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Cheap Eats

A quiet, elegant respite from shopping

Mark Gibson and Diane Hoyle-Moran sit at the bar recently at Blue Stove inside Nordstrom at the Burlington Mall. Mark Gibson and Diane Hoyle-Moran sit at the bar recently at Blue Stove inside Nordstrom at the Burlington Mall. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / March 30, 2011

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One of the nicest things you can say about eating at Blue Stove is that you forget where you are. That would be the second floor of Nordstrom in the Burlington Mall, up the escalator and past racks of Michael Kors bikinis and glittery blouses. After all the harsh lights of the department store and the vast sea of clothing, Blue Stove feels like a soothing cave, with dim lights, soft music, and wine.

You’re in a mall, but the menu is unrelated to mall food. Blue Stove serves a sophisticated array of small plates, from clams fideo to risotto to tiny chicken tacos. Whether these eats are cheap depends on how much you order. But the small plates are moderately priced, most of them under $10. One nice perk not usually seen at restaurants like this one: Nordstrom puts all nutritional information for all of its restaurants online.

During weekday lunches, the restaurant is populated mostly by women, including some with young children. (Blue Stove has a children’s menu, with basics like mac and cheese and chicken fingers.) On the weekend, the restaurant gets livelier and louder, and more men make an appearance. Although the dining room, with a bar along one side, is filled with neutral browns and beiges, mushroom-shaped lamps with red glass bases and tall shades add an air of whimsy.

Every meal begins with slices of a baguette, a few olives, and a plate of excellent olive oil. Warm goat cheese salad with beets and arugula ($6.95) is a nice mix of golden and red beets, and soft cheese. Diet Coke is delivered in a carafe. Lemon-scented risotto with seared scallops and French beans (pictured, $10.95) is one of our favorite dishes, with perfectly cooked rice, tangy with lemon. Cilantro lime chicken tacos ($7.25) are adorable miniature tacos with a nice balance of crunch and salt and tang. These small dishes are so perfectly assembled that you picture a back room of tiny-fingered kitchen staff. Sweet potato frites with cilantro lime aioli ($5.25) are addictively crunchy, and even better dipped into the aioli.

Ahi tuna stack with ponzu and crisp wontons ($8.95) arrives beautifully assembled into a circular tower, but the fish has been so oversalted that we can barely taste other flavors. Lump crab cakes with remoulade ($12.25) are also uninspiring, dominated by egg and bread crumbs. The smoky broth of clams fideo with toasted pasta and Spanish chorizo ($10.50) holds together the dish and softens the pasta — though it makes for clumsy eating, scooping little clams from their shells and spearing the cubes of chorizo in the broth. Seared wild mushrooms and grilled asparagus ($7.50) taste as if they were in season locally, no small feat in New England in March.

The blinds are drawn at Blue Stove, blocking out the parking lot and dirty remnants of snow. The dressing rooms are forgotten. This is a respite, if only for an hour, and then it’s back out into the mall to do some serious shopping.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at kburge@ globe.com.

BLUE STOVE Burlington Mall, 75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-345-7800, shop.nordstrom.com. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

PRICES Salads $5.95-$7.95. Small plates $5.25-$12.25.

HOURS Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

LIQUOR Full bar.

MAY WE SUGGEST Lemon-scented risotto with seared scallops and French beans, cilantro lime chicken tacos, sweet potato frites with cilantro lime aioli, clams fideo with toasted pasta and Spanish chorizo.

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor