Noda’s Japanese Cuisine—I’m mourning the loss of one of the best Japanese restaurants in the state. Some friends and I were planning a night out and wanted to make reservations for Noda’s omakase dinner—a sumptuous, prix fixe feast prepared in a manner you’d expect from a four-star establishment. Noda’s inventive dishes included top-quality ingredients in distinctive presentations. I once had a dessert consisting of a sweet rice cake shaped like a fig, stuffed with sweet bean paste and partially wrapped with a fragrant, salty/sweet shiso leaf. Alas, Noda’s closed the doors at its Trinity Plaza location in Rio Rancho this winter.
Ben & Jerry’s—You’ll have to get your Cherry Garcia at the supermarket as the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops have left the state. I learned this one disappointing afternoon, ready for a cup of berry sherbet—only to find the doors at the Montgomery store locked and empty, as are all other B & J locations in New Mexico.
Jo’s Place—Dennis Apodaca is keeping his family in the kitchen. Sophia’s Place, named for his daughter, serves up hardy New Mexican fare for breakfast and lunch at 6313 Fourth Street NW (345-3935). Ezra’s Place at 6132 Fourth Street NW (344-1917), overlooking the lanes at Lucky 66 Bowl, is named after Dennis’ son. You’ll find Kobe beef burgers and a menu of haute cuisine with good beer and killer Margaritas.
As of about three weeks ago, Apodaca added Jo’s Place to include his mother in the family business. And here, as with the other restaurants, the menu has a distinctive signature—mole burgers and a Mexican kick. Jo’s is located at 6100 Fourth Street NW (341-4500) in the space recently vacated by Melon Mountain Café, just south of Ezra’s and Lucky 66 Bowl.
Doughnuts Rise Again—Fried-food fans can have more Donut Mart doughnuts than ever. In addition to the shops at 1605 Juan Tabo NE (292-9908) and 1723 Lomas NE (243-4104) the brothers Gauba have opened two new stores. The spot at 4501 Montgomery (881-2707) opened on Dec. 11 and the shop at 3301 Coors NW (352-6008) welcomed its first customers on Christmas Eve. The new locations are polished and spacious, with plenty of room for diners to sit and enjoy their coffee and fresh doughnuts. All stores carry the same scrumptious varieties including coconut (three ways), buttermilk, and peanut butter and jelly.
My fall roundup missed a Westside gem: Route 66 Donut & Bagel Express is alive and kicking at 475 Coors NW (839-5215). In addition to doughnuts, owner Veena Bhambhani has seeded the menu with Indian and New Mexican flair—there’s chicken curry, meatball curry and stir-fried vegetables (all with rice), as well as green chile stew, burritos and plenty of breakfast choices for folks who want a quick meal with their morning coffee. The doughnuts and pastries are whipped up fresh every morning and include a popular cinnamon roll.