Galactic food—and prices to match
By Jennifer Wohletz
I still find people who won’t try sushi. And I’m always amazed when I do. Sushi has been incredibly popular here in the states since the ’80s, and even after its peak during the “Miami Vice” years, sushi restaurants have multiplied like so many Starbucks in just about every major city. But, sadly, the idea of raw fish, rice and seaweed will still strike fear in the hearts of the uninitiated. At its mere mention I still get “the face” (pursed lips, squinchy eyes and wrinkly nose) and hear things like “Eeeuuuuck! It’s rawww!” Or my favorite response: “Those weird rich people in New York eat that, right?”
Thanks to cultural diffusion, we here in the provinces can get a lacquered plate of fatty tuna rolls au natural. As for the rich part of the culinary equation, well, I have yet to find a restaurant in any city I’ve been to where the sushi was cheap. But … depending on where you frequent, sushi can be reasonable and you can get plenty for your dollar. Eurasia Bistro, located in the old Minato, is one of the pricier places in town, but if ambiance is important, take out your pocketbook and dive in.
I was a fan of Minato—I adored those little tatami rooms and the servers in kimonos. Walking in the door at the new place, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but right from jump I could see no vestige of Minato. This new atmosphere was closer to a quiet, European-flavored “Star Trek” episode. There are starchy tablecloths and napkins, warm-hued retro furniture in square patterns, and these crazy pseudo skylights featuring galactic scenery complete with twinkling lights. I’ll be in my ready room, No. 1.
I was seated in a booth in full view of the sushi bar, and was distracted by the huge window behind the chefs. It was dark and deep and exploding with tiny lights in every color. I was mesmerized for a full five minutes, but I forced my eyes away and onto the menu, if only after a quick glance around to make sure there weren’t any Klingons waiting to spear me.
I had both a hot menu and a sushi sheet to get through, so I purposely avoided turning my gaze to the beverage selection. The wine list was modest, but included a few choice selections like the Marqués de Cáceres Rose (Spain, $5 glass/$18 bottle), the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, $7.50 glass/$29 bottle), or if your rich uncle just kicked the can, try the Archipel Bordeaux Blend ($75 bottle).
I really wanted a salad, and I had heard the house dressing was especially good. It was; I got a tangy blend of soy, grated ginger and black pepper over a healthy mound of spring greens, plum tomatoes and colorful bell pepper spears. I also ordered the Ankimo appetizer ($10.50), which was described on the menu as an “advanced course item for sushi lovers.” It was an artfully arranged row of monkfish pâté circles, lightly sautéed in sake (making it warm), served over a bed of seaweed, watercress and green onion, and garnished with dabs of orange and black flying fish eggs. My advice to those ordering after me: You must truly like fish in order to fully enjoy this dish. The pâté is very rich and will linger on the tastebuds for a while.
The other appetizers offered were standard fare combined with a few interesting house specialties like the aged tofu with sliced seaweed and dried bonito (a smoked mackerel fish) and the Kobe beef sashimi (well-aged fancy beef) with ponzu sauce.
Dinner entrées here are pretty steep in price (I couldn’t help but look) and they range from the chicken teriyaki dinner ($14.95) up to the Kobe beef tenderloin steak ($60). I decided to order off the sushi menu and abandon my usual penchant for unagi in favor of something new. I had the “Yummy Yummy” roll ($8.95 for six pieces) and the house special spicy tuna roll ($12.95 for eight pieces), thinking perhaps I should stop there, otherwise I might have had to scrub eel pans to pay my tab.
The presentation of the sushi was virtually flawless, and the chefs were masters at both ignoring the big holodeck behind them and wrapping thin slices of tuna and avocado around the fat rice rolls. The Yummy Yummy rolls were just that, filled with a combination of crispy shrimp tempura, soft crab, crisp cucumbers, meaty avocado and salty kanpyo (a delicious preserved gourd), and all rolled up in sticky rice, fish eggs and sesame seeds. The special tuna roll was colorful like a rainbow--dotted all over with black, orange and bright green caviar--and the minced tuna was meltingly fresh and imbued with a creamy, spicy sauce.
I came across several other neat-sounding rolls like the Sandia roll (a variety of fresh fish with green chile), the “Thank You” roll (spicy salmon, shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado), and the “Make My Day” roll, which is shrimp tempura, crab and ebi (sweet, tail-on shrimp).
The service here was excellent, and my server even brought out the bottle of ponzu sauce so I could see what a ponzu fruit looked like. I was too frightened of my bill to even consider dessert, but I saw there was both green tea and ginger ice cream, and also tempura and mochi rice cake ice creams for a happy ending.
As it turned out, I was right to be scared of the bill, because for just me plus tip--with an appetizer, salad and sushi, and no liquor--I spent $48. Yikes! I strongly considered teleporting to another planet where they use empty coffee cups for currency, but pay it I did, if only to show all non-sushi eaters out there that I can put my meager funds where my mouth is.
So to recap: “Star Trek” insides, pretty sushi rolls, very expensive. Don’t like sushi? Well, I wouldn’t recommend this place, but if you do, bring a friend. A rich one. And pretend to have lost your wallet.
The Alibi Recommends:
Asari clam appetizer
Softshell crab with ponzu sauce
Special “Dynamite” dinner seafood casserole
Tempura ice cream
Eurasia Bistro, 10721 Montgomery NE, 299-9898; Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. No smoking, credit cards accepted, booze, large parties, sushi bar.
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ABQ Food Fridays at Harry E. Kinney Civic Plaza
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