Café Son­der, re­viewed

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Café Son­der, which oc­cu­pies the spot that for­merly housed the ven­er­ated Zia Diner, is the fancier, bor­der­line fine-din­ing sis­ter restau­rant to down­town’s peren­ni­ally packed Plaza Café. The own­ers of Son­der, long­time restau­ra­teurs who also op­er­ate the Plaza Café South­side, are ded­i­cated to mak­ing ev­ery­thing in-house and from scratch, with lo­cally sourced, fresh in­gre­di­ents. Son­der, which opened in Novem­ber 2016, has the feel of an up­scale diner, with the for­mer Zia Diner’s same open, mul­ti­level floor plan and min­i­mal­ist decor topped with mod­ern-look­ing metal­lic red rib­bons that hang from the ceil­ing.

The menus (brunch — Satur­days and Sun­days only — lunch, and din­ner) of­fer a pur­pose­ful va­ri­ety of items that run the gamut from clas­sic meat and pota­toes to Ital­ian pas­tas to diner-style sand­wiches. The starters come from all over the map, cuisinewise: mus­sels with red chile, the French-ish pork belly with frisée and a tea-boiled egg, and an Asian­in­spired chicken soup. The Mediter­ranean Dips starter fea­tures three house-made dips: an herby white bean, smoked beet, and spiced yo­gurt. While the beet was a tad sweet, the other two were sub­lime, par­tic­u­larly when piled to­gether on soft pita slices and topped with a hand­ful of per­fect Greek olives.

The fried cala­mari was also a solid choice. The bat­ter was a bit on the heavy side, but the squid was fresh and not too oily, and it came with two pleas­antly spicy and creamy dip­ping sauces — one green chile tar­tar sauce, and one red chile aioli. The cala­mari was sprin­kled with crispy fried kale, which took on a fishy qual­ity that mar­ried per­fectly with the squid and a squeeze of le­mon.

Sprin­kled through­out the gen­er­ally farm­house­Euro­pean fare are a few ex­per­i­men­tal-feel­ing Asian

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