Alibi V.26 No.12 • March 23-29, 2017 

Restaurant Review

Sugar and Spice

And almost everything nice at Le Bistro

As my sister and I hoisted our chopsticks, poised to dive into copious portions of noodles, rice, egg rolls and assorted vegetables and dishes of chili, the middle-aged men seated directly behind us broke into chuckles as one asked the other, “So, how's your sex life?” at which point one of them began to detail his prostate frustrations in tones maybe just a decibel too loud. Still, the distracting eavesdropping I couldn't help but engage in didn't manage to detract from the ambiance of Le Bistro, one of Albuquerque's newer Vietnamese spots, having opened its doors last July. Vibrant red and orange walls enhance a biggish room full of round tables smoothed over with crisp white table clothes, a few booths lining the walls. An adjoining room serves as the storefront for the associated bakery, which boasts a few key selections like house-made macaroons and coconut rolls. As both my sister and I, in the synchronized motions we've adopted since childhood, finally dove into our dishes, we were jolted out of our smirking eavesdropping-induced whisper conversation and immediately only had attention for the steaming bowls of vermicelli and clay pot vegetables in front of us.
Steamed vermicelli with imitation pork
Steamed vermicelli with imitation pork

No matter which angle you choose to look at it from, Le Bistro is doing it right. Take for example, the pho—a standard for any Vietnamese restaurant. This dish of broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat or vegetables is a typical dish by which to measure any restaurant touting its Vietnamese cuisine. At Le Bistro the pho that I sampled—the vegetarian variety—was simple, but memorably good, evidencing a commitment to using the freshest herbs (some of which are grown on site) and a demonstrable dedication to the nuances of constructing this mainstay soup. The broth itself was slightly sweet—suggesting it is made in the Saigon style—while the noodles have an extremely subtle smoky flavor. Taken together, these foundational elements make for a killer eating experience, no matter what you're adding to the mix. The vegetarian option includes steamed broccoli, green onion, crispy celery and fried tofu to the basic broth and noodles—it's uncomplicated fare, but that doesn't mean its bland. On a separate occasion settled into a booth on a late Wednesday night, my dining companions ordered the rare steak and brisket pho, as well as the chicken pho, each equally as content with their choices. Each table also offers up a round glass dish of extremely potent ground chili paste which added heat where needed.

A pyramid of crushed peanuts, shredded lettuce, mint and cilantro was stacked on a healthy portion of the slender noodles, an egg roll sliced in two garnished the seemingly bottomless bowl. The noodles were served slightly cooler than the tofu heaped atop it, making for a nice contrast of textures and temperatures.

On that first visit with my sister, amid the ambient prostate babble, she gushed about the clay pot vegetables—a hearty selection of grilled cabbage, carrots, baby corn, broccoli and fried tofu—delicately marinated in a smoky-sweet sauce laid over a bed of fluffy white rice. I can also attest to the dish's toothsomeness, the freshness of the produce doused in a lightly spiced sauce all to quite a nourishing effect, because when my sister had to catch an early flight the next day I ate her leftovers (and there will probably be leftovers; the portions here range between just right and way too much). On that particular occasion, for myself I ordered a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles with imitation pork. A pyramid of crushed peanuts, shredded lettuce, mint and cilantro was stacked on a healthy portion of the slender noodles, an egg roll sliced in two garnished the seemingly bottomless bowl. The noodles were served slightly cooler than the tofu heaped atop it, making for a nice contrast of textures and temperatures.

After that first meal I had at Le Bistro, every single one that followed (and will ever follow) will be preceded by an order of egg rolls. You might be wondering: How can an egg roll be particularly special? Generally speaking, it is pretty hard to do an egg roll wrong, but before dining at Le Bistro I never realized that some egg rolls could stand head and shoulders above all the others I had ever eaten. What makes the egg rolls at Le Bistro stand out is the fact that they are so apparently made from scratch not long before they are plated and with supremely verdant carrots, cabbage, sprouts and other vegetables wrapped inside rice paper before they're deep fried. Simply put: Everything at Le Bistro is of the highest quality, each singular ingredient living up to a high standard. Taken as a whole, the food is memorably delicious—even something as basic as an egg roll or a bowl of pho. I would highly recommend a visit to Le Bistro—catch up with your family there, bring your book club, break up with your boyfriend or have intimate conversations about your sexual health with your friends—the fare here could only serve to enhance whatever you've got on your mind.

Le Bistro

1313 San Pedro NE
(505) 266-6118
Hours: Everyday, 9am-9pm
Vibe: Slightly upscale
Alibi Recommends: Pho of all varieties, egg rolls