Alibi V.29 No.7 • Feb 13-19, 2020

Restaurant Review

Tonari No Mise Brings Unique Flavor to City

The store next door is amazing for sure

Beauty and flavor, together as one.
Beauty and flavor, together as one.
Eric Williams Photography

Have we stagnated? Has the culture of creativity slowed down? Many people have asked me what is the coolest, newest place to do something wild and different, and usually, I struggle to give them something they haven't seen before. That's not to say things are bad—quite the contrary, we've seen a lot of people do some incredible things with food in this town. But when it comes to something we haven't really seen before, something that stands out and makes us go "woah" upon its arrival, it's been a hot minute. But, as luck would have it, Instagram came to the rescue recently, when a set of wild-looking desserts appeared in my feed. My sweet tooth instantly reacted, and I hunted down what I consider the city’s most well-hidden secret. I'm talking about Tonari No Mise.

I was shocked to find out they had been in operation for over three months by the time I got there. Very rarely do things slip under the radar of my watchful eye, bolstered by a deluge of messages each week like "Have you been here yet!?", though this one hadn't even registered on anything. This is a new project from the owners of Magokoro Japanese, one of the city’s best Japanese restaurants. Tucked back on a side street next to an alley, it's almost magical when you find it the first time, because from the outside, you could easily miss it. In a way, it's part of the fun. It's the same feeling you get when visiting someone out of town, and they tell you about a great place that no one knows about, taking you down a winding path of alleys to some backend hidden locale and it's the most amazing thing you've ever had. That's the feeling of discovery you get at Tonari No Mise. Even more impressive is its elegant minimalist interior. It's the kind of decor choice you don't see here, but would expect to find in Los Angeles or New York, because they're so clean, modern and simple.

The kicker is, as always, the eats. They hand-churn their ice cream, making it fresh. I'll dig into the flavors in a minute, but I want to talk about the ice cream itself first. It's ridiculously smooth and creamy. It's this gentle melting on your tongue that just soothes the heart and rests the mind for a minute amidst the chaos. It's memories of being young and knowing at the tender age of 7 years old that nothing will ever be as happy and as good as the ice cream you're currently eating. This is the ice cream that genuinely stops you in your tracks to take a minute and appreciate all that it is. There is probably a long and complicated German word for that feeling, but in that moment of trying it, only one simple word came to mind: Bliss. Forget every other ice cream you have ever tried. This is unlike them, for everything else is lesser. This is truly crafted with one part dedication and another part love, making it undoubtedly Albuquerque's best ice cream, period.

An 8oz. cup costs $5.25, and of the many flavors (which will be rotating in the future) available to us, the one we had to try was the mushroom with hazelnut shavings. I know, I was in shock at the idea of it too. Many will recall my general dislike of mushrooms, much to the chagrin of my mother who has spent my lifetime trying to change my mind. The flavor was not what you would expect, coming up more caramel and nutty, with a touch of earthiness to it. It was so smooth with just the slightest hint of sweet that it didn't really register initially as a dessert. It was just amazing. I know it sounds like I am building it up, but I promise you, until you try it yourself, you'll never understand exactly what the hidden variable is that makes it just so much more "it" than anything else. We of course tried the vanilla, too, just to make sure, but fear not, while it was nothing ground-breaking in terms of inventiveness like the mushroom, it was equally amazing in terms of flavor, smoothness and quality. Added to an iced drink of Ramune Melon with whipped cream and a cherry on top, and you have their Melon Cream Soda Float ($5.25), a drink so unique on its own that it felt wrong to have anything other than that for the rest of the day.

The dorayaki, which is an ice cream sandwich made with pancakes and cream, was up next. I started with the Cream ($4) which was a traditional pastry cream between two pancakes. These pancakes were immaculate. They didn't look real because they were so picture perfect. Precisely golden brown, immensely soft and a little chewy, these pancakes felt like they stepped out of a Miyazaki film and into your hands. The cream was smooth, sweet and paired so delightfully well with the pancakes that it makes you question why you ever bothered with syrup and butter before? The Choco Banana ($5) had a banana and whipped cream filling that was loaded up with banana slices and chocolate shavings, making it some hybrid dessert of dreams that felt so familiar and so foreign all at once.

Tonari No Mise is just getting started. Their setup allows for small batch productions, meaning that right now, they're not ready for huge crowds. I was even hesitant to mention them after trying them because in a way, the secluded and quiet nature of the shop was one of its unique appeals. But ultimately, I know this is for the best. With growth in the future and the opportunity to change the look of the scene here, they deserve the attention and the business. This is going to be the next big thing, and let it be known they absolutely owned it on the first shot. Tonari No Mise is my official highest recommendation for innovation and simple joy of eating and is guaranteed to be yours, too.

Tonari No Mise

5600 Menaul Blvd. NE Ste. A