A gray snapper is split down the middle so perfectly and precisely that, after the spine is removed, the fish lies flat, flatter than any flounder. It’s arranged skin-side down with nothing but white flesh exposed, then covered in onions and a creamy, mustardy chile sauce before it’s baked into something you’ve never seen or tasted before.
The “farm to table” movement—or “field to fork,” or “farm to plate,” and so on—has been gaining traction in every corner of the country, and Albuquerque’s newest member of this growing club didn’t mince words when deciding on its name. After a long winter of teasing us via its Facebook page, Farm & Table finally opened on Fourth Street between Paseo and Alameda. The setting is gorgeous, inside and out. The food walks the walk and is reasonably priced for what you get. And the chef, Ka’ainoa Ravey, is a freaking genius.
Chez Bob is a little bit elegant or a little bit awkward, depending on your perspective. Mine changed dramatically between my first visit, two years ago, and my recent return. After writing the place off, I was drawn back by rumors of major improvements in both service and food.
A seafood meal is the one opportunity most Americans will ever have to eat a wild animal. Given the illegality of selling wild game, only hunters and their lucky friends get to munch the many tasty beasts that roam the boondocks. Eating a wild thing is like walking around in bare feet. It's exposure to an ecosystem, and a direct connection with the planet. Eating wild fish is like a swim in the ocean—except in this case, the ocean swims inside of you.
Though the plating and presentation of the food at Café Trang is classy, the place has a no-nonsense pragmatism that’s just as pronounced. The walls of the clean, open dining room are nearly barren, sending the message that all artistry is reserved for the food. And the drink options are at the top of the menu, rather than the bottom where they’re usually found—a refreshing bit of sensibility given that your drink order is the first thing the server asks of you.
It’s a funny thing about specialties of the house: Sometimes they’re the only thing on the menu worth eating. Other times, as is the case at Thai Cuisine, the specialty isn’t my favorite. In this instance, it’s kind of like a wide-noodled pho with pink broth.
If you’re an East, West or Gulf Coastian homesick for good, fresh bivalve mollusks, weep no more. Suddenly Albuquerque is full of them. On the other hand, if you’re put off by the idea of eating this viscous morsel, I urge you to give it a try. It’s an acquired taste, but not so different from indulging in good sashimi at your favorite sushi bar or a well-made ceviche.
Sometimes it freaks me out when Chinese restaurants serve sushi. Japanese food is light and neat, leaving nothing to chance. Prepared with short, meticulous strokes, sushi is the epitome of this culinary ethos. Meanwhile, Chinese food is created with broad, heavy, greasy strokes, unafraid of the chaos of a stir-fry. The two foods don’t belong together, and it often seems like they only end up on menus that are cynically aimed at ignorant Americans who think all Asian food is the same.
The process by which restaurants get selected for this column involves equal parts strategy and serendipity. New restaurants, if they’re any good, are no-brainers for coverage. But sometimes a case can be made for older places, especially if the Alibi has never covered them.
In recent years, Albuquerque has been home to at least four Vietnamese restaurants with “Saigon” in its name. Those familiar with Vietnamese cuisine won’t be surprised, as its pool of restaurant names, by some unwritten decree, remains curiously small. So many contain the word “Pho” you’d think it was a synonym for Vietnamese food, rather than a bowl of soup.
Some will argue that 2010 was the year homemade sausage finally came of age, or the year the school garden movement exploded. Others will remember 2010 as the year KFC's Double Down sandwich made its glorious debut. With so many food preferences and priorities, you can hardly make an end-of-year food list to please everyone, so let’s start with what the people think. Some of them, anyway.