By: Steve “Mo” Fye, Copy Chief | Photos By: Steve “Mo” Fye, Staff
Asian Grill is a great place to go when the urge for Asian food hits, but no one can decide which style to eat. The menu is extensive, with offerings from regions spanning most of Central and Southeast Asia, and is sure to include something to excite even the most jaded palate.
The restaurant is tucked away in the southwest corner of Albuquerque’s “International Zone,” sharing a parking lot with the Pan- Asian supermarket, 99 Banh. The restaurant still sports the fixtures of the Souper Salad that formerly held the spot, but there are touches of Asian influence in the décor.
On our first visit, we were greeted by the owner, Thai Nang, who is known to his many regulars as “Mr. Thai.” Thai graduated from CNM (T-VI at the time) in 1993 with a double degree in laser technology and instrumentation control. He worked in the tech industry for some time before following his passion and opening Asian Grill.
Before we could be seated, some regulars nearby insisted we try the Wonton Soup, which they declared to be the best in New Mexico.
Singapore Chow Fun Noodles, Mongolian Beef, Malaysian Chicken, Grilled Chicken Bun are just some of the options availble at Asian Grill.
The Wonton Soup was indeed exceptional. The crystal-clear broth was smooth and rich; the soup included al-dente vegetables, which is uncommon. The savory broth was the star of the soup, but the wontons were tender without being soggy and worth the ride on their own.
The eggrolls were delicious and crispy, but not greasy. The Malay Street Grilled Chicken was succulent and smoky and topped with crushed peanuts. It’s a twist on Kuala Lumpur street food, served with rice and beautifully presented instead of eaten from a skewer while walking down the street.
The Singapore Chicken Chow Fun was a stir-fried noodle dish including tender chicken and vegetables in a Thai-influenced curry sauce. Every ingredient was independently delicious, but the balance of textures, aromas and colors made this dish much greater than the sum of its parts. It was savory but not spicy – at least until the addition of Thai’s house-made pickled onion and pepper relish, found on every table, along with several other Asian condiments. The relish adds a slightly sweet and very spicy boost to anything on the menu.
The Mongolian Beef was also a finely presented traditional dish. White and green onions were stir-fried with paper-thin beef in a spicy and slightly sweet sauce. The sauce had a giant flavor with sweet and savory intricacies that changed subtly depending on the makeup of each bite of food. The menu also includes several varieties of Bun, a Vietnamese rice vermicelli dish which is served warm, with cold shredded veggies and hot grilled meats on top.
To fill out the menu, Thai offers Pho, the Vietnamese chicken or beef-based soup laced with rice noodles, bean sprouts and a variety of meats or seafood. There is also a selection of Vegan and Vegetarian offerings. Each menu item is beautifully presented, and there is a sauce to accompany nearly every one. The variety of sauces, from delicate, to bold really makes the meal here.
Thai will likely suggest the Colego tea. This hot tea is scented with jasmine and is purported to cleanse the blood of lipids and help with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Whether it works or not, it is delicious and complements a meal nicely.
The Asian Grill is usually packed for lunch, filled with folks from the hospitals across the street, as well as from Kirtland AFB and Sandia Labs. Dinner is more leisurely, and offers a chance to chat with Thai, who is a bundle of energy and hospitality.
Weekday lunch specials are $7.50 and come with fried or steamed rice. Expect to take home much of the meal, as the portions are huge. Dinner entrees are even larger and are only a few bucks more.
Asian Grill is located at 5303 Gibson SE, 87108 and operate10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon – Fri, Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday and are closed Saturdays. For more information call 505-265-4702 or visit Asiangrillabq.com.