Cafe Bisque joins the brunch bunch
Before there was Limón or the Arvada Grill, chef Alex Gurevich had Cafe Bisque. I first wrote about the restaurant not long after it opened, and excoriated the harebrained international floundering of the menu. I was much more effusive about the restaurant in 2005, and even welcomed Cafe Bisque back into the fold of decency. And then I promptly forgot about the place until I heard that it had recently added a Sunday brunch.
When I stopped in this past weekend, I found many things about Cafe Bisque unchanged: the weird interior/exterior seating (with patio tables set outside the restaurant, but inside a kind of enclosed, strip-mall courtyard on Union Boulevard); the anesthetized service (they wear very serious faces and speak in very serious tones about the food, but often forget the most basic things); the pinballing menu (still rolling around Mexi-Frenchy-Manhattanite). The brunch board is another mishmash of styles and influences: Mexican tostadas and Spanish frittatas, salmon cakes splashed with wasabi oil, plates of lemon-poppyseed pancakes.
I had a cup of the lobster bisque from which Cafe Bisque originally took its name and found it, as always, one of the best soups in the city — a rich and skillfully spiced base that created the silky luxury of drinking a bowlful of heavy cream, studded with fat chunks of delicious lobster flesh. Too bad my server neglected to bring the grilled bread that's supposed to accompany each bowl. Sold out of lemon-poppyseed, the house was serving buttermilk pancakes. They arrived burnt on the bottoms, as fluffy as pillows laced in char, and oddly tasting of toasted marshmallows. I ate the fruit garnish and pushed them aside. The croque madame was the usual ham-and-egg sandwich with an extra fee for the French accent, but it seemed somehow roughed up, as if it had been taken out into the alley and beaten severely before being served. Fortunately, the pork tostada — poached eggs over black beans and braised pork on a crisped tortilla base, with green chile that tasted like bottled salsa — was a nice dish.
In all, it was a perfectly adequate brunch — not the best I've had, but far from the worst. And with its addition, Cafe Bisque has finally settled into its place as a dependable, if sometimes forgetful, west-side cafe capable of holding its own — if not necessarily holding my attention.
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