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Dining Out:

The soup’s the big thing

May 01, 2010|By Lisa Dupuy

Three words: French onion soup. This crock of culinary greatness is the primary reason to come to a friendly neighborhood bistro called the Riverside Cafe. Situated on a corner near the Burbank Equestrian Center, the Riverside Cafe also offers a wide variety of European-inspired dishes and a pleasing, if not well-worn, atmosphere that encourages diners to linger. But oh, the soup is the thing.

I had heard it was good so I went with a healthy dose of skepticism. Other places claim to have the best French Onion Soup but I’ve often found them too salty or too sweet or too beefy. These restaurants try to mask their underachieving soup with gobs of flavorless cheese.

But not here. The long-simmered broth tastes of onions and has lots of sweet onion chunks in it. It is not greasy and not falsely dense in flavor. There is a piece of fresh French bread floating between the soup and the cheesy topping. Yes, there’s a good deal of broiled cheese on top, but it’s a wonderful imported gruyere that breaks down into easy spoonfuls. Even at $7.50, I couldn’t find a thing wrong with it.

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But there’s more to life than onion soup. There’s dessert. They offer a variety of what I call two-buck bars, and they’re outstanding. Each type is homemade on site and some can be sampled before purchasing. On the days I visited, they offered marble cheesecake, cherry oat bars (my favorite), brownies and oatmeal cookies.

I found the items served between soup and dessert to be uneven. It would take quite a few visits to try everything they have to offer on their vast, eclectic menu, so I can’t be sure I tried the best of the best. There are salads, pastas, baked potatoes, sandwiches and meat entrees like most places. But the Riverside Cafe has a definite European slant to its menu.

Items like shepherd’s pie ($14.50), fish and chips ($13) and bangers ($4 each) make obvious its British bias. But there’s something in the preparation of the food, such as the use of curry and chutney, that only hints at its British, French and Greek influences.

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