Early last week I was lamenting the not at all recent closing of Musashino, a fantastic Japanese restaurant that shut their doors about 8 years ago. The two years preceding their closure my partner in crime and I used to occasionally flee the front of the house chaos at the nearby microbrewery where we waited tables to sample the finest in Nipponese fare. We would escape the glare of the mid summer sun into the cool dark of this North San Pedro hole in the wall run solely by an aged Japanese couple.
Being able to hide for a few hours and stuff ourselves while carefully sipping bombers of icy cold Sapporo was the perfect tonic for a crappy double shift slinging wood-fired pizzas and chipotle wings for the unwashed masses. The things I miss most about Musashino are the beautiful steam fried gyoza the grandmotherly owner would make by hand served next to a plate of panko crusted and fried tofu. The second course was always big bowls of delicious udon and yakisoba noodle soup speckled with little slivers of green onion sitting peacefully in a golden broth.
I was nostalgically reminiscing about these halcyon days to a Filipino friend who in response mentioned a recent meal at the Asian Noodle Bar
. Having never taken culinary advice from this character I was understandably a bit nervous but anyone who makes lumpia
at home can’t be that off the mark. Caution thrown confidently into the wind, the next day Benski and I hustled our Uptown butts down past the oh-so-lofty EDO and into the belly of the beast.
Located a few doors west of the Library (the mediocre bar, not the actual city library) the Asian Noodle Bar at 12:15 on a Wednesday afternoon was packed with a fairly nice cross section of Burqueno’s. Seated at the authentic noodle bar itself, GenX families rubbed elbows with some members of Mayor Marty’s posse, and pony-tailed yuppie sysadmins who very pointedly didn’t remove their Bluetooth ear pieces while eating with colleagues. The wait staff seemed to be just this side of going under as the place was busy and vacated tables were almost instantly re-sat. We got seated right away though and our host/waiter/busser person quickly took our drink orders and came back in fairly rapid order and took our orders.
Now, to the food. My father joined us rather unexpectedly and the three of us split an order of Gyoza, $4.95, which while tasty were deep fried, not pan fried then steamed as they should be. Still, they were hot, crunchy and plump and served with the ubiquitous ginger/ garlic soy dipping sauce.We then proceeded to split up three entrees; my special lady friend had the Spicy Basil stir fried noodles with chicken, $8.95, my Pops had the Teriyaki Chicken Udon, $8.95 and I had the Yakisoba with Tofu, $7.95.
First off the portions are generous; all three dishes served in good sized bowls with plenty of both noodles and of the chosen protein. My tofu was cubed and deep fried with a crispy crust around the firm center, the chicken on the Udon was grilled then sliced thigh glazed with the typical teriyaki sauce and the chicken on the spicy basil dish was thin sliced breast in the traditional Thai style. The vegetables in all the dishes were fresh and competently broken down. Proof that someone in the kitchen either has wicked knife skills or a damn nice mandolin.
The sauces and broths on all the dishes were pleasant and flavorful. The previously mentioned teriyaki sauce was not overly sweet as it can have a tendency to be and the light pan sauce on my yakisoba was satisfying. The sauce on the spicy basil dish however bordered on the overpowering with the amount of garlic chili paste mixed with the fish sauce. It takes a careful hand when using the concoction and in the haste of a busy lunch service it can be easy to toss in that extra teaspoon or so that can make or break the flavors of a dish.
All in all everything we sampled was pretty damn tasty and I’ll certainly head back sometime when they’re a little less busy. Unfortunately though, while everything that afternoon was appropriate, fresh and filling it was nothing all that special either. While on the surface I was only looking for some flavorful sustenance in a bowl of broth, pasta and vegetables I was also hoping for some sort of hump-day epiphany.
This lack of Karmic epicurean satisfaction is certainly not the fault of the Asian Noodle Bar, they did a fine job. I suppose that I may have been looking to trigger some flavor stimulated memories of those days when waiting tables seemed like a perfectly reasonable career choice and mortgages, marriages and business ventures were still in the distant future. These sporadic interludes escaping between shifts to have a nice hand made meal and a cold beer with my best friend symbolized an almost perfect summer afternoon in the Burque and I’ll be damned if I cant duplicate them at some point in the future.
Asian Noodle Bar
318 Central Ave SW Albuquerque, NM
Mon - Thur