Taste Test 2: Blue Cat Café and Wine Bar | Summer Guide | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Taste Test 2: Blue Cat Café and Wine Bar

1 Lawson Lane, Burlington, 363-3639


Ozzie and Mariasha Giral - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Ozzie and Mariasha Giral

From the time it opened in November 2006, The Blue Cat Café and Wine Bar was a business that I ached to fall in love with: The space is lush and intimate, the owners young and enthusiastic, and the food . . . Well, the Italian-accented dishes always sounded intriguing.

But on five visits — with different companions and at different times of year — the relationship never blossomed. Invariably, seasonings fell flat or portions weren’t filling enough to justify the expense. One memorable garnish, served atop a less-memorable chicken dish, mimicked the taste and texture of a biodegradable packing peanut. Yes, I’ve eaten a packing peanut.

At the beginning of 2008, the restaurant changed its concept, moving away from panini and pasta to focus on steak (the emphasis on wine is as strong as ever). But due to previous disappointments and an already hectic dining schedule, it took me until this November to make it back. And then, finally, I had my first swoon-worthy Blue Cat meal.

From amongst five steaks, I selected the massive, prime-graded porterhouse ($31). Unlike at classic steakhouses — which seem to charge a separate fee for every lettuce leaf — the entrée came with a salad, a starch and the veggie of the day. My vegetarian companion was excited by a spaghetti squash, apple and goat cheese concoction ($14). Selecting a wine — I opted for an inky Malbec — was easy, given the flowery-yet-fun menu descriptions and some encouragement from our knowledgeable server.

Our wines arrived quickly, followed by a breadbasket with a twist: Instead of yeasty rolls or a crisp baguette, we got warmed pita with garlicky hummus and a few olives. The Caesar salad was unusually light and delicious. But the steak was truly the piéce de résistance. Served with skin-on, “dirty” mashed potatoes and sweetly chewy infant kale, the 20-ouncer was seared dark on the outside and bloody in the middle, as requested. It was properly salted, and the optional port and ’shroom topping ($2) was a pleasantly rich accompaniment.

The vegetarian entrée was good and satisfying, if a touch too small.

Our bill, including tip, came to about $100, which may be a bit luxe for current economic conditions. But had we focused on frugality, we could have eaten for less: My steak — half of which made its way home in a to-go container — was the priciest one on the menu, and we could have skimped on the wine, or skipped dessert.

Starting now, the Blue Cat and I are officially an item.