We finally got back for a second visit to this place in August 2003. It's still great. The calamari approaches in wonderfulness the reference version at Seasons. My entree on this occasion was pan-roasted Alaskan halibut over lightly fried cheese tortellini with baby squash, goat cheese, marinated heirloom tomatoes, smoked morels, and honey truffle carrot puree. Yes, it was as good as it sounds!
If gambling annoys you as much as it does us (see the lengthy rant at the bottom of the page), park in the underground garage and take the elevator, which lets you out right by the restaurant.
Albuquerque is ringed by Indian casinos, and pretty much all of them are trying to field great restaurants. Bien Shur is the first one we tried, and it's a corker.
This restaurant is associated with the Sandia Casino. From the intersection of I-25 and I-40, go north on I-25 to the Tramway exit, right at the north edge of town. Go east on Tramway a few blocks and you can't miss the casino complex on your left.
We gave Bien Shur a high rating based on a single visit. It had all the basics---flavor, texture, nutrition, and visual appeal. The visuals were especially strong: this is the kind of place that likes to make pictures on your plate with the garnishes and sauce, but the fundamental values of tender meats and fresh vegetables were not sacrificed for prettiness.
Here are the dishes we tried:
Prices were not out of line for high-end Albuquerque bistro fare, entrees in the $12-18 range.
This place might put some heat on some of the in-town bistros like my favorites Seasons and Scalo. Like these places, every combination of meat, vegetable, starch, sauce, and garnish works. By the end of my meal my plate was almost clean enough to go back into the cupboard, as I chased down the last drops of sauce.
Pretty much the whole dining room has a great view of Sandia Crest. Another nice contribution to the visual aesthetics was the huge and striking sculpted frosted glass panels framing the entrance doors and showing traditional Sandia dancers.
And now the bad news: If there was an outside entrance, we missed it. So we had to schlep a long ways from the main entrance to the restaurant. I certainly don't begrudge them their many armed security guards, given that they are primarily a casino, but I do not personally find it very romantic or aesthetically pleasant to walk for five minutes through a smoky, frenetically beeping casino to get to dinner.
There appears to be only one set of restrooms for the whole place, and it too requires a long smoky walk from the restaurant past an endless chrome and plastic landscape of one-armed bandits and craps tables. I don't gamble and never have, thanks to the protective shield installed by my college probability and statistics professor, and it irks me that they have to subject restaurant patrons to this artificially electrified atmosphere. I'd appreciate it if they gave the restaurant its own entrance and restrooms.