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Friday, October 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Gourmet deli creatively hits the spot

Special to The Seattle Times

Porcella Urban Market


10245 Main St., Bellevue; 425-286-0080 or www.PorcellaUrbanMarket.com

French/European

$$

Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.

Drinks: Beer and wine.

Credit cards: Major ones accepted.

Access: No obstacles.

Rating:

Recommended.

Markets typically reflect their neighborhoods, and Porcella Urban Market is no different. Its unassuming air befits ye olde village spirit that grips this stretch of Bellevue's Main Street lined with posh shops and low-rise condos. The floor is concrete, the ductwork exposed, the round tables bare but for a dish of salt, a pepper mill and a tiny pumpkin.

But a closer look reveals shelves of fancy foods, a curing room filled with salamis and hams, and a deli case stocked with coq au vin, lamb shanks, beef short ribs, pâté and even caviar — foodstuffs de rigueur in a neighborhood dense with million-dollar domiciles.

So what makes Porcella a deal? The quality of the ingredients and the talents of chef Noah Mellich add value to a French-themed daily menu of elegantly garnished soups ($6), vibrant salads ($7-$8), generously stuffed sandwiches ($9-$11) and hearty entrees ($9-$12). A meal here can be casual and quick, or leisurely. (Note to the weary trudging home from work: Everything in the case can be packed to go, ready to heat and eat at home.)

Place your order and pay at the counter, where owner Kelly Gaddis might be your cashier, a sprig of rosemary peeking rakishly from his shirt pocket. Grab a bundle of napkin-wrapped silverware from the service counter and snag a table or a seat at the counter. Soon a waiter, aproned to the ankles, will appear with your meal.

Soups, salads and entrees come with sliced facelle, like a baguette, only skinnier. Warm gaufrettes — waffle-cut, truffle-salted potato chips — accompany the baguette sandwiches. Those might contain warm slices of lamb with olive and preserved lemon relish, mizithra cheese and shallot confit; or the house-made pork rillette with shaved red onion and wine-plumped currants.

Wine is the beverage of choice with this food; order by the glass or choose a bottle from the retail shelves and enjoy it with your meal for a $5 corkage fee.

Check please:

Beet and cabbage soup: This is bubbie's borsht transformed into a brilliant fuschia emulsion with the texture of a Hermes scarf. The sweet taste of pure beets almost but not quite trumps the cabbage. In the center of the shallow bowl, a dollop of crème fraiche spiked with preserved lemon and horseradish adds just the right sparkle.

Croque Madame: Monsieur doesn't know what he's missing. This baguette sandwich adds a butter-fried egg to the basic Croque Monsieur combo of jambon and Gruyère. The cheese is deliciously gooey; the meat thinly shaved and salty. Dragging the crusty bread through the yellow-pool egg yolk that inevitably accumulates on the plate gives the term "French dip" a rich new meaning. Warm gaufrettes are included.

Coq au vin: Olives, tomato, carrot and onion contribute flavor and color to the light, herbed wine broth moistening a plump chicken thigh, braised to a fork-tender goodness.

Warm frisee salad: Lacy but sturdy, delicate and slightly bitter, frisee is in its element lavishly dosed with warm chicken-liver vinaigrette and studded with crisp, meaty nuggets of pancetta.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Beet and cabbage soup $6.00

Croque Madame $10.00

Coq au vin $12.00

Warm frisee salad $8.00

Glass of wine $6.99

Beer $4.50

Tax $4.18

Total $51.67

Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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