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A little Restaurant 101 is in order 

DINING 101: Going back to the basics could help Cafe 201.
  • DINING 101: Going back to the basics could help Cafe 201.

Just off the I-430 and I-630 interchange, on Shackleford Road next to P.F. Chang's, sits the newly renovated Crowne Plaza, a 243-room luxury hotel that was, in its previous life, a Holiday Inn. Inside is Cafe 201, down a carpeted corridor just beyond the swanky Rocks Bar.

Café 201 is swanky too, with white linen tablecloths. It's a little short on ambiance, though; the only background music to our meal came courtesy of a lone diner whose knife clanged against his plate as he hacked into his hunk of steak. Lone, too, was the waitress.

From a short list of wines by the glass, we selected two moderately priced reds. The waitress brought a white wine to the table, but profusely apologized for the mistake. She returned with the Cabernet Sauvignon, which was full and flavorful.

The dinner menu was also short: one appetizer (chicken quesadillas, $7.95), three salads and four entrees, including a 16-ounce ribeye ($26.95), a 6-ounce filet mignon ($22.95), garlic grilled jumbo shrimp ($17.95), grilled Atlantic salmon ($16.95) and rotisserie chicken ($14.95). We chose the two seafood entrees and helped ourselves to the bread basket, which contained four floured rolls, on the dry side and not warm.

Soon after came hearty dinner salads of mixed greens, tomato wedges, sliced cucumbers and boiled eggs. The size was impressive, but we were let down by the house vinaigrette, whose brightly colored specks of spices betrayed its identity — Kraft Zesty Italian.

The entrees were appealingly presented. The generous slab of salmon was covered in a canary yellow citrus saffron sauce and accompanied by a dollop of horseradish mashed potatoes and steaming sauteed spinach. The salmon was grilled to perfection with a crisp brown outside and pink, flaky inside, but was slightly overwhelmed by the salty saffron sauce. The horseradish potatoes were tasty, if a little too sticky. The sauteed spinach complemented the dish nicely. Our companion's skewered shrimp came stacked atop thick round bread crisps together with steamed squash and zucchini. The shrimp were well-seasoned —garlicky, but not overpowering. We ate greedily and saved no room for dessert, although the restaurant offers an assortment of cookies ($2.95 for two); cheesecakes made by The Cheesecake Factory ($5.25); a double double chocolate cake with five layers of cake frosting and fudge ($4.95); a “flower pot” brownie sundae ($4.95), and a sizzling apple pie served a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream ($4.95). The restaurant also serves a full breakfast menu and assorted sandwiches for lunch.

On balance the entrees were fine. But Cafe 201 desperately needs more menu options, a more diverse wine list and a little mood music to attract a crowd, not to mention the folks who happen to be staying the night.

Cafe 201

Two Stars

201 S. Shackleford

223-3000

Quick Bite

Seafood dishes stand out on a short dinner menu that's sure to expand as the new restaurant grows. The dessert list tempts cheesecake lovers and chocoholics alike. While the restaurant offers a small selection of wines by the glass, the adjacent Rocks Bar boasts more than 20 takes on the classic martini. Cafe 201 also serves breakfast and lunch.

Hours

Monday through Sunday

Breakfast 6 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Lunch 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Dinner 5-10 p.m.

Other info

Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Wine and beer.

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