Friday, June 16, 2006

HFF Quickie: Cafe Rouge

I was tired of the usual suspects for lunch so decided to take a trip to Cafe Rouge--I'd been there a few times but never really sat down and had a full meal.

I kicked off with a pint of the Mendocino Black Hawk stout. It's a good beer but their kegs were way (way) too cold and the co2 was cranked a too high making it taste more like a dark lager than the stout that I remember it being from the bottle.

First up was an arugula salad with artichokes and garbanzo beans. The components were all good. The arugula was peppery and sweet, the garbanzos tender and not grainy, and the artichokes were nicely blanched but pretty bland. The salad itself was really bland--everything was underseasoned and underdressed. I just felt like I was eating a plate full of grass. Maybe a heavier dressing, mix of herbs, or a cheese mixed in could've made this a more exciting dish.

As an entree I got the soft shell crab sandwich with cactus, harissa, and creme fraiche. I know this might sound harsh, but this was honestly the first dish that I've had at a restaurant of some reputation that I would actually call bad. Not boring, flavorless, or overcooked (in fact the execution was great) but simply bad. The crab itself was good but it was placed on an enormous torpedo-type roll so that the crab was completely subsumed in bread. The roll wasn't toasted, the cactus was interesting but it was served cold and was resultantly very very slimy. I couldn't taste the harissa and the creme fraiche was liquid and drippy. So I couldn't taste the warm, crisp crab but I could taste all the cold, drippy accompaniments ensconced in an enormous dry roll. What struck me is that there was nothing inherently bad about any of the accompaniments, it was just their combination which indicated that whoever came up with that dish was either lazy or is in desperate need of a palate transplant.

The mixed greens on the side were moist and nicely dressed.

I closed out the meal with almond cake with roasted apricots and a ricotta-honey ice cream. This was pretty good. The cake was a bit dry, even though it was soaked with honey but the flavors were bright. The apricot were good but served not warm so they too had a weird slimy texture (can't people just warm this shit back up? Christ.). The ice cream was great--surprisingly light and not too sweet with a sharp, smooth ricotta flavor. A lot of the desserts on Cafe Rouge's menu looked pretty damn good.

So yeah--I probably won't be back for lunch any time soon. The poor execution combined with my own lack of interest in what Cafe Rouge usually serves (a lot of meat) creates little incentive. Maybe I'll sit at the bar and have some nuts or something.

Cafe Rouge
Entree price range (lunch):
HFF's cost for one (one beer, one salad, one sandwich, one dessert, tax, tip):
Reservations: or 510-525-1440
1782 Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

1 comment:

Scott said...

All right everybody, on the count of 3.

1, 2, 3:

"We all know how much you like nuts in your mouth."