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CoolWater Fusion: Flavor in waves
Monday, 31 January 2011
Photos by Wes Naman
Inspired by a globally diverse culinary map, CoolWater Fusion seeks to broaden the palates of local diners

By Cristina Olds

Culinary “fusion” means a blend of cuisines from different cultures on one plate. At its best, fusion cuisine results in culinary magic — dishes that mingle and merge flavors and textures into a unique and delicious dining experience. CoolWater Fusion Restaurant, which opened last July, expands this concept in Albuquerque.

Operated by manager Glenn Williams, CoolWater’s atmosphere is intimate and warm. It’s a restaurant located in a Wyoming Boulevard strip mall that is sophisticated and contemporary, with white tablecloths and pleasing black and white photography framed against orange, blue and red walls.

CoolWater claims to draw inspiration in the making of its dishes from the cuisines of Cuba, Mexico, the U.S., England, Italy and France. During a recent lunch visit, I was afforded a firsthand taste of this global mesh of flavors. My dining companion and I settled into our booth and were instantly greeted by a friendly waitress. She let us know they had experienced a rush of customers that afternoon and were out of the day’s lunch special: tilapia fish tacos. This was perfectly acceptable, given CoolWater’s use of fresh ingredients and the fact that there were plenty of other dishes on the menu to choose from. We started with a blue corn crusted onion ring appetizer ($6), and I requested the gluten-free blue corn breading that I had heard is available at CoolWater. The blue corn crusted fried chicken on the dinner menu can be prepared GF as well.

The onion rings were bursting in flavor, with a tasty breading mix that included peppery herbs, spices and sesame seeds. Crispy and not overly greasy, the serving was generous and the cool ranch dressing dip offered a hint of green chile.
ImageOur server shared her love of the braised pork in the Cuban sandwich ($9.95), so we opted to go straight to the good stuff with the red chile braised pork appetizer ($9). A friend of mine calls pork, “heaven on a hoof.” I suspect she would likely die for just one taste of this celestial dish. Slow-cooked with a gentle red chile bite, the pork — moist and tender with no fat in sight — was layered on a fluffy, polenta-like golden corn cake, with a fried egg, which added a playful touch.

Our server told us about CoolWater’s chef, Jason Upshaw, who previously worked at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Pueblo Harvest Café. She explained that his Native American influence is clear on the menu offerings, and noted his talent in preparing game, which is often a featured special here.

For our main course, my companion ordered the Indian taco ($8.95) and I chose the CoolWater burger ($9.95). The dense, pastry-dough consistency of the fry bread was not what my friend had hoped for, and the taco’s cayenne seasonings were anticlimactic after the flavorful braised pork appetizer, but the pinto beans and garnishes on the dish were traditional and satisfying.

ImageThe burger, on the other hand, was superb. Cooked to juicy pink medium-rare perfection, the flavor was fresh and salty from strips of bacon buried under melted jack pepper cheese. The restaurant’s sandwich lineup comes with handmade buns and house-made potato chips. The savory chips were long-cut slices, cooked crispy and sprinkled with sea salt.

CoolWater is close to serving beer and wine, but is not quite there yet. On a follow-up dinner visit, some friends and I saw others drinking wine, and the server said we were welcome to bring our own bottle — she recommended Kelly’s Liquors just across the parking area. There’s no corking fee at this time.

During both of my visits to CoolWater, the background music was a bit too loud, but can be lowered upon request. Live music performances are also featured at CoolWater and are listed on the restaurant’s website (

The food and atmosphere at CoolWater Fusion Restaurant are a welcome addition to the local dining scene. Gourmet twists and a diverse menu make CoolWater a refreshing experience.

CoolWater Fusion Restaurant
2010 Wyoming NE, Suite B, 505.332.2665
Hours: 10a-2p, Sun.; 11a-2p, Mon.-Sat.; 4:30-8p, Mon.-Thu.; 4:30-9p, Fri.-Sat.

Cool Water Fusion on Urbanspoon
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