Grand for you

OK, marketing wizards, answer me this: Does the crossroads corner of West 43rd & Upton—home of Tilia, Upton 43, Naviya, Zumbro and Sebastian Joe’s—need yet-another eatery? Surely not. Yet the team behind the new Kata clearly lacked a corps of MBAs armed with graphs and stats proclaiming “Are you crazy?”

Be glad they didn’t get the memo. The new kid on the block adds another bright light to Linden Hills’ culinary cache, and here’s why. But first, let’s get this confession out of the way: I didn’t expect to like—let alone, love—a kitchen attached to a fitness boutique that trumpets “good for you” eats. Yes, they’re organic, they’re locally sourced, but this is no penitential cell of boring grains and gritty greens. Although the dining room is (cheerfully) bland and basic, the food decidedly is not. And pretty, too!

Summoning a glass of wine—mine, Gruner Veltliner, my companion’s, Chardonnay—from an all-organic-and-sustainable list, we studied the menu, dithering between starters such as pulled pork or burger sliders, flat breads, and well-curated cheeses, we chose the smoked crayfish cheesecake ($10). The cut was huge, the texture light as a quiver, and the taste addictive. It’s a variation on that Deep South delicacy called pimento cheese, into which, here, Louisiana-style sweet smoked crayfish essence penetrates. It’s served with cracked wheat bread and TLC.

Next, from the soup/salad section (gazpacho to panzanella, feta-tomato to beets and walnuts, all around $10), we divided an enormous plate of sweet, seasonal tomatoes, clouds of whipped burrata cheese, and creamy logs of roasted eggplant, making themselves at home on a rustic mound of oil-dressed kale. Perfect.

Skipping the burgers, BLTs and other sandwiches and quartet of rice bowls, we next shared one of the kitchen’s four entrees ($15-$19): sea bass, polenta, brisket, and blackened short ribs. Those off-the-bone short ribs, thinly sliced and peony-pink, overlapped a mound of sautéed wild mushrooms, all scented with truffle oil and brightened with a greens-and-tomato garnish. Well done.

No room for dessert, my partner wept. But someone’s gotta do the dirty work. Manfully (or, more to the point, womanfully) I stepped up to the plate of strawberry shortcake, built upon a still-warm, flaky mega-biscuit loaded with sweet berries and sweet (too sweet) whipped cream. Other choices ($6), all house-made, include cakes ranging from carrot to chocolate mouse (sic, and I asked no questions) and chocolate truffle. There’s a lovely breakfast menu, too, making me wish I’d brought my sleeping bag.

Kata Cafe
4279 Sheridan Ave. S.