Monday, May 11, 2009

Cafe Rani

I think it's funny how certain restaurants fit their areas of the city so well. Can you imagine Mandina's or Liuzza's anywhere else but Mid-City? How about R&O's up and moving out of Bucktown? Restaurants not only adapt to their local (and I'm talking neighborhood) clientele, but also eventually define the area.

I think that Cafe Rani fits perfectly on Magazine Street and nowhere else. Picture this: a well-shaded courtyard where a table of Uptown ladies sit down for a relaxing and nutritious lunch of salads after a morning spa treatment at Belladonna. It's easy to imagine because I swear that this exact scenario plays out right in front of me every time I eat at Cafe Rani. I can't say that I blame the frequent patrons because this might be one of the top 5 al fresco dining venues in the city. The food, on the other hand, does not live up to the surroundings. That's not to say that Cafe Rani should be avoided - I think that this is a great place for a group lunch when the weather permits outdoor dining.

The Mediterranean Appetizer Medley is perfect to be shared among a table of 4 (which is a good thing because the service often tends to the slow side). Hummus, black olive tapenade, crumbled feta, and chopped tomato Provencal. Each individual spread is average in regard to taste, but on the whole at $9 this is a bargain.

On our last visit, The Folk Singer had the Curried Chicken Salad (foreground) and I had the Odyssey Chicken Sandwich (background). The salad was enormous in size with raisins, grapes, apples, and walnuts, but she and I both agreed that the curry dressing was far too sweet.

I fared much better with my sandwich of grilled chicken, tomatoes, spinach, roasted red peppers, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, feta, swiss, and a pesto yogurt sauce. Paired alongside a small scoop of potato salad, this meal was quite satisfying without weighing me down.

But that's about all I get from Cafe Rani - "satisfying." There is nothing wrong with simple satisfaction, and our meal was very healthy (something that often can't be said of the dining experiences we write about). But it's not a meal which entices me to return. I would put Cafe Rani on the same level as Semolina's Bistro Italia, which comes as no surprise because I am fairly certain that the Taste Buds also own and operate Cafe Rani.

Cafe Rani - Eagle for atmosphere; Par for food.

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