A Street Cafe

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A Caveat

Update: This restaurant has closed

A Street Cafe had been on my list of restaurants to try since I moved to San Leandro four and half years ago. It had gotten very good reviews from a variety of diners. For some reason I got it into my head that it was a lunch place - and while they do serve lunch, its prices make it a more appropriate dinner choice. The opportunity to go there came about on a Tuesday in late August, when I wanted to go some place special for lunch.

The little restaurant is small and quite plain. It occupies a small front room and a long, skinny room bordered by a tall partition that keeps the kitchen out of sight. Its plain walls are painted white and pink and are decorated by art from local artists (on that occasion, Photoshopped prints from a digital artist). The place could use more natural light, though this is probably not an issue at dinner. All in all, it had the atmosphere of a small, neighborhood bistro.

A Street Cafe calls itself a French restaurant, but I'd describe the food as continental. The brief menu included two appetizers (escargot and a shrimp cocktail), a couple of soups and a handful of salads. Entrees ($12-18) included several seafood dishes, a New York steak, a pork loin with peach sauce, a vegetarian pasta and a chicken dish (maybe chicken fricassee?). Main dishes come with a choice of soup or salad. Mike decided to start his meal with the shrimp cocktail and continue with the special that day, swordfish served on a bed of couscous ($17). I opted for the New York Steak ($16).

Mike's shrimp cocktail was OK; he's had better. The cocktail sauce tasted like ketchup, but I still couldn't get Mika to eat more than one. I think Mike would have liked to share. He'd chosen a salad with his entree, and he wasn't thrilled with it either. The salad consisted of green lettuce (always a plus) and shredded carrots with a dressing he couldn't identify. He ate it but reluctantly. I, instead, had chosen the cream of mushroom soup and this was positively delicious. Though it was quite light, it was bursting with flavor. It was so good that we all (Mike, Mika and I) fought for every last taste. The bowl wasn't very big, and we really should have ordered another one. They say they serve it rather frequently, and it's probably worth it to go when they have it.

Our main dishes were also very good. My New York steak was tender (almost too tender for a NY Steak), and the wine reduction sauce was intense and delicious. There was nothing novel about this dish, but it was well executed. A couple of roasted potato slices were also good with the sauce. A few steamed baby carrots and green beans (also present in Mike's dish) were unremarkable and even Mika wasn't too interested in eating them.

Mike's seared swordfish was great; it was perfectly cooked and the flavor blended quite well with its accompanying sauce. I'm not a huge fan of fish, but I'd have eaten it all. Unfortunately neither portion was particularly generous, and the swordfish portion was almost ludicrously small. By the end of the meal, and even though we'd eaten quite a bit of bread, we were still somewhat hungry.

The dessert list was either classical or uninspired. It featured a creme brulee, a chocolate mousse, a strawberry napoleon and an ice cream sundae along with a few more choices (most around $6). We decided to split the chocolate mousse, which is actually not big enough for such purposes. It had a nice, buttery texture and tasted fine, mostly of a liqueur that is very familiar and yet I couldn't identify. But it wasn't anything spectacular and I didn't really mind letting Mike and Mika eat it all. It came nicely presented in a wafer container sitting on a pool of raspberry sauce. We had fun breaking up the container and eating it with the sauce.

In all, we found the food to be good but overpriced, especially for lunch and given the size of the portions. The bread served before the meal was crusty and warm, but I didn't like the whipped butter - it didn't have enough flavor. The coke I ordered came in a 10 oz bottle; for $2 they could at least serve 12 oz cans!

Service was good, everything was brought and taken away promptly.

I may go back to the A Street Cafe, though probably for dinner.

A Street Cafe
1213 A St.
Hayward, CA
(510) 582-2558