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Baker Nobutoshi “Nobu” Mizushima and his wife, Yuko Kawashiwo, have some devoted fans.
When they launched a Kickstarter campaign to defray the costs of opening their bakery in Nob Hill, supporters came through with more than $16,000. The injection of funds helped the bakery, dubbed Ihatov Bread and Coffee, open in March just before the pandemic rolled in. It has survived since then on a brisk takeout business.
Mizushima first built a following at Cloud Cliff Bakery in Santa Fe. Successful trips to the farmers market at the Albuquerque Rail Yards inspired him and his wife to strike out on their own. Last year, they found a prime location in a former Starbucks at Central and Tulane next to a small parking lot and set about refurbishing it.
The long, narrow building, with its rounded roof and arched, windowed front, looks modernist, like something dreamed up by local architect Bart Prince, but it’s actually the remnants of an Arby’s from back when the roast beef shacks were designed to resemble covered wagons.
Ihatov – the name is derived from an idealized dreamland invented by renowned Japanese poet and novelist Kenji Miyazawa – is warm and homey, with one side given over to the bakery and the other to a few tables set around a fireplace. Through the large windows in the front, you can see across Central to the Peruvian restaurant Tio David’s and El Camino Donuts, two new arrivals in the neighborhood.
The place was abuzz with activity during a recent lunch hour. Kawashiwo worked the espresso machine while Mizushima and an assistant pulled breads and pastries from the oven and stacked them on cooling racks. Even through a mask, the smell was intoxicating.
The selection of baked goods changes as things sell out and replacements come forth from the oven. Breads include eight varieties made from sourdough, one from buckwheat flour and one from potato flour. Prices are $5 to $7 a loaf. Each loaf is like a work of sculptural art, the crusts split on top and mottled in various shades of brown from the heat of the oven.
A popular choice, Kawashiwo told me, is the nigella sativa ($5), a torpedo-shaped baguette with a crackling shell covered in black seeds. Pieces of sweet and savory caramelized onion permeate the bread without overpowering it, and the nigella seeds add a little nuttiness along with, purportedly, many health benefits.
The pastry menu features massive buttermilk biscuits ($3), their surfaces golden brown and craggy. The crunchy shells yield to an airy core that’s not at all flaky like the traditional buttermilk biscuit. Mizushima told me he achieves the effect by using more butter and buttermilk in his recipe. The spongy texture makes the biscuits ideal for butter and jam.
Several of the items in the display case were still warm from the oven, like an impeccably done pain au chocolat ($5). I knew as soon as I bit through the crisp, wispy skin and reached the still slightly melted chocolate core, there were not going to be any leftovers.
Equally good was an almond croissant ($5), dusted with powdered sugar and filled with a sweet, buttery almond paste.
Less sweet, more spicy, the morning glory muffin ($3) comes packed with apples, carrots, raisins, coconut flakes and nuts. It’s like a spice cake in muffin form. A mixed berry scone ($3 each) that materialized in the display cabinet just before I left was nicely done, the brick of flaky pastry enlivened with blueberries, dried cranberries and golden raisins and some crunchy turbinado sugar on top.
The espresso machine, fed with beans from Flat Track Coffee in Austin, Texas, was running almost nonstop during my visit. I can testify that Kawashiwo whips up an excellent Americano ($4), a shot of espresso diluted with hot water. You can get drip coffee here too.
Ihatov also turns out a quiche ($5.75), and there are plans to offer additional lunch items.
Ihatov is a showcase for Mizushima and Kawashiwo’s hospitality and dedication to the craft of baking. It’s not surprising that so many patrons pitched in to help launch the place.
LOCATION: 3400 Central SE, 539-5445, ihatov.us
HOURS: 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Monday
On the side
MR. POWDRELL’S BARBEQUE
1130 Central NE, 298-6766, bbqandsoulfoodabq.com
The late Pete Powdrell, Mr. Powdrell’s founder, drew inspiration for the menu from his roots in Texas and Louisiana.
You’ll find the brisket and sausages common to Texas barbecue, along with the catfish and po’boys of Louisiana. The combination has helped make Mr. Powdrell’s an institution in the city. Today there are three locations, including a new outlet at the Sawmill Market, and a thriving catering business.
The beef brisket dinner plate ($12.95) showcases Mr. Powdrell’s slow-cooking approach. The thin, falling-apart-tender slices of brisket piled on a paper tray were far superior to the brisket I’ve had at a couple of notable chains in the area. The sauce, vinegary, slightly sweet and with a burning finish, augments the meat well. It all goes great between quarters of the cornbread pancakes you get on the side.
Potato salad and a creamy, crunchy coleslaw, the customary barbecue sides, were excellent. I especially like the potato salad, with the spuds pulverized into very small pieces.
The half-chicken ($6.25) is served cut into three pieces and lacquered with barbecue sauce. The meat had a noticeable hickory-smoked flavor.
A half-pound portion of beef ribs ($8.50) includes three large ribs with craggy, molasses-colored surfaces.
A piece of sweet potato pie ($2.95) made an excellent finish to the meal.
—Richard S. Dargan