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Cafe Bisque

New and improved

This is a good week. Why? Because Second Helping is finally getting to do what I'd always hoped it would do: give a second shot to a restaurant savaged in a previous review, a place that's now worthy of being welcomed into the fold. Although many of the good spots I revisited this past year remained good, all of the bad spots remained bad -- until now. I'd been very disappointed by Cafe Bisque, chef Alex Gurevich's ostensibly New American bistro/cafe ("The Schlock of the New," October 21, 2004), but it's since retrenched, gone from an innocuous breakfast-and-lunch joint to a full three-a-day operation, and today it deserves a place of honor among Denver's elite. Gone are the confused, international flounderings that once overwhelmed Gurevich's menu -- the dull soups, the strangled sauces, the overcrowded plates. Gone as well are the rookie mistakes that this kitchen was still making after a year in business. Now the fare is smooth and well-executed: creamy shrimp bisque deeply infused with the subtle sweetness of white prawns; goat chevre with a biting cherry-balsamic reduction; delicately greasy prosciutto-wrapped salmon over Tuscan kale dressed in a bitter and earthy tomato-basil emulsion; lobster fritters with sweet corn; and ginger-spiced pork croquettes with hoisin barbecue sauce. The menu is still strangely uncentered, but it's being handled with much more confidence. And while I'm not crazy about the Kobe beef hamburger with herbed aioli, fried shallots and thick-cut prosciutto, at least Gurevich has done away with the truffled frites that drove me nuts fourteen months ago. Cafe Bisque still isn't a perfect restaurant (service can be muddled and the kitchen's persistent use of aiolis and remoulades feels somewhat dated), but it's so much better that it deserves this positive review. And Gurevich and his crew have earned some applause.

 
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