I got to know Chef Rob Bland back when he was opening Coquette, Urban Food Group’s French brasserie in North Hills. I learned that Chef Bland was passionate about his food — almost to a fault, occasionally losing sight of the fact that sometimes the customer may not always be right, but the customer is always paying. His passion also created tension in the kitchen, too, but that’s not to be unexpected for a new, high volume restaurant with perfectionist owners. But the thing is, Bland could flat out cook, and he was completely committed to his craft. Stocks were made from scratch, ingredients were top notch, and sauces were classics.
Bland left Coquette a few months ago, and I was wondering what he was doing. Turns out he decided to help out at Cafe Helios, which I thought was a bit odd, as it was my impression that Helios was just a coffee shop with some sandwiches. Well, things are about to change, as Helios is getting its own commercial range and proper ventilation, and Bland is rolling out a full menu of new offerings — including real dinner items. The spring menu is filled with very reasonably priced small plate offerings, and the flavor combinations look quite impressive, such as an English pea ragout with bacon, white wine, oregano and mint or piquillo peppers stuffed with a salt cod and potato puree.
Bland has also started doing First Friday barbecues outside of Helios, which is going to be a hit over the summer. Unfortunately, with the change in the kitchen, there’s no barbecue this week, so we’ll have to wait until June. But we won’t have to wait for the new menu, which should go live some time next week.