alibi online

Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.23 No.25 | June 19 - 25, 2014 

Restaurant Review

Outside the Bento Box

Nu Asia Vegan

Kimchi bento box
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Kimchi bento box

If you’ve ever tried to dine out as a vegan (or with a vegan), there may have been times when you’ve wanted to bang your head against a wall trying to find a place that has even one dish you can eat. Fortunately, in Albuquerque it is getting easier every day for us, not just to find single dishes, but also to find restaurants that serve only vegan food. The latest option is the Nu Asia fusion restaurant.

Salmon crunch roll
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Salmon crunch roll

It’s clear the place is just getting started. There is still some evidence in the décor that Cosmo Tapas used to reside here, and some of the waitstaff don’t appear well-trained on the menu. Still, the dining area has been transformed into a brightly lit, chic looking restaurant, and the service is attentive and quick. The servers bring out a bowl of soup while you are looking at the menu, which I appreciated—I came here because I’m hungry, so let’s eat.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

A good way to try a variety of menu items is to order one of the “box” meals, which include smaller portions of stand-alone meals. Nu Asia’s bento boxes ($12.99 for lunch or dinner) include kimchi, four pieces of sushi, steamed tofu, salad and an entrée. The lunch and dinner boxes ($8.50 at lunch, $9.50 at dinner) also have an entrée with kimchi and salad in addition to two fried spring rolls and rice. Both types of kimchi offered on the menu (a standard style and a variation where cucumber replaces the cabbage) were my favorite items. While they were less spicy than I’d expect (I think Burqueños eat enough green chile to handle a little more kick), both had a cool, refreshing crispness that was welcome in this toasty summer weather.

The dining area has been transformed into a brightly lit, chic looking restaurant, and the service is attentive and quick. The servers bring out a bowl of soup while you are looking at the menu, which I appreciated—I came here because I’m hungry, so let’s eat.

The bento box entrée options include bulgogi, a hearty and delicious Korean-style dish with slices of marinated seitan (wheat protein) in a stew-like mixture with veggies. A Thai red curry with vegan pepper steak as spicy and creamy as one would hope for is available in the lunch and dinner boxes. Between these dishes and how well the tofu was incorporated in their miso soup, the chefs at Nu Asia clearly know how to properly prepare their protein alternatives. The flavor and texture all hit the right notes, whether chewy, like the pepper steak, or melt-in-your-mouth like the miso soup tofu. It’s up for debate whether the “meat” would please an omnivore, but this isn’t the meat-flavored cardboard some of us long-time herbivores remember.

In the past, the phrase “vegan sushi” at a restaurant translated to “we have a cucumber roll.” Nu Asia has that, but why bother when you can have the winning sweet and spicy combination of pineapple, green chile and crunchy shrimp tempura in the lucky roll ($8.99)? Their sushi menu is pretty extensive and easily the most unique part of their menu. Another good example of this is their salmon crunch roll ($8.50), a savory chewy combo of tempura salmon, avocado and crab, topped with toasted spicy shrimp. For the faux seafood skeptics, there are options like the states roll ($9.50), which takes mushrooms and tofu smothered in a mild BBQ sauce and adds cucumber with a garnish of avocado. Nu Asia is also offering an all-you-can-eat option ($16.99 at lunch, $18.99 at dinner), and it’s easy to see how you could get your money’s worth.

There are a number of sweets on the menu as well. One of the delights of eating at an all-vegan Asian restaurant is washing down your food with vegan Thai iced tea. Nu Asia’s ($2.95) did not fail to deliver the sweet, creamy drink I craved—in fact, it didn’t survive the short wait for my meal to arrive. The spinach ice cream ($4.95), which only betrays its vegetable contents in its dark green color, has a nice portion size for one, but has the classic homemade soy ice cream problem of a crumbly consistency. For a sharable dessert, you can’t go wrong with the bananas chocolate ($4.50)—deep-fried spring rolls stuffed with banana and drizzled with chocolate syrup. In fact, you should probably bring a friend with you so you have an excuse to order some.

Here’s the issue, though. At least half of the items I mentioned, and a significant amount of the rest of the menu, can be obtained at one of the other all-vegan Asian restaurants within the same half-mile on Central. Does Albuquerque have enough demand for vegan Asian food to support that many restaurants in a small radius, especially if they have duplicate menu items? For my part, I’m not complaining. After years of nothing but bean burritos and grilled vegetables when eating out, having multiple restaurants to choose from is pretty glorious. I only hope that Nu Asia can focus on what makes its menu different so it can enhance, rather than over saturate, the vegan options in the neighborhood.

View in Alibi Chowtown calendar


4200 Central SE
508-1908

Hours: 11am to 9pm Monday through Saturday
1pm to 8pm Sundays
Price range: $5-$20
Vibe: Trendy cafe
Extras: All-you-can-eat sushi
The Weekly Alibi recommends: Regular or cucumber kimchi, bulgogi, lucky roll, bananas chocolate

 
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    MERICAN SLANG!
    MERICAN SLANG!8.28.2014