For Seared, a new steakhouse off Central Avenue near Old Town, literally everything is working against it but the food.
For a restaurant, though, since the food is what really matters, questionable ambience and an almost speakeasy-like address aren’t dealbreakers. In the case of Seared, you won’t even remember the lack of signage or the dubiously curated art inside because the food is so good.
A mix between a chophouse and a casual bistro, Seared focuses on quality cuts of meat at very fair prices. Last weekend, a friend and I both tried the filet and we were blown away by the flavor. Cooked perfectly with a tiny band of pink in the middle and so tender I cut it with a fork, this is one of the best steaks I’ve had in the city.
Seared is new – about four months old – and it shares a building with a couple of other businesses hidden right off Central Avenue, so right now the restaurant disappears into its surroundings like an accountant in a strip-mall. It also shares its actual space with another restaurant that closes in the early afternoon so Seared can open.
When they replace the vinyl signs with a real one, they’ll be much easier to find, but even now, the food is worth the journey around the block a couple of times trying to find it.
We started with the chips and salsa ($5), and it arrived right about the time a John Travolta painting on the wall started staring unnervingly at me, but I was able to forget about him and focus on the homemade tortilla chips. They were fresh out of the fryer and still steaming, and the homemade salsa was hot, too; none of this tourist stuff.
Good chips and salsa aren’t exactly hard to come by in Albuquerque, but these are of particularly notable quality.
When the main course arrived, neither of us was prepared for the presentation or the amount of food. Little Enokitake mushrooms were stacked on the steak, which was stacked on asparagus, which was stacked on potatoes. The filets ($30) were seasoned and seared so well, it’s hard to imagine a steak could be more tender.
The sides were also amazing. Small roasted red potatoes soaked in the juices of the steak and the demi glace sauce so they were soft and moist, but crispy in places, and also seasoned perfectly. Crispy onions also stood out. Fresh, crisp asparagus was covered in a delicate herb butter, and a fantastic side salad with a thick homemade vinaigrette dressing came with it. Warm focaccia bread with a small dish of extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar came with the meal.
The whole dish was incredibly filling and surprisingly affordable, considering the quality and freshness of the meat. The atmosphere began to feel welcoming and familiar, almost homey like a friend’s house (if your friend really knew how to cook well and was willing to hang anything on the wall).
Seared serves simpler dishes, too, like sandwiches and salads. They don’t have a children’s menu, but they do have something called “soup of the week,” which sounds great on Monday, but decidedly less so on Friday. The meat entrees are Seared’s wheelhouse, so your best bet are their locally sourced grass-fed cuts of beef.
When the crème brûlée ($8) arrived, I could barely take another bite. Like a professional bound to a cause, I rallied and almost finished the dessert, a perfect blend of sweet and creamy, with crackling brown on top and fresh berries on the side. Making crème brûlée isn’t easy, but doing it this well requires real skill.
By the time I finished, I realized this is one of the most promising new restaurants in Albuquerque, and if you let Siri navigate and you sit somewhere outside of Travolta’s prying view, you’re guaranteed a fantastic steak at a great price.