Cafe Miche has been regarded as one of Albuquerque’s best restaurants since its 1996 launch and according to the Zagat Survey, was the number one rated French restaurant in the state for three consecutive years. Honored with an Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine and boasting of one of the city’s best wine lists, Cafe Miche has a passionate following of faithful followers. I suspect some of them visit almost as much for the wonderful cuisine as to enjoy the company of effusive chef Claus Hjortkjaer and his statuesque wife and partner Linda, both of whom seem to know most of their patrons (and if they don’t know you, they still make you feel quite at home).
A great Dane who studied classic French cuisine in Denmark, Claus has an impressive pedigree that includes previous stints at several highly regarded restaurants in New Mexico. In 2005, he began hosting a Sunday morning radio show on a local FM station, adding to the “Miche Man’s” celebrity status. When we complimented him on that show, he remarked that anyone could do it if they’re “full of it.” Full of talent might be more like it. He can meld seemingly disparate and concordant ingredients in a complementary fashion that results in divine creations.
In 2005, Cafe Miche also began offering a Sunday brunch at the reasonable price of $19 per person without champagne or $24 per person with champagne. If you don’t care to imbibe adult beverages, be cautioned that a glass of orange juice costs $3 with no free refills. The brunch experience starts with a basket of breads with butter and orange marmalade. The bread includes a buttery croissant, banana nut bread and a traditional French bread, all of which are fresh and delicious, especially if you spread on the slightly sweet, slightly tart orange marmalade. There are three options on the Deuxieme (second) course: New Mexico grown fresh fruit served with Meusli; Vishyssoise (a potato soup served chilled) with Applewood smoked bacon, creme fraiche and fresh chives; and an antipasto plate of salami, cheese and olives. We opted for the latter two and enjoyed them very much.
Eight “les entrees” options are available, several of them showcasing creative ways eggs and sauces can be combined. The “Left Bank burritos” were a unique twist on a New Mexico standard, featuring two crepes generously stuffed with scrambled eggs, cream cheese, chives and tomatoes. Accompanied by two strips of Applewood smoked bacon and a potato cake, the “burritos” are ethereal in their light texture and blend several flavors very well . The hand-carved, whole roasted New York steak a la Diane emboldened subtly with a Cognac cream sauce and snappy caramelized onions may be even better. Nearly fork tender, the steak is melt-in-your-mouth good and complemented perfectly with Pommes Gratin.
For dessert, only two options are available but they made the brunch’s final course the meal’s crowning moment, a fitting end to a lovely meal and a great way to start the rest of the Sunday. The fairy tale cream puff a la Hans Christian Andersen with caramel and chocolate sauce arrived shaped like a swan. It was no ugly duckling in taste or texture with a requisite lightness and subtle sweetness that made it one of the better cream puffs we’ve experienced in Albuquerque. The Chocolate fantasy a la Deborah, a flourless chocolate cake was even better if that’s possible. Crafted with a semi-sweet chocolate whose flavor properties don’t so much burst upon your taste buds as they do impressing themselves slowly, this was cake to die for.
Dinner at Le Cafe Miche begins with a complimentary amuse buche of house pate with thinly sliced French bread on which to nibble while imbibing the menu. This lagniappe is just one of the many things that make this strip mall restaurant a revered dining institution.
Le Cafe Miche
1431 Wyoming, N.E.
LATEST VISIT: 21 August 2005
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Escargot, Sunday Brunch