An Old Friend Hits 4th Street….
Eighth visit: December 20, 2013
First visit: March 18, 2011
Just like the El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina in Cuba, NM, which is one of the legendary (since 1976) New Mexican eateries outside of Albuquerque. Located in the space vacated by the ill-fated original Garduño’s, so you probably already know the building on 4th St. The building has been completely redone inside, and is simply stunning. Be sure to examine the carved doors against the far lobby wall, between a seating group of equipales furniture.
For our first visit we feasted on some of the most delicious and well-prepared New Mexican food that we have had in the Duke City area. Complimentary chips and salsa were excellent — fresh red and yellow chips with a salsa so fresh that it tasted like it just came from the garden. Tangy, but not too hot.
Jane had Piñon Crusted Rainbow Trout covered with a superior mango salsa. Buterflied and gently cooked, this fish immediately drew raves from Jane, who is normally somewhat taciturn. Accompanied by fried spinach and some of New Mexico’s best papitas (lightly sprinkled with powdered red chile and perfectly fried), this superb dish is easily among the very best fish dishes in the state.
As I do often, I asked our server Mari if the chef, Wendel, ould go off-menu and prepare a Carne Adovada Stuffed Sopaipilla smothered in Red for me, and she did, and Wow! is that dish fabulous! The very tasty and succulent marinated pork was fork tender, and among the best in the city. I had a side of those fantastic papitas. BTW, both the Red (complex and smoky, medium piquancy) and the Salsa are available in jars for purchase. Get some. I did.
Mari talked me into having flan for desert. Normally, I shun restaurant flan because Jane makes some of the very best flan in the world. Move aside, Jane — the El Bruno’s version is unquestionably the best I have ever had. Texture: perfect, taste:perfect, caramelized sugar glaze, perfect. All too often, this coating turns out watery or bitter — a fine chef instinctively knows the point at which it is just right. This was. Thanks, for the suggestion, Mari.
Same ownership as the Cuba location (Hazel and Bruno Herrera); same outstanding menu with a few additions. Hazel’s daughter, Melanie Dunn, manages this location. The service is flawless. Our server, Mari, is a seasoned pro, and made many good suggestions. On Friday and Saturday nights, a Mariachi trio, Mariachi Fiesta Internacional, serenades the diners. Would you believe a mariachi version of Folsom Prison and a mariachi-doo-wop version of Blue Moon? Delightful and playful.
Meals in this mom and pop place are moderately priced, considering the excellent quality of the dishes. We all know that there are two large and unjustly famous New Mexican restaurants on 4th Street. El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina makes them seem even more ordinary than they are. The Herrera’s have a hit here. When the word spreads, I expect that El Bruno’s will occupy a place near the top of the growing list of fine New Mexican restaurants. You may need to park across the street. This place is already that popular.
March 23, 2011
Last night I returned to El Bruno’s just four days after my first visit. I wanted to see if my last fantastic visit here was an abberation. It wasn’t. This is easily one of the very best New Mexican dishes I have ever had. Anyplace.
Carnitas a la Mex: Grilled sirloin cubes, two rolled cheese enchiladas (Christmas), beans, and a flour tortilla.
Every Carnitas plate that I have ever had until now has consisted of grilled cubed pork tenderloin, and I was somewhat hesitant about ordering sirloin Carnitas. I shouldn’t have been. Perfectly grilled cubes done medium rare (yes, they ask and pay attention) were exceptionally tender, juicy, and tasty. The accompanying cheese enchiladas were also excellent, covered with Red and Green (Christmas). The red is complex and smoky, of medium piquancy, and the green was hotter, but not quite incendiary. Great chiles. The
beans were like a combination of frijoles refritos with an equal portion of whole beans, and topped with yellow and white melted cheddar. Taste and texture were fabulous. This was a topnotch plate of food. Unusually fine.
My dinner was served with a sopaipilla. Jane and our guest, my Mississippi Choctaw spiritual brother Nate, wondered where their Sopas were — they didn’t come with their meals. I asked Mari, our effervescent and charming server, to bring a basket for us to share. We then decided to forego desert, and ordered yet another basket of sopas. Good choice. They were new to Nate, and he devoured them like candy. “Better than Helen’s fry bread,” he said. These pulchritudinous pillows of perfection are perhaps the second-best sopas that I have ever had, and certainly the best that I can remember in the Duke City. Perfectly puffy, flaky, and fried to a beautiful golden hue. Heavenly.
El Bruno’s is destined to be one of the best fine New Mexican restaurants in the Land of Enchantment, and gastronomes should flock to it. I’m already enchanted. And I have already awarded it my Newcomer of the Year 2011 even though the year is but half way finished. Don’t forget to pick up some terrific Red Chile and Salsa.
October 1, 2011
Every Carnitas plate that I have ever had until now has consisted of grilled cubed pork tenderloin, and I was somewhat hesitant about ordering sirloin Carnitas. I shouldn’t have been. Perfectly grilled cubes done medium rare (yes, they ask and pay attention) were exceptionally tender, juicy, and tasty. This dish is usually served with two rolled cheese enchiladas and great beans, but my diet forbids these sides temporarily. The kitchen grilled some sweet red and green peppers with onions and added a portion of deep fried spinach. The spinach was out of this world. You need to try it.
“Try our Tequila Lime Chicken! Chicken breasts marinated in tequila with fresh lime and butter. Can also be marinated in our house margarita,” screams the Facebook page. One of our dearest friends (for 45 years!) spent the first few days of the 40th International Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with us, and we had to take her to this superior restaurant. Not being a chilehead like us, she ordered this dish. Right choice. Tangy, tasty, and tender, the chicken was perfectly done. It was accompanied by sauteed spinach that was so good that you forget your mom telling you to eat your spinach because it’s good for you. Who cares — it’s just plain fabulous. This restaurant blew Cheryl away. We knew it would.
I have added El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina to my Friday Night 4th Street Restaurant Crawl. I can’t wait to return. Anyone want to join me?