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What's cooking/short reviews Feb. 9

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What's cooking
Beechwood Grill in Hillcrest, next door to the Afterthought on Kavanaugh, is now Vieux Carre, and its new owners have changed the look and the menu, which reflects the new name. Vieux Carre (which fans of New Orleans will know means “old quarter”) opened Jan. 28 after a brief renovation of the interior.
Executive chef and owner David Bennett, who was trained at the Cordon Bleu-affiliated Scottsdale Culinary Institute, says the choice of name was meant to bring to mind “the delicious and eclectic cuisine” of New Orleans. Bennett was trained in classical French cooking, but says his daily goal is to use those techniques along with local and imported ingredients for dishes ranging from Creole to low-country to Southwest and Southern.
Lunch will feature homemade soups, salads, and classic sandwiches such as the London Broil with caramelized onions, as well as entrees such as beef tenderloin.
Crab cakes and shrimp and crab cocktail are among the dinner appetizers, and entrees cover beef, chicken and pork. Vieux Carre will also be open for Sunday brunch with omelets, eggs Benedict, shrimp and grits, pancakes and crepes, and more.
Some of the recent dinner specials have included blackened tuna with avocado cream sauce and rack of lamb with fresh mint pesto.
Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. Dinner hours are 5 p.m. to closing Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the coming weeks Bennett and his family will temporarily shut down the Afterthought lounge for a face-lift and reopen as a non-smoking venue.



Short reviews
NEW
BLUE CAKE
COMPANY Here’s a gem of a new place in a strip center on the exploding Highway 10 corridor. It’s primarily a takeout cake bakery, the work of Culinary Institute-trained Steve and Jan Lewandoski. You need not be seeking an architectural gem of a wedding cake or a space-age take on a kid’s birthday cake to enjoy a visit. Cakes for everyday are not humdrum – there’s a choco-late cake layered with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache and raspberry compote; a nutty German chocolate; “drunken tres leches,” a coconut cake to the 10th power; carrot cake; turtle mousse torte; tipsy trifle torte, and more. These are scratch cakes with butter cream frosting; no sweetened Crisco here. The cakes cost from $19 (serves 6 to 8) to $36 (serves 12 to 16). Desserts include tarts, pies and cheesecake, in sizes from a one-person tart ($3.10) to a 9-inich deep dish pie ($17-$20). Blue Cake is also a welcome outlet for Boulevard Bread breads. There are pastries for sale in the morning and a handful of good grilled sandwiches at lunch – Caprese, Cuban and Reuben – plus an occasional pot pie or quiche. It’s a tiny place and mostly a working bakery. But you can eat a sandwich or scone and have a cup of chicory coffee at one of two tables. The cooks will likely be constructing a custom cake while you watch. In fact, you can have a cake made to order while you watch at the “cake bar.” 14710 Cantrell Road. CC $-$$ 868-7771. BD Mon.-Sat.

CORNERSTONE DELI AND PUB The Kent brothers have moved their popular pub next door to its previous location, and we’re happy for that. Numerous beers and heavier drinks along with regular live music make this a fine stopping-off spot, but it succeeds on the food end as well. Pizzas are on the way. 314 Main St., NLR. Full bar. CC $-$$ 374-1782 LD Mon.-Sat.

UPDATE
FORBIDDEN CITY
Strange as it sounds, as many years as we’ve walked by this restaurant on the lower level of Park Plaza, we’d never once actually eaten there, despite hearing almost exclusively good things about its food. (And it has to mean something that Forbidden City is the lone survivor of the three sit-down restaurants that have called the mall home.) The restaurant’s face stands out from Park Plaza’s other storefronts, and once inside, it’s easy to put out of your mind the fact that you’re a stone’s throw away from the Food Court. Forbidden City’s menu is vast, with all the usual dishes you’d expect in a Chinese restaurant. Even the lunch-special list is 39 items long, all $6 or less. We went with our favorite standby, beef lo mein, with hot-and-sour soup and an egg roll on the side ($4.95). The soup was flat and tasteless compared to others we’ve had elsewhere, but the egg roll and the lo mein held up just fine, and we had enough leftovers to justify a to-go box. Plus, service was speedy enough that we had plenty of time for a detour through the clearance racks on our way out of the mall. Most dinner entrees are under $9 (add $2 for soup and egg roll), and the restaurant delivers at night to a limited area with a $12 minimum purchase. 6000 W. Markham (Park Plaza). Full bar. CC $-$$ 663-9099 LD daily.

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