Amuse-bouche

Café Mi­mosa

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Alex Heard

Café Mi­mosa sits in­side the same tucked-away build­ing that used to house Back Street Bistro, the pop­u­lar soup-and-sand­wich spot that closed in 2017. Back Street is a tough act to fol­low. Its blend of good, sim­ple sand­wiches, first-rate soups, and tempt­ing desserts — com­bined with the gre­gar­i­ous friend­li­ness of owner David Ja­coby — gen­er­ated in­tense brand loy­alty among many Santa Feans.

Af­ter Back Street closed, the own­ers of Café Mi­mosa started an in­te­rior ren­o­va­tion that went on through­out the winter and spring of 2017-2018. The new restau­rant opened in May, and an early visit hinted that the kitchen might need time to reach cruis­ing speed: Sev­eral of the items listed on the web­site menu weren’t avail­able yet, and the food I tried was OK but not re­ally mem­o­rable.

But dur­ing two end-of-sum­mer meals, it was clear that Café Mi­mosa has upped its game, serving a va­ri­ety of fa­mil­iar and in­no­va­tive brunch items in­side one of the more re­lax­ing din­ing spa­ces in the city. Back Street was loud and cramped, with the feel of a busy New York diner. Café Mi­mosa is brighter, airier, and very sooth­ing. The tables — there are roughly 15, seat­ing from two to 10 peo­ple each, plus a row of tall counter stools near an open kitchen — are spread out over a sprawl­ing floor space en­closed by mostly white walls and an ex­posed ceil­ing. Even on a day when the restau­rant was two-thirds full, it was quiet in­side, mak­ing this a per­fect place to go for a real con­ver­sa­tion over a meal.

Café Mi­mosa is al­ready li­censed to sell beer and wine, and the of­fer­ings in­clude three kinds of draft beer, red and white wine, and two bub­blies — an Ital­ian Pros­ecco and a cava from Spain — that show up in four dif­fer­ent mi­mosas. You can also or­der cof­fee, tea, and three dif­fer­ent cof­fee drinks. We tried both the latte and the mocha — both were rich and creamy.

Now that the menu is up and run­ning, there’s plenty to choose from: nine dif­fer­ent egg dishes and omelets, more than a dozen sand­wiches, sal­ads, and soups; pricier en­trées and daily spe­cials, in­clud­ing black­ened chicken Al­fredo and pork ten­der­loin; waf­fles, pan­cakes, and desserts. The chef here, Alex Ha­didi, has had a wide range of culi­nary in­flu­ences: He grew up on the coast of Al­ge­ria and has stud­ied and worked in Min­neapo­lis, New York, and At­lanta, where he was on the fac­ulty of Le Cor­don Bleu Col­lege of Culi­nary Arts. He clearly cares about qual­ity at ev­ery point in the process: pro­cure­ment of in­gre­di­ents, prepa­ra­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion.

The Green Eggs & Ham omelet came with a sim­ple side salad of fresh greens and fruit and a crisp, fill­ing potato latke. The omelet com­bined three eggs, Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced Black For­est ham, green chile, and basil. All the in­gre­di­ents seemed fresh and first-rate, and who­ever flipped the thing had their tim­ing down: It was nicely browned on the out­side, eggy-moist on the in­side, and not rub­bery at all.

A friend tried a sand­wich called the Beet­nik, which comes on your choice of bread — he went with multi­grain — and fea­tures sliced roasted beets, vari­able grilled sea­sonal veg­eta­bles, spinach, goat cheese, and a drib­ble of maple-wal­nut vinai­grette. When the sand­wich ar­rived, there was an oop­sie: no

beets in­side, just a few strips of red pep­per that had been sautéed into shiny limp­ness. This was an hon­est mis­take, of course. Once the kitchen heard about it from our waiter, we were sent home with an apol­ogy and a full re­place­ment.

On a sec­ond trip, I tried a mi­mosa called the Sig­na­ture Blood Or­ange, a mix of fresh-squeezed blood or­ange juice and the Span­ish cava. It was all right, but I found my­self ques­tion­ing the $9 price tag on this drink. Next time, I think I’ll pay less ($8) and just or­der a glass of Pros­ecco.

As pa­trons of Back Street Bistro will re­mem­ber, they served an ex­cel­lent mush­room soup there. So does Mi­mosa, a rich mush­room bisque that con­tains ar­ti­choke, leeks, chives, and le­mon juice. The in­gre­di­ents are puréed and (I’m guess­ing) mixed with cream, then loaded with mush­room bits that are browned in oil. And the eggs Bene­dict with smoked salmon gets high marks all around: You get per­fect poached eggs and a gen­er­ous amount of cold smoked salmon un­der a yolky hol­landaise sauce.

A steak sand­wich with blue cheese, onion, mus­tard, and vinai­grette was good but messy — the thin-sliced pieces of steak kept slid­ing out. The dessert we shared — ap­ple strudel — was the stand­out of both meals, a com­bi­na­tion of very del­i­cate pas­try, thin-sliced ap­ples, and a lava slide of cream.

The café is only a few blocks from Clafoutis, one of the most pop­u­lar brunch des­ti­na­tions in town, but Mi­mosa of­fers a dif­fer­ent pack­age: It’s qui­eter and slower-paced, with much less em­pha­sis on bak­ing. Both places ob­vi­ously care about qual­ity, so here’s hop­ing Café Mi­mosa de­vel­ops a loyal fol­low­ing of its own.

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