Restau­rant Re­view

Chez Dré

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Lau­rel Glad­den

Just in­side the door of Chez Dré, a quippy poster re­minds you that “stressed” is “desserts” spelled back­wards. De­tails like this are in­dica­tive of the homey, if a bit goofy, charm of this cozy bak­ery and café in El­do­rado’s Agora Shop­ping Cen­ter, which is helmed by Le Cor­don Bleu-trained chef An­drea Clover.

Clover seems to be shoot­ing for the am­bi­ence of an in­for­mal French café, and to a cer­tain ex­tent, she suc­ceeds. To­ward the front of the space, a dis­play case is stocked with eye-catch­ing pas­tries and con­fec­tions (Clover won mul­ti­ple awards for her desserts while work­ing as pas­try chef at Lu­mi­naria). The rest of the dé­cor is sunny and eclec­tic, like the liv­ing room of your colorful, kooky aunt — bright-yel­low walls, a few mis­matched chairs, a gas-fired faux fire­place built into one wall, and preprinted can­vases de­pict­ing full car­toon­ish wine glasses and Parisian sky­lines.

That dis­play case is also stocked with pre­made break­fast bur­ri­tos, sand­wiches, mini quiches, and in­di­vid­ual-serv­ing pot pies. In fact, Chez Dré of­fers a rather ex­ten­sive menu that cov­ers tra­di­tional break­fast (oat­meal, omelets, waf­fles), lunch, and early din­ner (soups, sal­ads, sand­wiches, and heartier en­trées, from fish tacos to chicken fric­as­see to steak).

Clover’s crois­sant is a fine spec­i­men, with well- de­fined lay­ers and a dizzy­ing but not over­whelm­ing but­ter­i­ness. We made quite a mess de­stroy­ing a sweet, fruity, amaz­ingly flaky ap­ple turnover with pretty scal­loped edges. But I wished the pain au chocolat had more of the sig­na­ture in­gre­di­ent in­side and less in the syrupy driz­zle across the top. Our break­fast bur­rito, pulled from the case and warmed, was stocked with a solidly sa­vory blend of potato, egg, tangy cheese, and hearty green chile turkey sausage. The huevos rancheros im­pressed me with ten­der tor­tillas, gor­geous golden egg yolks, a light cheese layer, and pi­quant but not overly spicy red and green chile sauces (the lat­ter is more a purée than is typ­i­cal, but no mat­ter). The black beans served on the side, with onion and red pep­per no­tice­able in the mix, were so full-fla­vored I was in­ca­pable of ne­glect­ing them.

Al­though the French dip be­gins with a pre­made sand­wich re­trieved from the re­frig­er­ated case, it’s heated to a toasty, crunchy golden and served with a salty, rich, co­coa-brown jus for dip­ping. My din­ing com­pan­ion, who left barely a crumb on his plate, pro­nounced it one of the best things he’s had din­ing out in Santa Fe re­cently.

Chez Dré at­tempts to liven up evenings by of­fer­ing hap­py­hour spe­cials that in­clude beers, wines, cock­tails, and as­sorted small plates. Th­ese range from dips and cheeses to crab hush­pup­pies and juicy beef slid­ers that ar­rive hot from the grid­dle on tall, pil­lowy quar­ters of a reg­u­la­tion­size bun. The goat cheese tartlets were a bit of a mess — the thick, pasty-soft crusts were fall­ing apart — and the fill­ing was spare and bland. Luck­ily, they were served atop a pretty salad of mixed greens, Mar­cona al­monds, dried cran­ber­ries, more goat cheese, and tomato.

The mahi tacos are skip­pable — oddly sea­soned, short on slaw, and doused in a chipo­tle aioli that was pe­cu­liarly sweet and not at all spicy. But you’ll need a hearty ap­petite for the chicken fric­as­see — two siz­able pieces of roasted chicken with moist, ten­der meat (in our case, a thigh and a drum­stick); a heap of veg­etable- stud­ded rice pi­laf; and a slather­ing of vi­brant but creamy white-wine sauce. It looks and tastes like a dish a French grand­mother would serve.

Fruity and icy, the blended-to-or­der frozen straw­berry-basil “mar­garita” will be the per­fect cock­tail-hour re­fresh­ment in a cou­ple of months, when sum­mer’s heat has re­turned and the sun’s out in full force. The menu lists tequila as an in­gre­di­ent, but it’s ac­tu­ally a wine-based fac­sim­ile, as are the other spir­its — vodka, rum, and whiskey — used here. That’s a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment, es­pe­cially if you’re in the mood for some­thing with a lit­tle more punch. But I won’t com­plain, be­cause when it comes to the food at Chez Dré — par­tic­u­larly dishes with clas­sic but un­fussy French in­spi­ra­tion — there’s noth­ing phony about it.

The huevos rancheros im­pressed me with ten­der tor­tillas, gor­geous golden egg yolks, a light cheese layer, and pi­quant but not overly spicy red and green chile sauces.

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