Sure, from the outside Azuma (4701 San Mateo NE) still looks like a Black Eyed Pea, but inside every trace of country kitsch has been erased and replaced by a serene Japanese theme. The teppan and sushi restaurant, which opened earlier this month, is owned by Frank Su, who also owns both China Star mega-buffets (4710 Montgomery NE and 2001 Juan Tabo NE). Half of Azuma is devoted to teppan tables where patrons can sit and watch as a cook prepares their dinners with a few flashy tricks. On the other side of the restaurant, booths are separated by pretty panes of frosted glass and a line of stools hug the sushi bar. In addition to sushi, Azuma's menu offers many cooked items including noodles and a variety of grilled meats and vegetables that will ensure the place's appeal to nearby families and folks who are new to Japanese food. Sushi aficionados might compare Azuma to Samurai Grill (Montgomery and Eubank or Gibson near Lovelace Hospital), a comparison that would be more flattering to Samurai.
Zinc (3009 Central NE) has turned out to be an excellent choice for a grown-up brunch. You'll find waffles, French toast and crêpes but overall the menu is less breakfasty than many brunches. The emphasis is on savory dishes like a caramelized onion and brie tart and a breakfast croque monsieur (battered and grilled ham and cheese with a spicy dipping sauce). Even the diner around the corner offers steak and eggs for breakfast but Zinc combines the two perfectly with ribbons of peppered flank steak doused in a thick demi-glace. My advice: Ask for your eggs over easy and swirl the yolks into the demi-glace. Feel free to ignore the home fries as you pile beef on a hunk of warm French bread. Oh, and get a flight of wine while you're at it. It's what grownups do at brunch—and you'll see plenty of them here so run a comb through your hair before you go. Order carefully and you'll be out of there for $15. Go hog wild and you could spend $35. Either way it's worth it.
All you chile fanatics better not forget to go to the Fiery Foods Show this weekend at the Convention Center. Stroll through the aisles, dip your chips in a zillion different salsas, sauces, jams, rubs, marinades and dips then get yourself a cold beer and start all over again. Tickets cost $10 at the door. Show up between noon and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Just to tease you, here are some brief tidbits of gossip and visions of news to come. The Range Café and Bakery is adding a third location on Menaul near University. Maria Theresa restaurant (Rio Grande and Mountain) has closed and the historic adobe is available for lease or sale. Famous Sam's (10th and Central) is in the process of a complete renovation after being closed for many months. Look for updates here soon.