated the ambiance as about 80% seating was in evidence on a Thursday eve!
I choose the smaller of the Filets: excellent per taste/tenderness to the extent I couldn’t be but tempted to save 1/2 to accompany and be imbued with the yoke of a home cooked over-eazy egg the next day….which I often succumb to! Que No Falte (my idiosyncratic version of: “Without Fault”) re the now “traditional” asparagus and red-halved potatoes. The rest of the diners gave Upped Thumbs to the Beef Medallions, The Loin, and the G-son who had “just” appetizers including “salmon and roasted asparagus”.
Perplexed??? If pushed to shove: Imagine being Single: I’d suggest this as a great First Date to check out how High Maintenance s/he is? Impress her (or him) that you appreciate fine dining and you can judge where ya want to go from there with her or him. I.e. ya didn’t blow your whole wad and you can step up to Antiquity or Artichoke or Elaine’s or Freshish!
999 reviews. Wow, Gil.
Not only are you prolific, interesting to read, and have an unmatched vocabulary, you are also my friend. As your faithful reader, I’m always appreciative of your spot on reviews. As your friend, I’m just proud to know you and Kim.
I can’t wait for number 1000.
Ooo Ooo Ryan! Didn’t notice that! Say, would 999 be called a trio or ennead or the antithesis of The Sign of the Beast?
In any event, that is a hardy number of outings. One can only imagine the amount of psychic energy expended to write those reviews that not only tuned us into what a place and its offerings were all about, but educated us (well at least me) in some exquisite fashion.
While I’d favor Scalo’s or Antiquity to be the magic number, perhaps there might be a Survey Question that Gil might propose?
Yes! This has to be the next survey question!
Hmm, I may have to go back to the proverbial drawing board to figure out a way to make that happen elegantly. In the interim, I’m happy to entertain suggestions sent via email.
Unfortunately the poll question widget I use doesn’t allow for fill-in-the-blank choices. I can probably create a poll listing a number of heretofore untried restaurants, but that would invariably leave out popular choices.
Scalo would not qualify to be number 1,000 because the number of reviews tracked represents only new reviews, not revisit reviews. If revisit reviews were tracked, I suspect the number would be in the range of 25,000 and would out me for the glutton I am. Antiquity, on the other hand, would be a new review, but we’d have to find a trusty dog-sitter to watch over our debonair dachshund Dude because Antiquity doesn’t allow four-legged children.
I say pick 4 or 5 places you’ve really been wanting to try, and pose those as the poll question.
And I forgot to mention that BOTVOLR will buy you your 1000th review meal! 😉
But I’ve already reviewed the Dog House.
At any given time I’ve got dozens (if not hundreds) of restaurants on my “gotta try” list. Similarly my publicist BOTVOLR has armed me with dozens of poll questions. This week I’m deviating from those questions, but have come up with a good one.
I’m honored to have made the poll as a choice. Very esteemed company in which to be included.
Thank you, my friend. You’ve shared many meals with me on this amazing journey to 1,000 reviews. I appreciate your loyalty and friendship so much that I’ve even forgiven you for the Broncos having embarrassed my Cowboys last week.
Not to pile on, but I have bragging rights for another 4 years…however, it won’t do me much good in say 3 years…so I’ll just say – 9 rushes for 8 yards? I thought he was good? 🙂
And yes, congrats on #999. Definitely looking forward to the millennium mark…not to put any undue pressure, but all of us are expecting it to be a doozy! 😉
Thankfully one game does not a season make. The Cowboys will rebound tonight against the Cardinals.
As for the Broncos, they’re certainly better than that abomination the state of Colorado calls “chile.”
I’ve actually got a couple of reviews written (but not published), but they’re not quite 1,000 review worthy.