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February 10, 2010 > Restaurant Review: A Street Cafe

Restaurant Review: A Street Cafe

By Denny Stein

In my humble opinion, the Tri-City Area has a shortage of good continental restaurants. So finding the A Street Cafe in Hayward has renewed my interest in life. It seems the A Street Cafe has been on A Street, a block off of Foothill Boulevard, for many years; approximately two and a half years ago, though, a new chef/owner bought the restaurant.

Executive Chef and Owner, Jose Azmitia, a California native trained in New York, honed his skills for 15 years at the Silver Creek Valley, and Los Altos Golf, Country Clubs. Looking for a small establishment to call his own, he found the A Street Cafe for sale and promptly changed his life. Now the proud proprietor of his own restaurant, Chef Azmitia brings his training, experience, skills, and his Brazilian, Salvadorean, & French heritage to bear in his kitchen. And diners of the Tri-City area are the beneficiaries.

The menu is one page, starting with Beginners, Soupes and Salades; the Entrees offer both Poissons and Viandes. Seated beneath a giant photograph of the Eiffel Tower, the inviting menu reflected the French feel of an unfussy but cozy cafe decorated with rich dark colors and continental styling. Under To Begin With, Chef Azmitia treated us to a sampling of appetizers: Sauteed Garlic Prawns, Sauteed Mussels and Escargot de Bourgogne were all bright, hot, and a-swim in garlicky butter and herbs, each main ingredient shone in its firm, yet tender freshness. We also had the Fromage Cheese Platter, which translates to "Cheese Cheese" Platter - I don't know if this is an oversight or a concession to English only speakers but the cheeses were superb. The Brie, Manchego, and Stilton were accompanied by a piece of honeycomb, paper thin slices of apple and candied pecans. If you've never had these savory cheeses with warm crusty bread and honey, you still have some living to do... perfection!

French Onion Soup Gratinee was a visual and delicious tour de force. The traditional brown crock arrived with cheese melted across two small rafts of French bread floating in a mild but flavorful beef and onion stock. None of the ingredients were overpowering but together they delivered that feeling of satisfaction only provided by a time-honored dish done just right. Parenthetically, we also ordered a Crab Cake and New England Clam Chowder, but as a recent emigre from Maryland and Massachusetts, my advice to diners and chef is to leave the Americas to fend for themselves.

Feeling warm and satisfied, but knowing the review must go on, we embarked on our entrees. Personally, I am partial to fish if someone else cooks it; therefore the Tilapia Provencal seemed a good choice. The pan seared white fish was crisp on the outside, creamy inside, fried capers trailed across the top and it all nestled in a subtle Beurre Noisette. The small carrots and tiny green beans were brushed with garlic hinted butter, and an oven roasted quarter of potato rounding out the frame. Again - perfection.

My erstwhile companion, Dr. Park, herself somewhat of an aspiring chef, ordered the Rack of Lamb. It came with a hearty pool of red wine demi-glace and a pesto sauce topping. This was an unusual combination, but Chef Azmitia explained the intense reduction of the demi-glace and how the combination with the pesto smoothed it out. He was right, and we learned to appreciate a new taste. The lamb itself was superbly fresh and tender, and the potato and asparagus an excellent pairing. Seafood Pasta did not stand up to the high expectations set by the above two dishes. If you prefer a mild creamy sauce, without a piquant seasoning flare, then this dish will please you, as will having your choice of seafood with it.

Before venturing on to dessert, a visit to the restrooms confirmed care and cleanliness. There is a small bar in the front part of the cafe and the narrow kitchen stretches from it toward the rear tables. There was no horrible noise factor, thank goodness, just the intimate sense of being able to converse with one's dinner companions while being well cared for by the chef and wait staff. Matthew, our waiter, gave us plenty of attention, without hovering, and still kept up with his other diners.

In case this review has not yet seemed rhapsodic enough, let us move on to Dessert. And, in the interest of simplicity, let me urge you not to hesitate but go straight for the Profiteroles with Chocolate Valrhona Sauce. Not to put too fine a point on it, after you finish licking the plate, look up Valrhona in Wikipedia for the history of this incredible chocolate. There was also the perfection of the Creme Brulee, one of the finest we've ever sampled, and, as a coup de grace, we were offered a flourless Chocolate Lava Cake that took my breath away.

Jose Azmitia, who is an attractive and charming host, clearly takes great delight in his creations, his guests and his little French Hayward hide-away. But don't let it hide too long, I heartily recommend a visit soon. FYI - On Sunday nights the menu includes a roast of beef, carved tableside to your portion specifications. Save me some.

Reviewed December 18, 2009

The A Street Cafe
1213 A St., Hayward
(510) 582-2558

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