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Le Cafe Miche, Albuquerque, NM

Sadly, owner Klaus Hjortkaer closed it sometime around 2009. My vote for the best French place still open in 2010: Chez Axel, 6209 Montgomery Blvd NE, (505) 881-8104.

Le Cafe Miche is nominally a French restaurant, but ingredients and techniques from any cuisine on Earth may show up. However, all the dishes we tried hewed to the reigning principles of French cuisine---scrupulously fresh ingredients, simply prepared. My girlfriend and I tried it on June 2, 2001.

Just after sitting down we got a couple of complimentary appetizers. Each was a terrific, crisp, sweet pickle slice atop a mound of pate-based dip, on a slice of fresh French bread.

Arriving next was the perfect spherical dinner roll. Grasp the top with opposite thumbs and pull to separate the chewy, thin crust and reveal an inviting, pillowy crumb.

As an appetizer we a pair of crab cakes with utterly fresh mixed baby greens. The crab cakes were garnished with about a half-teaspoon of masago (smelt roe) which is a standard sushi bar trick. There was a little sauce, something more or less like a Hollandaise, which worked very well with the crab cakes. Nice work, plenty of crabmeat flavor, but in balance with the binder.

We both had the same salad. Butter lettuce and field greens with truffle vinaigrette. Truffles have such an interesting series of aftertastes! Not truffle oil. Little bits of truffle.

My girlfriend had the Coq au Vin. Now I understand why that recipe is such a classic! It had a gravy that I found far more intoxicating than any ethanol preparation. The meat was moist, tender, and absolutely flavorful. Moreover, the vegetables were not overcooked. Even the pearl onions had a little snap to them.

What I had sounded mundane but was to die for: a sockeye salmon steak, herb-crusted, in lemon butter, with broccolini and garlic mashed potatoes. The salmon was simply perfect. It was plenty moist and tender, and had a lot more color and flavor than typical farmed salmon. I suspect it may have been line-caught.

I have never had broccolini before. It was very long and leggy, like rapini, but had florets that were intermediate in size between broccoli and rapini. The garlic mashed potatoes were as fine an example of that as I've had: plenty of garlic flavor, the potatoes still with a bit of texture.

For dessert, she went for the carrot cake. Not cloudlike or foofy like most, this was a solid mass of carrot, raisin, and walnut. It had the standard frosting, perfectly executed.

Although they had a couple of tempting dessert specials, I had to try the chocolate mousse from the regular menu. I give it about a 9.5, and I've never given a 10. The mousse proper was utterly smooth, but every bite, however small, had a few tiny shreds of some really outstanding Belgian-type bittersweet chocolate, maybe 2mm x 0.3mm. Now, I'm used to, and seek out, complicated aftertaste sequences in such situations as Coq au Vin or a good Cabernet Sauvignon: there's what you think it will taste like before you taste it; there's the initial taste; then the taste mutates as your saliva mixes in; then even after you swallow there might be one, two, even three different perceived flavors. This fabulous mousse delivered not only an interesting sequence of flavors, but the chocolate shavings gave it an interesting textural sequence as well. First you perceive the utterly smooth base mousse; then you perceive a slight graininess; the grains tend to persist after you swallow the mousse; and then the grains melt! So you add on the flavor sequence of the shavings to the end of the whole process.

In summary, I was impressed by every detail from end to end. To top it off, the space is very attractive, light and open. It wasn't too noisy for a quiet conversation. The service was outstanding: our server took the time to explain several dishes, and he came by frequently to check for refills and make sure we were happy.

Cafe Miche is located at 1531 Wyoming Boulevard. From I-40, take the Wyoming exit north. The restaurant is in a strip mall on the west (left) side not too far north of the freeway.


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John W. Shipman, john@nmt.edu
Last updated: 2010/09/30 00:20:43
URL: http://www.nmt.edu/~shipman/food/cafemiche.html