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May 2-9, 2007

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Bleu Spoon

Coming home: Bleu Spoon is enough to inspire thoughts of home.

Home-Spun Spoon

Aptos' Bleu Spoon is comfort food with a twist

By Denise Vivar

My love affair with food didn't begin until I was about 19. But then, Maine in the '60s wasn't exactly the culinary center of the world--you had about as much chance of finding chipotle marinated chicken as you did of finding a monkey in your back yard. This was no big deal to me, as I was resolutely against all foods remotely exotic. Mung beans? Blech! Fish stew? Are you kidding? I obstinately subsisted on fried chicken, meatloaf and spaghetti, dishes which still hold some kind of primal allure for me. Today having my mother's meatloaf involves a 3,000-mile trek, but the Bleu Spoon in Aptos is just over the river and through the woods.

I always appreciate the offer to choose my table at a restaurant, and our hostess genially followed us on our short scouting effort, large menus in tow. Though my inner finger-licking child was tempted by the spinning diner seats at the bar in the smaller anteroom, we were lured to a table near a fountain in the back room. The proprietor (one partner who also owns Bangkok West) calls the Bleu Spoon style "global," but the décor immediately belies a more cozy focus much closer to home.

There is certainly a wink and a nod to our global family with a Korean beef salad ($13.95; $12.95 with tofu) and the popular jasmine curry bowl ($12.95; $15.95 with tofu, prawns or chicken), but the menu mostly embraces things comfortable and homey. Burgers, buffalo wings, ribs, roast chicken, cheese ravioli and fish and chips reign over a menu dotted with a few dishes of a less modest pedigree, such as the afore-mentioned chipotle marinated breast of chicken ($14.95), crispy Mediterranean duck ($14.95) and tilapia fresca ($17.95).

Our friendly and very patient waitress returned three times, once replacing our basket of herbed focaccia strips before we were able to commit to our dinner plan. Steve started with mama's soothing chicken noodle soup ($3.25 cup; $6.25 bowl) which was indeed soothing. The broth was clean and well-balanced, with a fresh herbal finish. Generous chunks of chicken, carrots and celery met with toothy penne rigate.

We decided to share a cha cha chicken salad ($13.95) rather than opt for the side salad with our meals. Our waitress returned with our salad already split and we gasped at the sizeable mounds on our plates. Large chunks of fried chicken breast hunkered down over beds of shredded cabbage and salad greens, accompanied by guacamole, strips of fried corn tortillas and a spicy jalapeño ranch dressing. The fried coating of the chicken was tasty with a gratifying crunch, though the chicken was somewhat overcooked. Before I could make my way through much of the salad, our entrees arrived.

Steve's sand dabs ($14.95) from the evening's special menu were thin palm-sized fillets of tasty but slightly salty fish lightly dusted with fine bread crumbs and fried to a gentle crunch. I happily pulled perfectly crisped french fries from his plate while waiting for a less well-cooked version of my Bleu burger ($9.95).

At this point our forgotten side order of creamy Parmesan spinach polenta ($3.00) arrived--Parmesan modestly married to velvety polenta. Is there anything else quite as comforting? My burger was graciously returned sufficiently medium-rare and juicy.

Fully dressed, this is a lofty burger. The menu states that it's a half-pound of Angus beef, which is downright daunting, but it came off a lot more manageable.

Even if you don't pine for the familiar basics, there's variety enough to interest all kinds of divergent tastes. And while there's no television with Gilligan's Island playing in the background, it sure does feel like home, and that's comfort enough.

Bleu Spoon

Address: 207 Sea Ridge Road, Aptos

Phone: 831.685.8654

Hours: Brunch 9am-1:30pm Sat-Sun; lunch 11am-2:30pm Mon-Fri; dinner 5-9pm daily.

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