Sometimes fine food can begin to border on the pretentious, with too many flavors, too much fuss that doesn’t allow the food to stand for itself. Sometimes, all one wants is the sort of food available at Gindi Café in Boulder: simple, unencumbered ingredients allowed to sing on their own accord. The owner, Francine Gindi, calls it “A New York-style brasserie serving interesting food at affordable prices,” and this seems to pretty well sum it up.
Like a well-edited gallery exhibition or fine wine list, the menu at Gindi Café is brief, but thoughtfully considered. After eating the food here, one cannot help but believe that each ingredient was chosen with care, each dish thoughtfully executed. It’s an exercise in dining minimalism without any deprivation.
At each meal, the menu focuses on one or two specialties. For breakfast, it’s the three-egg sandwich made-to-order. For lunch, salads and sandwiches dominate, with a daily soup or two thrown in for good measure. All three salads impressed; though my dining companion was surprised that her Caesar salad arrived with its house-made dressing on the side in a tiny plastic cup, she admitted that the chicken was excellent and the dressing a pleasant take on tradition, with a strong but not overpowering, anchovy flavor. My favorite was the spinach salad, eschewing recent trends for a sweet vinaigrette and soft cheese with garbanzo beans, red onion and a piquant chili orange dressing instead. The rosemary chicken soup we sampled, the day’s special, was like something grandma would make. And Gindi’s pressed Cuban sandwich was delicious, benefiting from their house-marinated pork and house-made mustards.
For dinner, the menu revolves around a selection of mostly Mediterranean-inspired small plates, a trio of roast chicken dishes and an interesting collection of other specialties. We were impressed with the hummus: traditional with a smooth consistency and plenty of garlic (just the way we like it). The coconut chicken bites, also available with tofu, were baked rather than fried, with a light coconut flavor. I would have liked to see them as a main course or as the protein in a main-course salad. The roasted vegetable tart was a delicious mélange of vegetables dressed only with goat cheese, which let their natural sweetness and complexity of flavors shine. The mustard-glazed chicken featured a thick mustard mixture adding just a touch of crunch from the whole mustard seeds. The entire meal was an exercise in simplicity and moderation that left us feeling virtuous yet completely satisfied.
And of course, no mention of Gindi Café would be complete without a mention of their excellent mini desserts. While not touted on their menu, these little gems are not to be missed, and because they are prepared in individually sized portions, one can indulge without negating that lovely virtuous feeling. We especially enjoyed the fruit tart, the chocolate bundt cake and especially, especially the Nutella cheesecake. Ordered with an espresso or cappuccino, these feel like a tiny indulgence of the highest caliber.
Three and a half stars
3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Bottom Line: An excellent value for simple, well-prepared foods.