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All Wrapped Up

Cafe Wraps
Christopher Gardner

Wrap-sody: Cafe Wraps entices diners with a handful of creative burrito-style entrées.

Cafe Wraps takes the burrito
concept to new extremes

By Andrew X. Pham

THE NOUVELLE FAST-FOOD phenomenon called "wraps" makes it easy to rehabilitate lovers of fatty, calorie-pumped, grease-choked burritos. The yummy burrito substitutes at Cafe Wraps (unlike the prosaic version palmed off by the Taco Bell chain) come dressed in party colors and explore lighter and more exotic versions of the meal-in-edible-cylinder concept.

Clean and swank, with wood trim and tiles, each Cafe Wraps outlet boasts splashes of Southwestern shades paired with California metro-glitz. The open bistro-style kitchen provides visual entertainment, while the speakers play pop tunes (and even occasional elevator music--one serious setback).

The flavors are crafty--nothing overwhelming, nothing too subtle. There's just enough to tantalize and keep admirers coming back for more. Tortillas provide the perfect excuse for the finger-food advocate and those who prefer to eat everything on their plate at once. But, as the Cafe Wraps people say, "If your mother told you never to eat with your fingers, we will gladly serve your wrap unwrapped in a bowl."

Right off the starting block, we fell for the black iron salmon wrap ($6.25). This green-colored wrap yielded peppery accents to its contents: rice pilaf, red onions, salmon, diced tomatoes, cucumber and a light brush of lemonaise (lemon and mayo). Another favorite was the Spanish paella wrap ($6.25). True to paella tradition, all sorts of meats--sausage, chicken and shrimp--get pan-cooked with saffron rice, black beans, olives, sweet peas and a mild tomato relish. This combination rates as the most substantial of the 13 menu entries.

The Philly steak and mashed potato ($5.95) makes a manly meal with grilled steak, bell peppers, provolone cheese and chunks of charred onion. The exotic-by-allusion grilled chicken wrap ($4.95)--more Berkeley than Bangkok--is marinated and spiced California style, with a sesame wheat tortilla hugging jasmine rice, cilantro, chicken and sprouts inside. The wrap needs a kiss of ginger-peanut sauce to bring out the "bang" in Bangkok. (Too bad the restaurant does almost nothing along the line of salsas.)

Both the grilled garden ($4.50) and the garlic pesto with shrimp ($5.75) make strong arguments for healthy thoughts. The former is plumped up with lots of veggies and a bit of goat cheese (somewhat heady, not one of the better brands). The latter is rich with basil and shrimp.

Dessert? Not to worry: nonfat, lowfat everything. The smoothie menu is waistline trimmed. Creamed until as light as silk, then twirled in a nonfat chocolate syrup, the peanut passion smoothie ($2.95, large) will take the guilt out of indulgence.

Cafe Wraps is located at 10745 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino; 408/255-1700; and 850 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose; 408/629-6000.

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From the December 19-25, 1996 issue of Metro

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