This isn't a review. Upon taking over the desk of food editor here at Weekly Alibi, I asked people for suggestions and leads on food and such around the city. While I got a lot of cool suggestions about a bunch of places I had never heard of, one resounding agreement from everyone was An Hy Quan. An Hy Quan is a Vietnamese vegan restaurant in the Heights, something I'll be quite honest that I have no experience with. I wasn't even sure I could set aside my prejudices about vegan food to do an honest review because it is so outside my wheelhouse.
We ran a review of them back in 2016, and they haven't undergone any big changes since then, so I was unsure how to approach this story if at all. I went in, and after looking through the menu, I saw they did pho, which is one of my all-time favorite dishes. Somehow, even doing it totally vegan, they had made one of the best bowls of pho I have ever had. I honestly couldn't believe that this wasn't a beef broth and absolutely devoured the entire thing in one go. I apologized to the person running my card, because the first thing out of my mouth was, "I didn't know vegan food could be this good." It was spicy in all the right ways, giving me a full breadth of flavor and opening my sinuses the way a good broth should. The noodles were heavier than traditional pho noodles, but they held so much broth on them that you couldn't stop yourself from slurping them down. Even the vegan "meat" that accompanied the dish was fantastic. I was scared to try them at first, but by the end, I was digging at the bottom of my bowl to make sure I hadn't missed one.
I reached out to some people about their love for An Hy Quan after I visited, to get a little more input. "It's healing food. I literally felt like death after 12 hours, ate curry noodles, survived another shift the next day," said Vinny Belotti, a friend of mine who was the first to recommend it. "I recommend the spot to just about anyone and everyone I can." Another friend who recommended it, Eric Kohen, told me "It's just simply some of the best Vietnamese in town," and that, "Beyond that, Bill is friendly and accommodating. Took my friend there last week [who is] allergic to onions and she was delighted at how much of the menu he could accommodate." The resounding input I got was the same feeling I had while eating there. This was a place to relax, recenter yourself and eat without fear or worry.
But all of this pales in comparison to a message I received from a friend and neighbor, who refers to herself as an "avid fan" and wished to remain anonymous for this article, but had such an amazing tie-in that I couldn't pass up sharing. This fan grew up with Korean and Chinese parents but struggled to enjoy any home cooked meals once they went vegetarian, due to any meat cooked with the dish. "As someone who grew up so cultured with cuisine, I thought for a while that I was dishonoring my own ethnic background," they told me, in reference to having gone vegetarian. "It wasn't until I discovered An Hy Quan where I could enjoy familiar family dishes that I grew up eating but guilt free," she told me in a message. "But their food is killer Asian (mostly Vietnamese) and it's not dry, tasteless rabbit food."
So at the end of the day, what is the story here? Like I said, this isn't a review; I think it's a love letter. Albuquerque has such a fantastic food culture that is so varied and unique, but with eight different people reaching out to tell me to try An Hy Quan, it's clear that a chord was struck in the community. The food is great, and it resonates with people and gives others ties back their to heritage in a new way and is head and shoulders above the crowd for what you expect vegan food to be. For the first time in my life, I'm a converted believer that vegan food can actually be good. I have no question that I will be back there again to eat more, because earnestly I loved it.