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New moon rising 

Some properties seem to change hands, management and identities like I change my underwear, and 2215 Gottingen is one such locale. The newest incarnation of this cavernous nightclub space is composed of three parts. Upstairs, it’s a cabaret, downstairs in the back of the house there’s an after-hours juice bar and on the street side is the Blue Moon Bistro, three months old and ready for a test drive.

There’s a spare, moody look inside the bistro. Rough wooden booths with seats a little too short for comfort line the window; cement floors and a low hung, false ceiling give it a blue (but not quite melancholy) atmosphere. A mix of classic jazz and contemporary urban music drifts over our heads, and I half expect to see Tom Waits in the corner rasping his way through “Nighthawks at the Diner.”

This whole feeling is dispelled, however, the instant our server arrives at the table. Billy is one of those people who reads his audience well and who is able to adjust his interaction style according to the mood of the table. He sizes us up and is soon quite over the top in a funny, entertaining and altogether delightful way; I note that he is friendly but much more reserved with a table near us. I love to see this ability to make service style adjustments, because it makes the experience that much more enjoyable—as it certainly does in this case.

Following Billy’s recommendation, we begin with feta bruschetta ($6.50), a twist on the classic bruschetta. Four light rolls topped with tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, black olives and crumbled feta cheese are a nice change of pace and quite good. (I especially like that the bread isn’t toasted so dry and hard that it hurts the roof of one’s mouth to bite into—I’ve literally cut my gums on some nasty bruschetta).

For our main courses we pick two of the house specialties—ribs and pizza. The half-rack of ribs ($9.25) is coated with a tangy, spicy barbecue sauce. Not exactly “falling off the bone,” but very meaty and quite good, these ribs are great value for the price. On the side there’s a pile of fries, as well as sautéed peppers and zucchini, which are nicely seasoned.

The barbecued chicken pizza is on a very thin crispy crust that I also quite like. There’s plenty of chicken and caramelized red onions, and just a hint of barbecue sauce. Again, great value—the thin crust means that one person can easily finish it, but with a salad it could be a nicely sized meal for two.

Cheesecake makes up the bulk of the dessert menu, and we decide to sample two items: the mocha chocolate chip and the deep-fried cheesecakes ($3.95 each). The mocha chocolate chip is a smallish wedge, with whipped cream. The deep-fried cheesecake is plain, wrapped in a phyllo pastry shell and deep-fried, served with two scoops of store-bought ice cream. Unfortunately, both cheesecakes are the worst I have ever tasted—there’s an unidentifiable taste, with no cream cheese flavour to be found. The greasy mouth-feel and tough, dry texture of both desserts is completely foreign to me and to my friend, an accomplished pastry chef.

So I wouldn’t have the cheesecake again. But, given the fabulous service, food quality and value for the price, I’ll be back here more than once in a blue moon.

Blue Moon Bistro 2215 Gottingen Street 446-3644 Daily from 8am-late (call for kitchen hours)

More of Liz Feltham’s reviews are orbiting in cyberspace: www.foodcritic.ca

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