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Restaurant review: Canvas Artistry offers excellent service, food for the price

In the seven weeks Canvas Artistry has been open, the restaurant has prepared typical New Mexican entrées in ways one would only expect to see on the Food Network.

After being rated over four and a half stars following its soft opening on Sept. 1, Canvas Artistry is announcing its grand opening on Oct. 24 from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

There isn’t a bell on the door; nothing announces the welcome intrusion of customers. Unlike places that cling to the yellowing light of florescent bulbs, the large windows at the front allow the light of the afternoon sun to bounce into the restaurant. White lamps hang high, as if to imitate sunlight without hovering over the customers.

Inside, the light smell of bleach and lemons mixes with the neighborhood air.

Fifteen traditional redwood tables maintain a healthy distance form the organized bar. The soft light allows the spirit bottles of Skyy and Martini to blend into the background rather than appear as a cluttered mountain of glowing glass. Light versions of blue complemented the yellowing wood of the bar, which used to be part of the ceiling.

Customers sit at the bar in casual clothes while TVs tuned to the Food Network tease them with beautiful dishes. The casual setting combined with the soft music in the background brings a sense of ease to those that sit down. Customers eating at Canvas Artistry don’t need to be concerned with feeling underdressed for their meals.

Canvas Artistry serves traditional recipes from Hawaii, Asia, and Mexican cuisine with a modern twist: the menu is based on seasonal foods. Chef Saul Paniagua said he came up with the seasonal cultural dishes.

To maintain the integrity of their food, Canvas Artistry buys produce from local vendors and farmers, he said. They also make hand-crafted cocktails and serve craft beers.

The menus are made of canvas; Jesus Gomez, the manager, said he wants to bring in artists who would be willing to paint on the canvases after they have served their seasonal use.

As a show of great customer service, the waiter brought our order of calabacitas and summer rolls in less than ten minutes.

The halved summer rolls rested on bean sprouts that sprinkled the square, white plate. At the heart of the plate was a sweet-and-sour sauce with carrot shards mixed in. My teeth clung to the rough texture of the shrimp while the rice paper, carrots and other herbs held together in the chilled sauce. The savory flesh and sweet, cool sauce went together beautifully.

The calacitas were brought on a beautiful place setting, especially considering their price. The tempura green chile served on top of the green and yellow sautéed squash and corn tortillas was something to marvel at. The vegetables were still hot when they came to the table. It was fascinating to see deep-fried green chile for the first time: Biting into the chile, the light taste of the oil was easily ignored while the familiar taste of the green chile was in unison with the crust of the tempura.

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The entire meal ticket came to $22. For the plating, atmosphere and taste, the price was right where it needed to be. The relaxed setting makes Canvas Artistry a place to enjoy casual company, do artwork and eat a pretty meal. It’s also a nice place to break the ice on a first date. However, if your date is expecting something fancier, you might want to consider a more formal restaurant.

Unlike most other Albuquerque restaurants, Canvas is open until 2 a.m. every day but Monday. For college students who want to gab a nightcap, Tuesdays are “silver and red night,” which is a happy hour promotion for UNM students to watch live bands and look at artwork and other artistic activities. Canvas Artistry is located at 3120 Central Avenue.

Rating: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Food for price: 4.5/5

Customer service: 4.75/5

Imani Lambert is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

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