Neiman Marcus Cafe, Walnut Creek

by foodhoe on May 12, 2013

1000 S. Main St., Walnut Creek 94596 | 925.472.6186 | website

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NM Cafe is located on the top floor of Neiman Marcus in Walnut Creek, hidden behind cases filled with glittering objects and racks of shimmering garments with price tags that can make your heart stop if like me, you’re not a regular shopper. Of course, I was not there to shop… I was going to the cafe, which was participating in last month’s Walnut Creek Restaurant week (try saying that 5 times quickly), an annual event where over 2 dozen of Walnut Creek’s finest restaurants offer 3 course prix-fixe lunch and/or dinner menus at prices ranging from $10-$40.

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My adventurous co-worker Claire joined me to indulge in a lavish three-course lunch for $30 each, which was extravagant in a budgetary manner as well as for taking far more time than our allotted hour for lunch.  Sometimes it’s good to shake things up a little and treat yourself…  The cafe is a cozy oasis where you can go recover from the travails of parking and shopping and enjoy items from the elegant  menu showcasing locally sourced ingredients by Executive Chef Santana Diaz.  He worked his way through the ranks at Taste Restaurant in Plymouth, The Firehouse, and most recently was sous chef for the Sacramento Kings.  On a previous visit, the charming chef came out and visited each table, but alas this time, we did not see him…

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Chef Diaz created a three-course prix fixe meal for Restaurant week that was so popular that he made it a permanent fixture on the menu.  The entree options seemed more like something I’d like for dinner, the choices being either scallops or filet mignon…  Since there were two options for each course, we decided to try one of each.  As far as service goes, there were numerous staff servicing our table and our main waiter was young but very earnest and attentive.  We felt very pampered.

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The server brought us warm, just-from-the-oven popovers and we each got a slab of strawberry butter.

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It’s a beauty, isn’t it?  The term”popover” comes from the fact that the batter swells or “pops” over the top of the muffin tin while baking.

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It has a crispy shell with an airy, billowy interior lined with a tender spongy, eggy bread that must be slathered with the strawberry butter which melts into the warm fragrant bread.  It’s unforgettably delicious and is my favorite thing about NM Cafe.

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We were served a petite cup filled with a rich clear chicken broth which went surprisingly well with the popover.

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For my lunch, I enjoyed the Lobster Chowder, which was rich and creamy, full of bites of tender maine lobster

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Seared Sea Scallops, with Sweet Pea & Ricotta Ravioli in a parmesan lemon broth, watercress, fennel, spring peas.  Nicely cooked and seasoned, vibrant and full of fresh spring vegetable flavor.

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I loved the Berry Shortcake, slices of tender cake topped with vanilla ice cream, and warm berry sauce.  It was fresh and light and I couldn’t stop eating it even if I was stuffed to the gills.

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Claire had the Three Endive Salad, grapefruit, avocado, almonds, ricotta salata, citrus vinaigrette

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Petite Filet, crispy fingerling potatoes, peperonata, watercress, grilled zucchini, red wine demi-glace

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And she especially loved the signature Walnut Creek Bar, served warm, with vanilla ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauces

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After stuffing ourselves with the popovers, neither of us could finish our entrees, and our doggie bags were quite grand.
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And so ended our meal, but here is just a bit of a digression…  Last year I came for Restaurant Week with my now ex-coworker Chris, but we ended up ordering off the regular menu. On the previous visit, some models walked around the dining area to tempt us with some new items that had just arrived.

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Here is the Cioppino, which was topped with a large piece of seared halibut and covered with a rich creamy sauce.

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And I had the BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders which was served with slaw and french fries.

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The pork was excellent and made even better with the zesty bbq sauce!  Ok, now I’m really done.  It’s definitely worth a visit to the Cafe.

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