A Welcome New Asian Grill on the West Side….
First visit: April 24, 2011
There is a growing number of Asian restaurants in Albuquerque (43 are listed in Urbanspoon, of which 31 serve Vietnamese food as of October 11, 2011). . The newest is Hakata Asian Cuisine, a welcome addition to the West Side, which seems to have been somewhat neglected. Hakata prepares mostly Vietnamese food, with a sprinkling of Japanese and Chinese.
We have been watching the space vacated by a Burger King and a mariscos place on Coors Blvd just south of Corrales for nearly a year since we first noticed a small sign for Hakata in this Bermuda Triangle of restaurants near Cottonwood. We were rewarded a week ago when the “Coming Soon” sign morphed into a “Now Open” sign. We stopped in to chat with the co-owner, Michael Yan, and staff and promised that we would be back soon for a meal. They had a soft opening on April 15. The grand opening will be on April 27.
The site has been moderately redone. Nice ceiling, nice lighting. Michael Yan is overflowing with enthusiasm for this venture. Our delightful server, Lupe, is charming and was as helpful as she could be under the circumstances — everything is new and everyone is still in the learning stage. She is a fast learner.
As we promised. we returned last Friday night for our initial visit. Sure glad that we did. Our dinner was:
☻Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk: This is an excellent version of this classic beverage. Even as the ice melted in the pint-sized glass, the flavor remained strong. It was never bitter, but just right.
☻Fried Squid with Butter (Orange Mayonnaise): Moderately crispy pieces of tasty squid fried to a golden brown, and served with an orange mayonnaise dipping sauce. The sauce is excellent. The squid were somewhat tough and rubbery, though I expect that when the jitters go away and the timing adjusts, this will be a great appetizer.
☻Fresh Summer Roll: Among the very best summer rolls I have ever had. Large, tightly wrapped with a super-thin wrapper, with crispy contents. There are small strips of barbecued pork inside. Excellent peanut dipping sauce. Delicious. Large portion; great as leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
☻Jasmine Rice with Grilled Lemongrass Chicken: Very good rice. The chicken was somewhat overcooked, and the delicate lemongrass taste was hidden. Good, but needs a little work.
☻Phở Tái, Nạm: Phở is one of my benchmarking dishes for Vietnamese restaurants. Not only did this version pass with flying colors, but it is one of the best in the city. Certainly the best on the West Side.
There were, to be sure, some inevitable bumps — not everything arrived in the right order, some of the condiments were missing, but what the heck — they’re still getting it together. Nonetheless, I expect that things will improve, and we will be back often. I expect that soon, Hakata will be an Asian Cuisine leader on the West Side. And that’s good news for us. I like this place, and hope that soon it will be among my favorites.
October 10, 2011
Reverting to form, I again had the Phở Tái, Nạm: This time, I asked for the tái to be put on a separate plate so I could add it at the table after the excellent broth had cooled a bit. This trick (which I learned from Quoc Luu, one of the owners of Kim Long) keeps thid thinly sliced steak rare, preserving the delightful taste. This phở was even better than I remembered, easily among the very best in town.
Jane tried the salad bowl with lemongrass chicken.
☻Vermicelli Salad Bowl:
Fresh rice noodles with crispy lettuce, beans sprouts, cucumbers, pickled carrots and radishes, fresh mint and
crispy egg roll. Topped with crushed peanuts served with our special sweet lemon garlic dressing. Choice of grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, lemongrass beef, grilled shrimp or lemongrass tofu.
Jane chose the lemongrass chicken, which was a delightfully herbed and tastily spiced serving of dark meat (my favorite) atop the other ingredients. A dliced fried egg roll completed the decoration. Handsome dish, great flavor. The chicken seemed a tad overdone, though.
Very good lunch. Hakata is just south of Corrales, close enough for a frequent lunch or weekend dinner visits. You must try the phở.
Hakata Asian Cuisine
The Web site gets a black eye from me. Cannot be read by vision impaired folks like me. Please get rid of that dark maroon background.