While I have general doubts about the concept of brunch—I'm more of a breakfast girl, myself—I have high hopes for the future of Café Mimosa, the new spot that opened in the space once occupied by Back Street Bistro on Camino de los Marquez.
Café Mimosa is dedicated to breakfast, lunch and everything in between. The décor looks worlds better, clean and breezily lit by afternoon sunlight drifting in from large windows, giving the place an open, spacious vibe. With soft grey wood tables and spare white walls, the new spot has a minimalist, almost industrial feel.
Two chalkboards hang empty on the walls, but Chef Alex Hadidi plans to fill them by June 10 with rotating specials designed to supplement the set menu and reflect the global influences that shape his cooking. After all, Café Mimosa was opened with an eye towards expressing international tastes from locally sourced foods, and as the outgrowth of a partnership between San Francisco-based Lisa Dion, a travel writer and public relations strategist at McCall Media, and Hadidi, a French-Algerian chef who worked at Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta and Tribeca Grill in New York City.
The major set piece on the menu is classic French cuisine, but Hadidi borrows from many of the countries bordering the Mediterranean for dishes like a Moroccan lamb top tagine ($18) alongside Samantha's smoked eggs Benedict ($12) and shorba, a North African chicken and orzo soup ($7). I enjoyed the latter two on a Tuesday morning visit and, by noon, the place was packed and service was expectedly hectic, though the food remained satisfying.
The shorba struck a well-executed balance between warm spices and hints of cooling mint while the hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict definitely had the proper silky texture and slight lemony flavor and the salmon was light and fresh.
I wasn't as crazy about my mimosa which, for $8, wasn't particularly sparkling, tasting flat and sugary instead. Truth be told, mimosas tend to annoy me in general. They're usually overpriced iterations of the cheapest possible sparkling wine, and can only be redeemed by the addition of fresh juice. No luck with this one.
But Hadidi says a beer and wine list is set to premiere by mid-June, and he plans to include bottlings from local New Mexican breweries and wines that are local, Californian and French in origin. I am a little dismayed that a more Mediterranean wine list isn't in the cards for Café Mimosa. Given the level of passion and inspiration behind the food, if you have the means to craft an exciting beverage program that comes tailor-made to pair with your cuisine, why not take it as far as you can?
Still, I appreciate Hadidi's interest in the local beer and wine scene, and his commitment to locally sourcing foods. The restaurant currently works with Taos Family Farms and plans to explore further partnerships through the Santa Fe Farmers Market. In fact, direct access to seasonally available food was what originally drew Hadidi to Santa Fe in the first place.
"When I see gray buildings in New York, I don't think of fresh; I think of quick," he muses over a cup of coffee. "When I think of the mountains of New Mexico, I think differently. That's my deepest heart, the local farmers—we were local farmers where I grew up, in the Mediterranean, in Algeria. We were so used to eating so fresh. All our childhood we never went grocery shopping. My grandparents had cattle and fruit trees, green beans and potatoes, and it kind of stuck in my head."
Lots of good food stuck with Hadidi, who plans to incorporate all his diverse influences into the aforementioned rotating specials. Think shakshouka, a dish of eggs poached in a stew of tomato, peppers and chile, based off his mother's recipe. He plans on featuring Cuban dishes as well.
"I lived in New York for 25 years, in Park Slope, and there was a little Cuban restaurant there. It was delicious to have spiced black beans and chorizo and poached eggs," Hadidi tells SFR. "I've never forgotten it." His Havana omelet ($11) includes just those ingredients, and is a direct homage to his appreciation for Cuban restaurant culture in New York.
I'm excited by his enthusiasm, which he expresses while I gnosh on cucumber and hummus toast ($7), served on pita bread with feta cheese, black olives and tomato. The hummus is excellent, creamy and finely textured, and I end up scraping the plate. It's a far cry from the hearty eggs Benedict I enjoyed the day before—much lighter and fresher. The menu, while slightly abridged from my previous visit, contained enough options to satisfy the heaviest to the lightest appetites.
Café Mimosa remains a small, independently owned restaurant with great food, but with a skeletal staff running operations, it'll be interesting to see its evolution play out. If Hadidi can deliver on his aspirations, however, the future looks bright.
513 Camino de l Marquez, Ste. C, 365-2112
7 am-2 pm daily