Feb 17 - 23, 2005 
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The Dish

All the News That's Fit to Eat

By Gwyneth Doland
Oooh ... cutlet
Oooh ... cutlet

It's called California Witches, but the only biddy on a broomstick here is the picture of a witch on the logo. Owner Jenny Marcus is the Korean-born chef at this month-old restaurant at 7202 Menaul NE. Marcus learned her trade in Korea before moving to California eight years ago. She decided to name her place in homage to a Korean restaurant she had admired, one that served sandwiches, and called them witches for short.

Curiously, California Witches doesn't actually serve any sandwiches. They serve pastas, salads and bubble tea, but the specialty of the house is tonkatsu, the Japanese version of chicken-fried steak. More commonly known as cutlet (though it's not exactly common in Albuquerque), California Witches' tonkatsu is made from thin steaks of pork, beef or chicken, lightly breaded with panko, a coarse Japanese style of breadcrumb that makes a light and crispy coating when deep fried. The delightful cutlet here comes with a small mound of sticky rice and a baby greens salad tossed in an unusual, spicy dressing.

There are two options for spicing up the meat. Cutlet with curry involves a mild yellow curry sauce, full of chunky vegetables. Regular cutlet comes with a special house sauce, and it's the more fun and tasty experience. You are brought a small ceramic bowl with thin grooves carved into the interior surface; the bowl is filled with black and white sesame seeds. You are instructed to grind the seeds into a pasteit's easyand when you're done, they bring a thick brown sauce that tastes like a fruity Worcestershire sauce. It gets mixed into the sesame seed paste and then spooned onto your plate. This handmade sauce adds just the right amount of tang.

On our recent visit, we were too busy enjoying the cutlet to try any of the other offerings, like the fettuccine Alfredo, hot pot seafood cheese spaghetti, or chicken salad. We did try some bubble tea-style slushes and they were divine. Do check this place out when you're looking for something new and different. They're open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Call 884-7202 for information. (Oh, and wanna hear something funny? My spellcheck suggests I replace tonkatsu with tomcats. I think not.)

By the way, remember that Schwan's food recall I wrote about a few weeks ago? Well, the New Mexico Environment Department sent out an expanded recall of food products that may contain small pieces of glass. Not only were a dozen kinds of egg rolls affected, but also the pizza twists and taco chalupas. Let me break it down for you, people: Stop buying junk food and having it delivered. It will surely kill you, one way or another. So get up off your ass, walk to the store, and buy yourself some fruit and vegetables. If you're homebound, La Montañita Coop will deliver to you for free. Call them at 265-4631.

Be paid to get fat! If you have a tidbit of news that belongs in "The Dish," e-mail food@alibi.com, call 346-0660 ext. 245 or fax 256-9651. The juiciest tidbits will be rewarded with gift certificates good at local restaurants.

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