Once upon a time, I was a fresh-faced high schooler, living my best life in cargo pants and brightly colored Hawaiian shirts and attempting to grow facial hair with little to no success. With all these things working for me, I was introduced to anime by the friend of a friend, which opened the door to the country of Nippon aka Japan. I quickly fell headfirst into a love affair with the culture and the country, further spurred on by my borderline addiction to waiting up every Thursday night to download fan translations of my favorite shows. This continued for the entirety of high school, after which I took a graduation trip to Japan itself for a two-week tour of all the food and sights of a country I had grown to admire and love through cartoons of ninjas, cat girls and giant fighting robots. What does this have to do with anything? So glad you asked.
The Taste - ABQ BioPark is hosting Destination Dinner: Japan at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden (2601 Central Ave. NW) this Saturday, Aug. 3, starting at 6pm. At this 21-and-over event, with tickets going for $75 apiece, you’ll be treated to as close to an actual Japanese experience as Albuquerque can muster. Featuring a three-course meal that will take place in the Sasebo Japanese Garden, which entitles you to enjoy a phenomenal meal while taking in all the sights to see within the garden. So what exactly is covered by your $75 ticket?
To start, you’ll be served hors d’oeuvres of tuna and salmon sashimi with pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, tobiko, as well as vegetable spring rolls with plum sauce, to help keep hunger pains at bay as you explore the garden. The real stars of the meal come in during your main course offering, featuring a soba noodle salad with sugar snap peas, carrots, peppers, cucumber and tofu, along with Japanese onion-mushroom soup and a miso honey-glazed salmon, teriyaki prawns, sesame soy green beans, grilled bok choy and white rice. You may already be feeling full just reading that, but save room for dessert, which is matcha green tea cake as well as assorted mochi, essentially Japanese rice cakes. Based on the menu alone, this is a killer value featuring a wide variety of traditional dishes just waiting for you to get in on their deliciousness. But in the famous words of late, great bearded sales legend Billy Mays of OxiClean fame, “But wait! There’s more!”
Eating in silence is for when you bring a new partner home to meet your parents and they clearly hate them, so your meal in the garden will be accompanied by traditional Japanese music (sorry, no Asian Kung-Fu Generation covers are listed) as well as traditional folk dance performed by the Japanese Folk Dance Group of Albuquerque. Not feeling bold enough to try to learn the cool dance moves you’ll see on display? A cash bar may enable you to find that courage, as well as to complement your traditional Japanese meal with whatever form of alcohol you prefer to imbibe with your event-attending self. Try your hand at origami crafting. If you bring a date, you can demonstrate value as a romantic partner and long-term love interest by clumsily making a crane and giving it to them as a memento of your night together. There’s a very good chance they might treasure it for years to come, while setting a standard for handmade gifts and trinkets that you’ll assuredly fail to keep up as time goes on.
For many, the idea of traveling to Japan is daunting. Living in our landlocked state, there may very well be a fear of being on an island nation, with fresher seafood options than you’ll ever find here. For those with that fear, don’t worry. Your chance to experience Japanese culture is ready and here with this Taste ABQ Biopark dinner. Is it a perfect replacement for an actual trip? Not at all. Will it give you an incredibly accurate representation of what that trip might feel like? Absolutely. So those with a fear of travel can take solace in the fact that this will give you the experience and feeling you’ve been craving without an 11-hour journey by plane. For more information about the event, you can email Taste - ABQ BioPark at bioparkcater@kmssa.