Walter White had it figured out. When living in ABQ, make sure to eat at home most of the time and use a fast food chicken chain as a cover for your high quality drug lab.
However, if you don’t snort the pretty blue rock and desire something other than fried chicken, finding top tier restaurants in the area can be challenging. On a recent two-month gig in New Mexico, we searched high and low and discovered a few gems we now share with you.
Open for less than a four weeks, this 60-seat fine dining restaurant located in the eclectic Nobhill area just east of UNM offers a set menu in addition to rotating seasonal dishes. The team that also runs “Scalo Northern Italian Grill” right across the street has over 30 years experience in the business, and it shows. The interior mixes artwork, dark woods, and stainless steel. Our waiter, a sommelier in training, knew everything about the wine list and wine in general. Everything we tried on two occasions exceeded expectations: Roast Beet Salad, Crab and Cauliflower Soup, Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with Prosciutto and Green Chili Aoli, Parisian Gnocchi, and Beef Tenderloin with Foie Gras and Truffle Jus.
The James Beard Foundation nominated Chef/Owner Jennifer James twice in 2010/2011 as best chef in the Southwest, and she’s arguably in the top three in all of New Mexico. Like Elaine’s, the menu is seasonal and limited, which allows her the focus and time to create and turn out simple, yet amazing, dishes. Ingredients are largely brought in locally and fresh, and proteins such as fish are shipped in overnight.
We loved the Bacon Steak (Pork Belly), Arugula and Plum Salad, Stuffed Red Bell Pepper with Chorizo and Garlic Cream, and a Whole Fried Branzini. Be sure to reserve a table by the large, open kitchen and watch this gifted chef work her magic.
Raw fish in ABQ? Yes. After five unsuccessful attempts to find outstanding sushi and sashimi in the Duke City, we happened upon this gem on the edge of Nobhill. Pristine Yellowtail Belly, Salmon just sliced from the whole fish, and even Uni (Sea Urchin) were available at the time of our visits. The sushi chef is top notch and amiable, suggesting the freshest items brought in that day. We also enjoyed Halibut, Sashimi Salad, and Anago (Sea Eel) prepared in the traditional Japanese style (no eel sauce). A great selection of Japanese craft beers and reasonably prices cold sakes were the icing on the cake. If you find yourself in need of a raw fish fix in this landlocked city, look no further than Fareast Fusion.