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Published February 07, 2012, 11:30 PM

Dining review: Nichole’s Fine Pastry still achieves quality over quantity

Some intimacy lost in restaurant expansion
FARGO – Aesthetics is all about putting a value on a place or a thing or an experience. Nichole’s Fine Pastry in Fargo has a long history of elegant pastries, good coffee, quality art and competent service.

By: Eric Daeuber, Special to the Forum, INFORUM

RESTAURANT REVIEW

Nichole’s Fine Pastry

Cuisine: Bistro

Ratings:

<•> Food: 3 1/2 stars

<•> Service: 3 stars

<•> Ambiance: 3 stars

Dining details

<•> Phone: 701-232-6430

<•> Hours: Tuesday to Wednesday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lunch menu served until 2 p.m.

<•> Reservations accepted: no

<•> Alcohol: Wine

<•> Dress: As you like

<•> Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover

FARGO – Aesthetics is all about putting a value on a place or a thing or an experience. Nichole’s Fine Pastry in Fargo has a long history of elegant pastries, good coffee, quality art and competent service.

Having a cup of coffee and a slice of Waldorf Astoria cake, dabbing your mouth with your napkin and saying to yourself, or whomever you’re with, that was worth it, is saying something important. Nichole’s has been dishing that experience up for years. The question is, can they do the same with lunch?

They can come very close.

When Nichole’s expanded in 2010, they added a lunch menu, wine selection and some of the best homemade gelato this side of Sardinia.

The lunch menu is simple and short. Regulars include quiche, asparagus and turkey the day we visited ($3.75) and soups including a thick northwoods-style chicken wild rice ($4.25).

Nichole’s is not new to pie, and the quiche crust could have done any pie proud. The filling was firm with the kind of near-custard consistency that makes this sort of dish a euro-café favorite.

Beyond the baked egg bistro staples, there are some very nice surprises.

Salads included a winter potato salad with sweet and red potatoes and an orzo with feta salad. These are well thought out basic sides. No truffle oil. No walnuts. No minced tarragon. Just basic interpretations of classic salads with enough of a twist to make you nod while you chew.

A full salad will set you back $5.75, making it a better value option that almost anything else you can find that close to downtown.

The single hot sandwich on the menu, a French dip on toasted bread with a side of homemade pickles ($8) really sets Nichole’s apart from what might otherwise be a pastry shop with a sandwich cooler attached.

The meat was moist, hot and fresh, and the cheese and horseradish sauce meant that this bit of basic beef wasn’t an afterthought.

It’s a bit disappointing that the menu isn’t more expansive but, just as they do with pastries, high quality trumps variety every time.

Nichole’s expansion meant more space but at the cost of coziness and the quaint European subtleties that gave Nichole’s its urban oasis feel. Some may call it eclectic, but the new space is basically more space, not more dining room.

The lighting, furniture, wallpaper and linens haven’t been introduced thoughtfully over time, which is what eclectic is all about, and some of the concentrated continental comfort of the front room is lost.

The new dining area isn’t inappropriate for a menu that aims at simple lunch offerings, but if it’s looking to continue a tradition of long conversations among friends, it deserves the same careful consideration that the front room received.

End your meal with cannoli, ($3) with a richer-than-you’re-used-to traditional ricotta filling certain to seduce the Sopranos.

Better still, try the orange and ginger gelato ($3.75), a bright, weirdly oriental twist on an Italian favorite.

I’m looking forward to the summer sidewalk seating at Nichole’s when it recovers some of its trademark intimacy and boulevard charm

Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.

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