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It’s been more than a year since Barbarella took a first look at Cafe Bleu in Mission Hills. Her assessment--that the place was “French-ish” and lacking in polish--seemed spot on at the time and I thought it might be telling to pop in there and see for myself how the menu had evolved (or not) in 2012.

To my surprise, very little has changed there. Even the amuse bouche is still the same braised beef in puff pastry with a rich aioli. The vegetarian entree is still the same “pile ‘o stuff” on top of polenta, though the presentation has improved to the point that it’s not outright terrifying to behold. The menu, as far as I could tell, had not been altered. I found the coq au vin, which is supposedly the house specialty, to be good but not great. It’s greatest strength was the generosity of the portion. The already lean chicken had a dry, boiled texture. There’s some irony in the fact that it’s hard to get a good coq au vin because the available chicken is of too high a quality. Had the restaurant submerged a tough, sinewy old rooster in wine and braised it for an eternity, the rich broth and silky flesh would have been an improvement for the old bird. Fresh, young, American farm chickens just get all dried out.

Looking back, I want to say, “what’s with the Roger Clemens approach to menu design, guys?”

Seriously, throw a changeup! Shake things up. Cafe Bleu is mostly adorable inside (it’s a little dark) and the service was above average. It must be the bistro aprons that make servers step up their game, I don’t know. My compliments go out to the young guy who attended my table with silent precision and competency. I would just really like to see the kitchen move past the follies that Barb identified and do something more to honor the good location, cute dining room, and sharp wine selection. Next time I come in for half-priced wine bottles (Monday during dinner), how about you let me see something new?

807 West Washington Street
Lunch: M-Fri 11:30-3:00
Dinner: Sun-Th 3-10 and Fri-Sat 3-11

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coconnel51 Dec. 21, 2012 @ 9:03 p.m.

Cafe Bleu still has better mussels and steak frites than Cafe Chloe - and for almost half the price. And, you can't beat their hospitality. For a neighborhood joint (and, there are many great restaurants to choose from in Mission Hills / Hillcrest), I rate them one of the best in terms of food quality at more than reasonable prices - and without the pretension of a lot of other places. The portions are more than generous, and for $13.95, the Coq Au Vin is "good" enough to be at LEAST $5 more.


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