My sister has been visiting us for her Spring break and she's been nice enough to agree to babysit every night so Mike and I can go out on "dates." Our goal is to go to places where we can't go with Mika, including restaurants that are definitely not child friendly. A Cote fits the bill.
We'd been to A Cote a couple of years ago (see review), before Mika was born, but just for lunch - this time we wanted to try it for dinner. We got there at around 7:45pm on a Tuesday night (April 2004) and the place was quite busy. It doesn't take reservations so tables (or space at the bar) are allocated on a "first come, first served" basis. There is a long, communal table in the middle of the front room which was pretty empty. We could have sat there and been farther away from the other diners than at most restaurants, but this was a "date" night so I decided to wait for a table to open up, they told us it'd be a twenty minute wait but we were probably seated within ten minutes.
We were seated at the covered patio in the back. We hadn't seen this room during our previous visit and it was a very pleasant surprise. I imagine that during the day or when there is hot weather, this room is opened up for al fresco dining. Closed up, it gave us the impression of dining in a tent; the patio walls and columns are painted in those bright earth colors so popular right now and heavy brown velvet drapes fill the empty spaces. There is a nice wall fountain on one side and the sound of the water falling was very relaxing. In all, we found this room much more pleasant and relaxing that the front dining area, where the music is too loud for much intimate conversation.
Service was very good. Our waitress was efficient and pleasant. The food, however, did not impress us. It was definitely good, but not outstanding. We didn't have anything that evening that would beckon us back (though that might have been different if we had ordered the croque monsieur).
We ordered five dishes to share and asked that they be brought in whatever order they were ready. First we got the pommes frites with aioli ($3 for a small portion). We'd had these before and they were very good. The aioli was delicious and we ate every last bit. The cheese course ($7) arrived next. We'd ordered the Gratte Paille, a triple cream cow milk cheese from Ile de France. The cheese was delicious, extremely creamy and deep. I'd certainly have it again. The candied walnuts that came with it were to die for. My only complaint would be that the cheese slab wasn't very generous.
Next we got the potato gnocchi ($12). These had been cooked in a snap pea broth and were served with wild mushrooms and fava beans. Mike, who doesn't usually like gnocchi anyway, wasn't impressed by them, but unfortunately I wasn't either. The gnocchi were nice and soft, but the sauce was too lightly flavored to add much to the mild taste of the potatoes. I would not order them again. We both liked the grilled skirt steak ($12) better. It was perfectly-cooked medium rare, and the accompanying salsa verde was pleasant. Still, I felt that the steak wasn't flavorful enough. It could have benefited from some more salt (there was none at the table). I would order it again, but I'd make sure we had salt handy.
Our last course was the quail and merguez sausage skewers ($14). There were two skewers, perfect for sharing. The bite of merguez sausage was pretty good though quite hot (temperature wise), you may want to wait a couple of minutes before eating it if you order it. There was nothing special about the quail, though. It was good but not very flavorful. The accompanying couscous was quite tasty, however.
For dessert, Mike decided on the chocolate profiteroles. He liked the cold mousse and the chopped nuts but not the actual pastry. Apparently, this is an issue he's had with profiteroles in general, which begs the question of why he orders them if he doesn't like them. In any case, I thought they were fine but not remarkable. I wasn't much more impressed with my own dessert, a meringue strawberry cake which consisted of two meringue cookies, whipped cream and strawberries. The meringue had a strange texture, almost gritty and breadish, but it tasted good. The same can be said for the strawberries and creme. In all it was good, but not extraordinary.
In all, we were disappointed in A Cote because we had higher expectations of the place. We expected the food to awe us and it didn't.
5478 College Ave