Outside it was gray and drizzly, but to enter Cafe Sparrow at lunchtime was like stepping into spring in Provence. Pastel sponge-painted chairs surrounded tables draped with colorful cloths and lace, protected with glass tops and paper doily placemats.
Sourdough bread with chewy crusts and soft centers was served with fresh butter. The Iced Tea ($3.50) was playfully flavored with black currants.
Two crisply browned Crab Cakes ($11.50), soft and moist in the middles, lusciously fell apart. The delicate crab flavor peeked out between tiny bits of red pepper.
One was topped with an extraordinary tartar sauce that was coarse and tart without the appearance of mayonnaise. The other was dressed with a tart red pepper pesto purée. They were presented with vinaigrette-greens and a sampling of sliced fruit.
Sandwiches are served with home-fried potatoes or salad, and what a side salad it was! Greens in light balsamic dressing were topped with crumbled blue cheese, candied nuts and sweet dried cranberries.
Sandwiched between a large, soft focaccia bun was medium-rare Blackened Ahi ($17.75) with sesame oil-seasoned Asian coleslaw, spicy red onion and wasabi mayonnaise.
The Albacore Cheese Puff ($14.50) was like an open-faced tuna melt on a large, oval slice of sourdough bread spread with spicy Dijon mustard. Underneath a bubbly layer of melted cheddar cheese was moist, white fish and sweet, grilled apples. Both sandwiches were served with fresh fruit.
Feeling the need for a small dessert, the Pot de Crème ($7.50) was irresistible, and by no means tiny. Like a soft fudge, spoonfuls of the dark chocolate-cappuccino blend melted on the tongue. When combined with bites of fresh strawberry, fluffy whipped cream and crème Anglaise, it was sweet heaven in a ramekin. | KP
Cafe Sparrow, 8042 Soquel Ave., Aptos, 688-6238. Beer and wine. Serving lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Sunday brunch 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and dinner nightly from 5:30 p.m. Visit cafesparrow.com