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Restaurants & Bars 2

Cafe Key Largo-Long Beach-A Second Opinion

Christine | Nov 14, 200412:32 PM

Encouraged by LBQT's recent post, we dined at Cafe Key Largo, on Broadway, last night.

The room is a welcome improvement over its previous incarnations and there was about 25% occupancy, frankly more than I expected. We were seated immediately, and our server, Tasha, was friendly, courteous and completely unpretentious; I liked her.

As LBQT pointed out, the chef/owner(s?) are Belgian and the first thing that caught my eye on the menu was the appetizer called "Belgian Fried Potatoes." I figured that was the literal translation, and I love pommes frites as much as anyone on the planet, so we ordered this.

The fries were almost perfect! Had they been seasoned with a nice fleur de sel, I'd have been in heaven. But they were a 9.9. Oddly, though, they are served with three "dipping sauces": a very runny dijon sauce (too light), a cocktail sauce (think shrimp cocktail), and a tartar sauce. I think part of the reason Belgians have perfected the fry is the standard condiment---when I asked the floor manager about mayonnaise, she replied that all the Belgian french fry places serve "unique" dips, some even serve 80 different kinds. Yeah, well, call me a traditionalist.

I followed with the Maytag salad: crisp shredded greens with small candied walnuts, golden raisins, and a few slices of fruit. Good balance of flavors that accented the cheese nicely. I liked it a lot. The Mr. had the soup of the day, vegetable, which he also enjoyed. He ordered beef bourguignon. The meat was tender, nice flavor of the wine in the mushrooms, noodles well prepared. The only thing I'd change on that dish is the amount of noodles could be cut back by a third. But, it's better than getting too few, right?

I ordered the African Chicken Ntanga, which seems to be a staff favorite. Trying to deconstruct, it's a 5-inch disk of seasoned rice, topped by cooked greens upon which rest a few thick chunks of delicious smoked chicken breast. It's surrounded by a yummy sauce and comes with a few fried plantains and some papaya sticks. Everything about this part of the dish was very good, but, for me, the large handful of raw, coursely shredded red cabbage thrown on top was a big mistake. For one thing, I don't think raw red cabbage does the delicate-ness of rice or smoked chicken any good. Secondly, it's awkward to eat: the cabbage pieces stick out of the tines of your fork as you try to negotiate the other parts. I pushed it aside.

The chef/owner makes her rounds of the tables, and when she asked us how the meal was, I offered my opinion about the raw cabbage. She said, "it's for texture," and went off in a huff (usually I'm much more endearing than this, so I was a little surprised).

We didn't have room for dessert, and all told, with one glass of pinot noir (totally decent at $8) and a sparkling water for him, the bill, with tax and tip, came to a little over $100. Just a tad less than we'd spend at Frenchy's Bistro.

I'll go back---if I'm not banned for the criticism---and try to get mayonnaise with the frites; they are really good.

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