The best treats come in tiny packages, and Asian Pear is no exception, though the flavor is anything but tiny. This humble little bistro, nearly invisible in a strip mall off Paseo del Norte and San Pedro NE, serves bento boxes that you absolutely cannot miss.
The place seats about a dozen people, and the food is so good you’ll probably wait for a table (though a small lunch counter is often unoccupied). Taking it to go is a great option, too.
Upon walking in on a recent visit, I was met with possibly the city’s friendliest greeting from a hostess, and then placed my order at the counter with no wait. The sparse interior is modern and bright, like an art gallery, but with a sweetly exotic aroma emanating from the kitchen.
The Korean beef special ($9.98) is a lot of food for a little money, and might be one of the best budget lunches in town. The food comes in a disposable bento box-style tray so even in-house diners can take their leftovers to go.
The plate comes with a fair portion of delicious Korean beef simmered with strips of onions and a delicate mixture of spices. The meat is trimmed well, lean but tender and fresh as can be.
The portion of beef itself isn’t massive (the plate is less than $10, after all, but it’s quality over quantity) and there are plenty of accompaniments that will ensure a hearty, filling meal, like the vegan pancakes, loaded with aromatic vegetables and smeared with a rich tomato-based sauce. They were a perfect amuse-bouche for the rest of the meal.
Two freshly made chicken pot stickers also came with the beef, and they were excellent. I couldn’t decide whether the chicken filling inside was pasty or just moist, but I had no doubt the flavor was great.
Another bonus was a small slice of scrambled eggs with green onions and other veggies, and it’s a nice way to cleanse the palate between all the various flavors. Less impressive but still good were the slaw-style strips of potato and onion, the Korean side-item equivalent of refried beans, which had a good savory flavor but a less impressive texture. Still, it was good.
The beef went great when paired with the generous portion of white rice and little container of kimchi. Two other condiments came the same way: soy sauce and a lighter, more delicate sauce with an acidic profile. All three were great.
For $10, you cannot beat this variety. Almost a dozen flavors, in respectable portions, make Asian Pear’s special plates and bowls a tour de force of Korean cuisine fit for both the pickiest and most adventurous eaters.
The restaurant began serving budget-friendly Korean food in Downtown Albuquerque years ago and moved to its now-sole location to the Northeast Heights recently, and its customers followed.
The crowd felt like friendly regulars on my visit, possibly a reflection of the friendliness of the staff and the intimacy of the environs.
Parking isn’t a problem, and even kids and picky eaters will find a familiar flavor (like sweet-and-sour chicken) to fill them up.
If you’re not a sit-down kind of diner, or you need to come up with a quick dinner for the family without spending too much, you can call ahead and pick up your order to go.
And if your family is in a tacos-and-hamburgers kind of dinner rut, Asian Pear can break you out of it with intensely flavorful fare.
Asian Pear is affordable, friendly, and full of flavor – not a bad combination.