South Korea has arrived in U.S. popular culture. Just last month, the Seoul-lensed “Parasite” cleaned up at the Academy Awards, while the new album from K-pop sensation BTS skyrocketed to the top of the charts.
South Korean food is also making inroads in the United States after years of trailing behind Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine in popularity. Even in Albuquerque, with its relative dearth of Korean restaurants, kimchi and bulgogi have become familiar words in the culinary lexicon. Last year, an outpost of the Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon opened on the West Side and the Soo Bak Seoul food truck opened a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Nob Hill.
Among the more established Korean restaurants in town, Asian Pear occupies a unique niche. It’s small, tidy and uncomplicated, built as much for takeout as it is for dining in. The no-frills presentation belies an exceedingly welcoming atmosphere with smiles all around and complimentary samples delivered to your table. The experience feels more like visiting a friend’s kitchen than eating at a restaurant.