If the Homestead Village shopping center on highway 165 is Placitas’ unofficial town hall, then Anja Bladergroen is its mayor.
Five nights a week, Bladergroen holds court in the elbow of the strip mall at Blades’ Bistro, the restaurant she co-owns with her chef-husband Kevin. She is less a host than a doting aunt, warmly greeting diners, hurrying out to the patio with a blanket for a chilled patron and running to the grocer next door to restock provisions.
Observing her, you begin to understand how Blades’ has survived for more than 12 years in Placitas, a sleepy community north of the city where million-dollar homes look down from their hilltop perches on trailer homes and tiny A-frames.
Blades – the name refers to kitchen knives – shares Homestead Village with a grocer, a café and a pizza place, and the place was buzzing on a recent Saturday evening. Only one table was available in Blades’ small dining room at 5:30.
There was plenty of room on the patio though, where it was warm until the sun dug under a line of clouds near the horizon. No matter though, as there were plenty of propane heaters standing by. Though it faces the parking lot, the walled-off space is tranquil, with gnarled, naked vines and strings of lights providing a canopy. A bowl of water and some chew toys were set out for any dogs who happened by.
Blades’ menu of French bistro favorites like Salad Niçoise and Steak Frites reflects chef Kevin Bladergroen’s culinary training in Paris. There are a few Asian and Italian dishes too.
Service begins with a complimentary basket of bread and bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was enough for a meal when paired with the Soup du Jour ($7.50), an excellent mushroom bisque served in a broad, shallow bowl. Its warmth and meatiness were welcome on the cool spring evening.
Salads are available both as sides and entrees. In the Spinach Salad ($12.95), a generous mound of greens is girded with candied pecans, crumbled blue cheese and sliced pears and lightly dressed with vinaigrette. The compelling mix of texture, sweetness and pungency was enough for two to share.
The Fish du Jour was grouper ($32.95), a large-mouthed species from the warm seas that’s not often seen on menus around here. The filet was served in a bright yellow hollandaise sauce under a pile of crab meat and chopped mushrooms. The lemony sauce complemented the mild-flavored, slightly sweet fish nicely. Halved roasted potatoes and green beans were cooked just right, but the carrots were still a bit crunchy. The fish paired well with a glass of Della Scala’s dry, crisp pinot grigio ($8.50).
Filet Mignon ($36.95), a special that evening, was served cloaked in a layer of blue cheese over a port wine reduction. The concentrated sweetness of the port and the pungent cheese added considerable punch to a large, tender filet that was cooked to the requested medium-rare. It was served with the same vegetables as the fish.
The small dessert menu offers four items and a couple of dessert wines. Chocolate Decadence ($8.95), the one gluten-free option, features a flourless chocolate torte over raspberry coulis on a square black plate that looked like it had been dunked in confectionery sugar. The torte, dry and crumbly, was overshadowed by couple of exceptional truffles made in-house.
Service, initially prompt, slowed as the patio filled and the server got a bit overwhelmed. Kudos to the enthusiastic young man who brought out the dinners and kept the water glasses filled. Many of the dishes are gluten-free or can be adapted that way.
All told, it was a two-hour meal, but we didn’t mind. Between the people-watching and the sounds of jazz and classical music piped out of speakers over the patio, time flew by. Just 15 minutes from the Big I, Blades’ Bistro offers a relaxing getaway with an intriguing, ambitious menu.