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[Bell Pepper Blues]
Bell Pepper Blues is an intriguing cross between a formal Old West saloon and a Chicago speakeasy, with rich, dark wood-dominated architecture around an equally dark, elaborately balustraded staircase in one room, and a smoky-feeling bar (they don’t actually allow smoking) of hushed tones in the other, and scattered with well-spaced tables that seem more rustic and rough-hewn than the rest of the interior. Somehow, it all works, and one feels both comforted by the studied informality and anticipatory at the signs that all is not quite so informal as it seems, especially in the kitchen.

A mix of blues, mid-century pop (Sinatra and the like), and jazz give the room a bit more life that it would otherwise have, thanks to its low table density…and we have a chance to listen for a while, as our waitress for the evening is apparently not yet on the premises (this was also a subject of much discussion at Bacchus; apparently, there is some sort of local epidemic of tardiness). We’re apologetically assigned a different waitress, which is presented to us as a much bigger deal than it really should be. But it’s the only flaw, and an exceedingly minor one, for this is a restaurant that does a few well-conceived things very, very well.

I start with an “Asian salad” of sesame-coated prawns and seared beef in a Yorkshire pudding shell studded with spring onions and drizzled with chilies and ginger mayonnaise, somewhat adventurous but deliciously-executed. The course that follows is unquestionably the best cervena – and very close to the best venison – I’ve ever tasted in my life, a grilled leg section and a restaurant-made sausage with a flawless spätzle in beet-infused jus. It’s a simple but perfect blend of excellent ingredients and cooking designed to softly merge a few, clear flavors, and upon tasting this there’s little wonder that the restaurant’s chef has won awards for his creativity with this particular meat.

The wine list is nicely done, with a slight preference for pinot noir from the nearby Central Otago, but thoughtfully covering all the bases of quality New Zealand wine.

I’m so filled by this meal that I skip dessert, watching Theresa devour hers while I sip some Scotch. (2/05)


Copyright © Thor Iverson