A cozy neighborhood bistroEat This! Thursday, February 4th, 2016
“Casual contemporary,” he said.
I had asked “Pierce” to describe the ambience of Café Bleu; the red walls, white stamped tin ceiling, blue-lit bar, the mix of dark wood tables and overstuffed sofas. A cozy neighborhood bistro in the heart of Mission Hills perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
“A little bohemian?” I suggested.
“Bohemian-esque,” he agreed.
Grady seated us promptly and introduced the menu. We decided on the three course Prix Fixe – a great deal at $24.95 per person. Pierce ordered a Manzanita India Pale Ale ($8) and I went with the evening’s wine pairings for $15.95. The hoppy glass of beer has a 90 International Bitterness Unit rating and is 8 percent Alcohol By Volume.
The evening began with an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre served gratis. We savored a flaky pastry puff filled with beef tenderloin and a zesty Dijon cream sauce.
Pierce chose the French Onion Soup au Gratin and I selected the Chef’s Canapes for the first course. The soup is a tasty blend of beef broth and caramelized onions topped with croutons and melted gruyere cheese. The cheese however, was overly scorched which introduced an unfortunate char note to the flavor profile. The canapes included a potato croquette made with mashed potatoes and black forest ham, rolled in panko crumbs and deep-fried to a crispy golden brown, served with a red wine reduction; a slice of cucumber topped by a sweet eggplant and sun dried tomato ratatouille with a balsamic reduction; and a crunchy crostini garnished with tender salmon, spinach and housemade tartar sauce. The canapes were paired with a glass of Le Cengle 2014 Rose, Provence. The blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre grapes yields a pale salmon colored wine with crisp citrus flavors balanced by a hint of berries and brioche.
Grady presented our entrées, Steak Frites for Pierce and for me, the Coq au Vin. The succulent slices of grilled hanger steak are served with julienne-cut fries sprinkled with coarse sea salt and minced parsley, roasted green beans drizzled with a rich demi-glace, and a tangy horseradish crème fraîche sauce. The fall-off-the-bone tender Coq au Vin is half a chicken braised in red wine served with roasted pork belly, mushrooms and pearl onions. A steaming hot ramekin of velvety mashed potatoes topped by a crust of sharp pecorino cheese is served on the side. The poultry was paired with a glass of gorgeous ruby red Moillard 2012 Pinot Noir, burgundy. The delightful low tannin pour fills the palate with tart cherry and cranberry then provides a long lovely finish with a pinch of white peppercorn.
For dessert, Pierce swooned over the warm Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake, a dense spongy flourless cake served with fresh berries and a dreamy chocolate sauce. I enjoyed an artisan cheese, the piquant Noord Hollander. The firm aged gouda is accompanied by a medley of dried apricots, cranberries and raisins, fresh grapes, raw honeycomb and a savory sweet reduction of fig, cranberries and onions. The dessert wine was a glass of Daphine Rondillon, Loupiac. The golden wine is imbued with flavors of honey, orange blossoms and lilacs with a sweetness that cloys in the finish.
While Pierce and I had a wonderful dining experience overall, I must mention the service. Our primary waiter, Grady, was extremely professional – friendly, knowledgeable and attentive without hovering. The secondary server however, was overbearing and intrusive to the point where I thought he was going to pull up a chair and join us. Poor form, dude.
807 West Washington St.
Open 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 p.m.
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