We finally managed to get into Vagabond in South Park, just north of The Big Kitchen on 30th. I was wowed!. Really interesting decor and unusual menu offerings. As we absorbed the ambience, it came to me that this is something different--French Colonial. Dishes with notes from Vietnam, Morocco, Caribbean--all former French colonies. I could almost see Bogart step out from behind the partition.
We ordered appetizers, entrees and a dessert and coffee. Everything was exceptional, even the bread with aioli. The charcuterie platter was generous (and only $7.50), with 2 kinds of salami, blue cheese, brie, a smooth liver pate and a fine country style coarse one. I ended up having most of it wrapped up because the other appetizer turned out to be huge. Duo of Calamari salad turned out to be a platter heaped with perfectly fried calamari with aioli on one side and another large serving of sauteed/grilled calamari rings on the other. The salad consisted of spring greens dressed in a slightly sweet vinagrette. A meal sized salad for $8.50.
Next came our entree's, the mussels with pomme frites ($14.50) and Chilean Sea Bass wrapped in a corn husk and seasoned with Caribbean spices ($18.50). I am not a sea bass fan, but my fellow chowhound was delighted. The "Moules" were some of the best I've ever had. A pound of perfectly cooked shellfish in a rich vegetable and cream fraiche broth. Ashamed to say with soaked up a good portion with the rustic bread.
We were stuffed, and I may regret the decision at 2am, but we went for dessert and decaf coffee. French Roast with real half and half ($1.75) and the "bombe" completed our evening. The "bombe" was the bomb!-- excellent chocolate mousse surrounding a center of creme brulee and some macerated cherries. ($6.50)
Presentations were top flight and service was friendly, efficient, but not too familiar. We spoke with one of the two chefs who said he'd been cooking in restaurants in the Gaslamp and Downtown, but loved our area of town! We are the richer for his decision.
Down side? It is loud when full, but not raucous, and the tables are crowded. I almost didn't make it to the banquette without taking our neighbors table cloth with me, but they were good sports and shared opinions about the dishes. (they loved the salmon and paella). From what we sampled, I'd say you've got to like garlic here, but we do! Also, they do not take reservations except for groups of 5 or more and there is a limited bar area to wait in. We came at 6 and called in. By 6:20 they were full! They haven't even advertised yet and already the place is jammed.
the good news is that they are open for lunch Thurs - Sunday, so hopefully the competition for seating will be less serious then.
I considered not posting this, but after all the great leads I gotten from my fellow hounds, I figured it would be bad form to not share the good news.