There’s a little something for everyone at the French- and Spanish-themed Café Deia
Thu, Mar 12, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
Man cannot live by tapas alone, newly evidenced by Café Deia, hard by the corner of Grand Canyon and Flamingo on the city’s far west side. Named for a small village on the island of Mallorca, in the Spanish Balearics, the restaurant offers an eclectic combination of French, Spanish and just plain made-up fare, most of it delicious.
Credit for that goes to chef Christophe Bonnegrace, a native of Toulon, France, who was also responsible for the good pizzas and many dishes at Bleu Gourmet. Together with his countrywoman, the exquisitely charming Karen Legrand, Bonnegrace is doing a nice job filling a much-needed niche for this cuisine on this side of town.
Mallorca figures heavily in my favorite dish on this extensive, often overly ambitious menu. Mallorcan soup, trumpeted as “the only soup you can eat with a fork” uses moist croutons and broth to showcase stew-like creations made of minced pork, chicken and vegetables, finished with olive oil and the meat’s natural juices.
And a variety of both hot and cold tapas (a cuisine of mainly small, savory bites that promulgate thirst, originating in the Basque region of Spain) draws from all around the Mediterranean, not only the region of origin.
- Café Deia
- 4165 Grand Canyon Drive
- Open 11 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday, until 11 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, until 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.
- Suggested dishes: Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, $9; Mallorcan soup, $5; bacon-wrapped figs, $7; boeuf Bourguignon, $19.
Baba ganoush, to take one example, is Lebanese, as is hummus, while the olive and tomato bruschetta, topped with an intensely black tapenade, is Italian in flavor and spirit.
In fact, even Asia gets into the drill. Tuna tartar is diced ahi mixed in wasabi, soy sauce and an Asian chili paste. Hey, how’d that one get in here?
Not to worry, though; Spanish-style tapas dominate Café Deia’s menu. Naturally there is a Serrano ham and Manchego cheese platter, and a proper Andalusian-style gazpacho, a chilled soup made by pureeing tomatoes with green peppers, cucumbers and stale bread.
I was skeptical when the chef told me that his take on the traditional tortilla Espanola, using mashed potatoes instead of the more usual sliced ones, was the authentic version. Cut into squares and topped with tomato sauce, it’s unlike any tortilla I’ve ever seen in Spain. Did I like it? Sorry, I haven’t made up my mind yet.
One thing I couldn’t get enough of here was bacon-wrapped figs, pan-seared ripe figs surrounded by crisp bacon. Shrimp ajillo, tiger shrimp marinated in enough chopped garlic to turn Bela Lugosi into Lot’s wife, struck me as more Mexican than anything else, but so what?
There are, however, many more types of dishes to eat here: thin-crust pizzas, paella and entrees, as well as a few desserts. Bonnegrace knows his way around a thin crust, so have pizzas such as barbecued chicken and frutti de mare, topped with mixed shellfish, with confidence.
I did try one paella, a rather dry, saffron-flavored rice casserole served in a metal pan, a chicken and pea version that could have used more stock. One entrée that the chef knows intimately is boeuf Bourguignon, basically the world’s greatest beef stew. This specialty of the Burgundy region of France uses Burgundy wine to flavor the meat, plus carrots, pearl onion, mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s as tender a stew as you’ll find in any bistro in town.
France also figures in a few of the other compelling entrees here. Half roast chicken has a garnish of herb-roasted potatoes and green asparagus. Bouillabaisse Marseillaise is a fish stew from the south of France, loaded with shellfish, red snapper and mahi-mahi.
Of the two desserts I tasted, I think I prefer the par-baked apple pie to the rather bland crema Catalana, like a crème brûlée flavored with orange zest. There are a slew of terrific by-the-glass wines from an equally eclectic wine list to add to the evening, and service is pleasant and efficient.
I should also mention that this is an elegant, even lavish setting, which formerly housed the restaurant called Mama de Palmas. There is a high ceiling with a giant wooden lattice that serves no discernible purpose other than to look pretty, and enormous floor vases that are filled with long wooden twigs.
Next to the restaurant there is a cushy lounge area with comfortable sofas, more like a living room than a bar lounge, and the entire ambiance recalls a European manor house in the country, heady stuff indeed for the dusty expanses of the Valley’s edge.