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Pia | Mar 19, 200412:53 PM     1

Ealier this week, after a particularly exhausting, exasperating day, I needed a good dinner out. At a quiet, comfortable, casual-but-white-tablecloth sort of place. No crowds, no posturing people dressed in black. Tasty, creative food without weirdness.

A food-loving aunt had taken me to Flea Street Cafe a couple of months ago and I thought it would fit the bill. And it certainly did!

We parked right outside the restaurant, and noticed that the restaurant was half-full on Tuesday night. The table was covered with crisp white linen and comfortably worn tableware. A basket of warm bread and soft,buttery biscuits and glasses of iced water arrived promptly.

After some diffculty deciding between the chilled seafood platter and the crab-potato-smoked trout cake, I ended up with the evening's special, grilled scallops on a salad ($12), and my husband had the warm spinach salad with leeks, shiitakes, and feta ($8). Although I thought the scallops overdone, the overall dish was still satisfactory, and the spinach salad prompted a request for me to try to duplicate it at home.

For the main course, hubby had the cumin crusted game hen with apricot, olive, and chili sauce; lentils cooked with carrots and feta and basmati rice ($18). I ordered the Niman ranch lamb ribs with pear chutney and mashed winter squash ($19). The nibble of game hen I was allowed was delicious, and perfectly cooked. Though the portion was large, not a morsel remained by meal's end. The same thing can be said for the lamb ribs, though I did miss the crisp, dry exterior I was hoping for. Actually, it was the spicy (but not hot) pear chutney that I enjoyed most. The combination of the rich lamb ribs, spiced pear chutney, and sweet squash was delicious.

For dessert, we split a slender slice of dark chocolate truffle tart with mascarpone whipped cream.

And we went home probably fatter, but certainly happier.

Flea Street Cafe, 3607 Alameda de las Pulgas.

P.S., I was glad to notice that they use local, organic produce and support sustainable fishing practices.

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