Restaurant Review :: Caffe Niche

Lately I have been on a merry-go-round of the same restaurants, repeating my favorite places week after week.  While there is nothing like a familiar place, I was craving the excitement of a new place.  My friend Meagan and I decided to try Caffe Niche, a place that I hadn’t heard much about but was curious to experience.
Caffe Niche, on 779 East 300 South, is a bit hidden in the neighborhood and the atmosphere is of just that: a neighborhood cafe.  Dark painted walls adorned with local artists (always a bonus point in my book) and dim lighting created a cozy ambiance that was intimate enough for a romantic dinner but casual enough for a small group of friends.
The dinner menu offers a group of small plate options (like whole roasted artichoke, roasted beets with goat cheese, and shaved brussel sprouts) along with main entrees (corned beef, sauteed sea scallops, braised buffalo short ribs, to name a few) and a surprisingly decent wine list (including their house wine, a tasty, mellow Argentinian wine for only $5).
Lamb sirloin at Caffe Niche.

We started with an order of the piquillo peppers.  To our disappointment, they never showed up.  But once we received our entrees we thought we’d opt for dessert instead of reminding our server about them.

My pick for the main course was the lamb sirloin ($23), a medley of chopped lamb marinated in garlic, Dijon, oregano and lemon mixed with herb-roasted potatoes and roasted artichoke hearts.  The lemon/garlic flavoring throughout the dish was delightfully flavorful and complimented the lamb really well.  The roasted artichoke hearts were even better; a slight char gave them good character and they had the perfect texture.  The dish was enjoyable… but predictable.  Sometimes familiar food hits the spot, but I couldn’t help but feel almost bored with the dish.

Roasted chicken at Caffe Niche.
Meagan ordered the half roasted chicken ($16), a herb/garlic/lemon-marinated chicken with a red quinoa and arugula salad.  The chicken’s lemon flavor was subtle and not too over-powering and deliciously moist.  The quinoa salad was an interesting mixture of texture and flavor.  Her conclusion mirrored mine: while it was a good dish, nothing about it sparked excitement.  It was a hearty-sized amount of chicken but the server took the dish away from her almost mid-bite!  Luckily she was finished, but I was shocked that the server didn’t confirm before taking a plate with food left on it.
Caffe Niche’s chocolate decadence and key lime pie desserts.
With all hope to blow me away riding on the dessert, I ordered the key lime pie ($7) and Meagan chose the chocolate decadence ($7).  The key lime pie was a miniature full pie (I loved the mini part) on a sauce of berries.  Those of you that know me well know that I’m not a fan of a berry blood bath on any dessert, so I was less than enthusiastic.  Nonetheless, the key lime pie was perfectly tart and refreshing.
The chocolate decadence was a tiny chocolate cake densely packed with delicious chocolate richness.  So rich in fact, that Meagan only ate half of it!  Both dishes were delightful but we should have split one between us, or maybe have taken the server’s recommendation for the grapefruit brulée, which she said people come in especially for.
In the end Caffe Niche was an enjoyable evening, but I doubt I’ll return.  Everything was up to par–the food was good (not outstanding), the service was ok (but not excellent), the atmosphere nice–but for the price I would much rather go somewhere where the dishes are going to surprise me a bit more.
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