Albuquerque is not known for wonderful French restaurants, but Chez Axel is an exception to this rule. My husband and I have dined there three times, twice with another couple, and each time has been a very pleasant experience. The restaurant is located in a small, unpretentious strip mall, but is a lovely, quiet place to spend an evening-- something we really appreciate. Service was friendly and prompt without being obtrusive. A pianist played during part of our visit-- the music was pleasant without being attention-grabbing, and did not overwhelm conversation at the table.
On our latest visit, both couples in our party split spinach salads. These were served with extra plates for diners and a set of salad tongs so that they could be served neatly. Chopped walnuts were substituted for the pine nuts on the menu and served on the side, making it easy for diners with allergies to avoid them. The dressing was a balsamic vinaigrette that added a nice tang to the salad without overwhelming it.
Two members of our party had an excellent cassoulet, a hearty country dish made with navy beans, duck, pork, and sausage. It was served steaming in a soup plate. This dish could cause digestive problems, but the chef (who has always visited each table when we've been there) must use some method (e.g., adding a bit of baking soda) to make the dish more digestible. My husband had veal cordon bleu and pronounced it excellent. The fourth member of our group had pork pinet, breaded cutlets sauteed in olive oil. She was also pleased with her selection. Seasonings were balanced nicely-- food was not too salty (a common occurrence in our experience elsewhere), and the remaining herbs and spices did not overwhelm the dishes. The red wine we chose complemented the meal nicely and was reasonably priced.
Chez Axel is a special occasion restaurant, and one that we plan to visit again on an anniversary or birthday. I recommend it highly.