Life is chill in the Bleu
by Daniel P. Bader
On a hot summer day the garden space behind Bleu Evolution on W. 187th Street and Ft. Washington Avenue offers welcome shade and a cool drink. Called simply “Bleu” by locals, everything in this 11-year-old Hudson Heights restaurant lends itself to a laid back summer. Grapevines with immature fruit climb over the wire roof of the patio, providing natural shade without feeling closed in. Late afternoon light drips in through the leaves back-dropped by the gurgling of a fountain.
Inside it’s a little more eclectic. There’s a neon-electric crucifix, a piano that doesn’t work, and an assemblage of artwork and color that hints of a bohemian old New Orleans. Julio Gonzalez and Alfonso Hernandez bought the restaurant in 2005 and upgraded the bar and the menu, but the theme has always stayed the same.
“Bleu is French and Italian culinary,” says owner Julio Gonzalez. “We have really good pastas. Everything here is homemade.”
Bleu offers a mouthful of pastas, from pappardelle, ricotta gnocchi, regular and whole wheat fettuccine to linguini capellini, penne, farfalle. Sauces include veal and pork Bolognese, turkey meatballs and san marzano tomato marinara.
Gonzalez said the most popular dish however, comes from the French side of the menu – the Steak Au Povire – his personal favorite.
“It’s a 10-ounce shell steak with green cracked pepper in a cream sauce,” he said. It’s served with mashed potatoes and string beans.
The deep dinner menu has a dish for almost anyone.
Caribbean Tilapia shares the page with braised brisket and a dish of spicy sausage – a homemade pork sausage served with broccoli rabe and cream, served over farfalle.
Gonzalez has American fare too. The burgers from the bar menu are available to diners as well, and the oven-roasted chicken is particularly tender. At $18.50, it comes served with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes.
On the weekends Bleu offers a $12.50 prix fixe brunch from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. that includes coffee and juice. If you’re in a more celebratory mood, there’s a $13.95 option that comes with a mimosa, a Bloody Mary or champagne.
Bleu is a break from the waffles and pancakes that make up a typical brunch – though Gonzalez serves buttermilk blueberry pancakes and a tempting cranberry and raisin challah with Vermont maple syrup.
The brunch menu has an impressive variety of eggs. From eggs Benedict to spinach and goat cheese omelets, or duck hash. For the vegetarian, Bleu is a font of options. Aside from the pastas, there are eight salad combinations, like the Bleu Salad: baby spinach, roasted beets and red peppers with toasted pecans. Pear lovers might want to try the Frisee salad, which includes gorgonzola cheese, poached pears and walnuts drizzled with pear vinaigrette.
Bleu also has hummus with warm pita bread that is listed as an entrée but goes well as a starter.
But whatever your taste, a summer night in the garden is worth the trip.
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.