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Cross-cultural flavors: Sixty-Six Acres’ menu leans heavily on Asian, Middle Eastern influences

Korean fried chicken bowl contains spears of white chicken meat in a sesame barbecue sauce served over red rice and kimchi at Sixty-Six Acres. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

In the 1880s, businessmen turned over 66 acres a couple miles north of Downtown for the Albuquerque Indian School. That land, future home to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, inspired the name of Myra Ghattas’ terrific restaurant, which opened in 2018.

Sixty-Six Acres shares a building with Laguna Burger across the street from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. While Laguna Burger is an ode to a couple of roadside burger stands west of the city, Sixty-Six Acres cast its net much wider for inspiration. The menu leans heavily on Asian and Middle Eastern influences, offering dishes such as Korean fried chicken and Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, alongside harissa and hummus.

The location at Avanyu Plaza, just north of I-40, offers plenty of parking in the back. Inside, totems of industrial-style design dominate. Silvery ductwork snakes around the ceiling, pendant lights in a variety of shapes and sizes loom overhead, and slats of wood are arranged into decorative elements on the walls. The dining room is broken up with walls, banquettes and a bar in the middle. During a recent lunch, youthful servers in black T-shirts navigated the busy space balancing flatbreads on narrow wooden paddles.

Sixty-Six Acres’ banh mi sandwich incorporates pork belly with jalapeños and Sriracha mayo. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Ghattas knows what it takes to sustain a restaurant, having run Slate Street Café from its north Downtown location since 2005. Here she brings a menu that emphasizes big flavors and lots of spice. A banh mi sandwich ($14), the name derived from the Vietnamese word for “bread,” is made with slabs of pork belly over jalapeños and Sriracha mayonnaise. The first bite delivers pleasing crunch from the peppers, cucumbers and pickled radish, and then the heat floods your mouth and roosts there. My friend needed 2½ cups of Dr Pepper to quench the flames. Both the sandwich and the fries, crisp and well-seasoned, are superlative.

The hummus trio ($12) matches the traditional chickpea version, with roasted carrot and black bean variations. Served on a big teal-colored plate with a dozen triangles of grilled flatbread, it’s ideal for sharing. The carrot hummus, airy and sweet, complements the much denser black bean variety, which tastes like refried beans. Thin slices of radish and halved dates add texture and sweetness, but the mild shishito peppers needed more time on the fire; they weren’t blistered at all.

The server, who did an estimable job, told me that the Korean Fried Chicken Bowl ($16) was his favorite. It certainly looked promising, with caramel-colored stalks of chicken sticking out of the black bowl like miniature monoliths. Unfortunately, the white chicken meat coated in a sweet-hot sesame barbecue sauce was dry and tough. The nutty-flavored red rice studded with broccoli and topped with cabbage kimchi redeemed the dish. The rice, partly hulled, was creamy but still al dente, like a good risotto, and the flaps of fermented cabbage delivered substantial heat.

The drink menu includes classic cocktails with local touches such as the Skyler White, a margarita spinoff named for Walter White’s wife in “Breaking Bad.” White tequila and St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur, combined with lemon juice and lavender bitters make for a delightful balance of floral and citrus notes. Local beers are on tap for $6 or as part of a flight of four for $7, and there’s a page full of wines, mostly from California, by the glass or bottle.

With Sixty-Six Acres, Laguna Burger and Pueblo Harvest, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has an impressive dining scene to rival its cultural offerings.

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