Hosho Dreams of Sushi
Shogun delivers quality sushi and serene vibes
At the risk of accidentally dating myself, I've always wanted a backyard like Mr. Miyagi's (in the original Karate Kid). I've long enjoyed the simple design and ambiance of the Japanese aesthetic—blending indoors with out using wood, stone, flora and, of course, a water feature for a serene and minimal space. It's a recipe for relaxation and I will never tire of the wondrous combination of food, space and company that makes for a deep and delightful dining experience. With the quiet gurgle of sushi boats floating by at the bar and their terrific location in Nob Hill, few places have been as consistent in providing this ambiance as Shogun.
It's fair to claim I am a touch sentimental. Shogun is the first place in Albuquerque that I ever ordered sushi—easily 20 years ago by now. Of course sushi isn't cheap, and during the leaner years, I'd go long stretches between visits. Still, every time I'd pop in, the quality and the experience remained largely unchanged—they'd be doing the typically brisk business you'd expect from a sushi spot that always has quality fish. That longevity speaks to the tried-and-true approach of first figuring out the right way to do something, then repeating it day in and day out. It's obviously not as easy as it sounds, because over the years, scores of sushi places have burst on the scene only to quickly fade, while time after time Shogun delivers.
As a starter, I tend toward the gyoza ($4.95) as a litmus test of a place. You can take either steamed or fried, vegetable or beef, and either way you go, the mince strikes a nice balance between texture and flavor. For the more adventurous among you, the squid salad ($5.95) is a bright and briny delight, chewy like calamari but without all the grease and weight of frying. If deciding between the two, I'd probably decide based on weather—as the squid works better on a hot day, and the gyoza on a cold one.
But it's sushi you should go for, because they serve up a reliable and consistent quality. Which isn't to say perfect—as there are fluctuations in supply and even quality fish-to-fish—so I always favor asking staff for recommendations. As an all-time favorite, I tried tuna three ways: the fatty tuna (market price), the super white tuna ($4.75 nigiri/ $8.45 sashimi) and regular tuna ($5.45). All were tasty, but I'd lean toward the super white nigiri as the best bang for your buck. The super crunch roll ($11.45) is a crowd-pleaser, and a very approachable way into sushi as many people enjoy fried shrimp, avocado and rice separately. The delight of flakes of fried panko ramp up the texture, and the drizzle of sauce is luscious. If you have a shy eater, simple orders of an avocado or cucumber roll ($4.45) help folks fill up without much risk, though I'd encourage the curious to try the Japanese pickle roll ($4.45) or even the flying fish wasabi roll ($5.45). The first features a pickle—something Japanese cuisine thrives on, and the second could just be called a caviar roll if diners were afraid. The salty pop of roe, often featured atop other rolls, gets to sit front and center here and it's sublime. If you are ready to push the envelope, the sturdy salmon egg ($5.45) and mackerel ($4.75) deliver big fish flavor, and the freshwater eel ($4.95) is rich and smoky.
If you are looking for a lunch or dinner that's not as sushi-centric, there are a few bento boxes to pick from. The chicken teriyaki bento box ($11.95) is cubed chicken in teriyaki sauce, some terrific quick pickles, one fried dumpling, some tempura vegetables and a couple tails of shrimp, plus two pieces of a California roll. It's served with a bowl of white rice and, if I'm honest, the chicken was a touch dry, and the tempura batter a touch heavy—so I'd probably recommend the tried-and-true pork cutlet over the chicken teriyaki. The veggie udon ($8.95) comes hot and steaming in dashi broth in a giant clay pot. The fat, wheat-based noodles are sturdy and satisfying and, in terms of value, the dinner is hard to beat. You'll leave satisfied and still have a few bucks in your pocket. That is, unless you're like me and love to tack on an icy Sapporo bomber to your meal!
In an ever-shifting dining landscape, it’s best to have a handful of local spots you can count on. But if a restaurant can hang around long enough, the place becomes part of the dining DNA of a city. I believe Shogun has arrived at exactly that—an Albuquerque institution—and any time you and yours have a hankerin' for Japanese, the consistent quality and vibrant central location make it hard to beat.
3310 Central Ave. SE
Hours: Mon-Thur 11:30am–2pm, 5–9:30pm; Fri 11:30am–2pm, 5–10:30pm; Sat noon–2:30pm, 5–10:30pm; Sun closed
Alibi Recommends: Squid salad, super white tuna, flying fish wasabi roll, and veggie udon—with a draft Sapporo
Vibe: Sensual serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of Nob Hill