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Jul 4, 2012 10:21 AM

Chinese and Southeast Asian in Santa Fe?

I just moved to Santa Fe from Fresno, California, where I got used to eating excellent Thai, Vietnamese and Lao food. I know I'll probably have to drop my standards a bit (or exchange them for high standards in other types of food!), but I was wondering if there is anything decent in the area. Google and CH searches are turning up rather empty and I'm starting to think I might have to expand my cooking repertoire.

Searches for local Chinese food are also turning up a ton of mediocre reviews. Anyone know of anything great? How about a good, solid schlock Chinese-American restaurant?

Is there anything else a newcomer should know? There are so many restaurants here and I'm excited to try them all!

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  1. This is probably the best Chinese in ABQ:

    On the above average is Banana Leaf in Rio Rancho. 528, just past Target.
    Average would be Chow's Asian Bistro. Cottonwood Mall

    Tai Lin Market for shopping and they have a food court too:

    Thai Orchid on Central is very good -

    3 Replies
    1. re: DebitNM

      Thanks! I don't have a car, but we've been talking about taking the train in ABQ to go thrift storing. I'm sure we can fit some eating in there as well!

      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

        I am so sorry - I skipped right over the Santa Fe part, despite it being in BIG black letters in the heading.

        Getting around ABQ without a car to get to my suggestions isn't the easiest thing to do.

        1. re: DebitNM

          No problem -- any suggestions are appreciated! We're pretty used to walking and taking the bus and I imagine that once we get to ABQ, we should be able to find a way to get around.

    2. Yeah, unfortunately Santa Fe doesn't have much in the way of truly excellent Southeast Asian food, save for Japanese (see below).

      Bummer you don't have a car...Albuquerque doesn't have Fresno's quality or quantity, but there are certainly some bright spots. Budai, like DebitNM said, is terrific (presumably the only place in NM with xao long bao, for example, just be sure to ask for the "secret" menu). I've heard that Chopstix in ABQ is also pretty authentic in spite of the name, but I haven't tried it. Albuquerque has quite a large Vietnamese population, so Vietnamese cuisine is a strong suit there. My favorite pho is at Huong Thao, my favorite banh mi is at Banh Mi Coda across from Ta Lin market.

      Up in Santa Fe, except for Japanese, when it comes to Asian food it's more a game of least-mediocre. For Chinese, Chow's Asian Bistro is trying hard to pretend to be PF Chang's, but if you push past the Americanized stuff you can actually find stuff like Sichuan peppercorns, a few delicate brown sauces, and simply prepared vegetables. It's not swoony good, but it's far from bad. Of the Vietnamese restaurants up here, Pho Kim on West Alameda is easily my favorite, but it doesn't have anything on the best places in ABQ. Dara Thai on Cerrillos is acceptable, but it's another game of rooting through the menu for stuff that isn't overly gloppy and sweet and sour. A lot of people like Mu Du Noodles; I think the quality is decent but the prices are silly for what you get. And Counter Culture (indie coffeehouse) actually does a good spring roll plate with a reasonably authentic house-made dipping sauce (they actually use fish sauce in it, kind of cool for a coffeehouse).

      Japanese in Santa Fe is pricey, but quite good at the high end: Shibumi does expensive cash-only ramen and izakaya but it is utterly, mind bogglingly delicious. Shohko Cafe is truly excellent for sushi and other Japanese, Kohnami isn't quite as good but it's a few bucks cheaper.

      That's kind of it for Asian. Skip Yin Yang, Lulu's, Double Dragon (guilty Americanized pleasure but not actually good), Jinja (ditto), and all the other Japanese places, they're pretty forgettable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: finlero

        Thanks -- this is all great! Dara Thai and Counter Culture are both within walking distance from my house. Pho Kim looks interesting too (especially since pho is such a PITA to make at home) and I will definitely have to try some of those Japanese restaurants.

        I guess a trip to ABQ is in order if I get a serious craving, or I can make things myself. I live right near Ziggy's international market, which seems to have a small but acceptable selection of SE Asian ingredients. And I bought a couple Thai bird chili plants yesterday and plan on planting lemongrass as well.

      2. This may seem like a weird suggestion, but the food at Jambo Cafe, sort of an African fusion, might hit some of the notes you're missing from good Thai food -- ginger, coconut, curry, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ninrn

          Thai notes or not, their menu looks good. Thanks for the suggestion!

        2. Ha Ha...I've lived in NM all my life and the "IN" joke is never bother with Chinese ...BUT our local Japaneses spots are pretty nice....