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Globe Northwest Dining Out

Blue Stove cooks up enticing flavors

The braised beef short ribs at Blue Stove, with a luscious, intense French reduction sauce, is a hearty and rich dish. The braised beef short ribs at Blue Stove, with a luscious, intense French reduction sauce, is a hearty and rich dish.
January 18, 2009
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Blue Stove
Nordstrom, Burlington Mall,
75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington
781-345-7800, ext.1610
www.bluestove.com
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Reservations accepted
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped

Blue Stove, named after the restaurant's blue steel Montague stove, is Nordstrom's first small-plate, full-service restaurant serving international food.

The largest fashion retailer in the United States with 165 stores, Nordstrom is known for its service, such as hand delivering merchandise to customers' homes and its liberal return policy - one apocryphal tale described a customer returning tires for a refund (Nordstrom never sold tires). The Blue Stove restaurant is part of the retailer's strategy to encourage customers to spend the day in the upscale store.

On an initial visit, a server introduced Blue Stove as "about sharing good food and wine." The décor is warm contemporary with dark wood, supportive banquettes, iridescent tiles framing a backlit bar, and a long open kitchen. There is a children's menu and high chairs.

The French baguette, just about the only item Blue Stove doesn't make from scratch, comes with a dish of flavorful Carapelli extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with small brown Niçoise and larger, briny, green Picholine olives, enough to stave off hunger pangs. (Oh, if only the bread were warm.)

The sliced roasted garlic chicken ($7.25) sits atop a mixture of arugula, grilled corn, and julienned tomatoes with a light champagne vinaigrette dressing. It is hard to get enough of the lemon scented risotto with seared sea scallops and French beans ($10.25). The bed of risotto has the appropriate firmness, with a distinct but not intrusive flavor from the fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Three wild scallops, some of the largest available, were browned perfectly with clarified butter, soft on the inside, and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The string beans were crisp after being blanched and slightly seared.

While this is the season for shedding holiday pounds, the sweet potato frites ($4.25), accompanied by cilantro lime aioli, are impossible to resist. These crunchy fries cooked in canola oil are a winner, especially with the Provençal mayonnaise full of roasted garlic, lemon and lime juice, parsley, and cilantro.

Cilantro has a lively flavor but does not overwhelm the cilantro lime chicken tacos ($6.25). Four freshly fried tacos are filled with ground chicken, diced tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, slivers of romaine lettuce, queso fresco cheese (a mild Mexican cheese), and a dash of cilantro garnish. Blue Stove grinds the chicken thigh meat after sautéing it with garlic and cilantro.

Braised short ribs with wilted spinach and red wine demi-glace ($9.95) is a hearty, rich selection with tender, boneless chunks of meat that fell apart. To wilt the spinach, it was sautéed for about 10 seconds on the griddle. The luscious, intense French reduction sauce was made with chicken and beef stock.

The only dish that didn't seem to jibe with its price was the lump crab cakes with rémoulade ($11.95). The two scallop-sized cakes were small with chunks of jumbo lump blue crab, but with more bread-crumb filling than I care for. However, they were moist inside with a pleasantly browned exterior. The rémoulade sauce, a chilled homemade mayonnaise dressing, provided a rich contrast as did the mildly bitter frisée salad with sweet quince vinaigrette.

The 38-bottle international wine list is another strength of this restaurant, with 22 wines by the glass. It's a real treat when wines match the food and two of the three did for my palate - both the subtle, delicious Syrah from Qupé Central Coast 2006 ($10, US) and the Shiraz from Water Wheel 2006 ($8, Australia) went equally well with the beef. I was less excited by the white Falanghina from Mastroberardino, Sannio 2006 ($8.50, Italy) with the risotto, regretting that I'd ignored the other good recommendation, the pinot blanc from Lucien Albrecht ($7, France). The wine prices might seem steep but you get more than the average pour.

If you're looking for a chocolate fix, the warm Valrhona chocolate raspberry cake ($5.25) is a must. This molten chocolate cake is made in-house with French Valrhona chocolate and has a crunchy exterior with a soft, almost runny interior. The cake is framed with leaves made from crème anglaise, a custard sauce, and raspberry sauce, and topped with freshly whipped cream, several raspberries and powdered sugar.

With recent belt tightening, it seems extravagant to spend an entire day shopping, but everyone needs occasional indulgences. Blue Stove definitely is worth a visit whether or not you buy anything in the store, because one person can eat well, for about $23 plus tip. ELISABETH TOWNSEND

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