Michael Mitarnowski

Colleen's Bistro
738 E Burnside
546-8796

Once a tucked-away breakfast joint populated by hipsters and devotees of Ozone Records, Colleen's is back, better, and ready for dinner. A scant distance from her former station, the new space is larger, with a beautiful handmade bar and antique flourishes on the chairs, lighting, and dishware.

All summer we've gone without Colleen's breakfast favorites like burritos and poached eggs served with crisp salads, French-pressed coffee, and fresh-squeezed juice. Perhaps the only thing we haven't missed is the wait. Although the former location was tiny and rarely crowded, it gained a reputation for slow service, a deterrent to lunch-breaking workers who craved the food but loathed calling in late to the office.

This European pacing is indicative of creator Colleen French's curatorial attitude toward her food, and her manic attention to detail. Everything served is finely selected, with an insistence on organic and free-range ingredients. Likewise, everything down to the bread is made from scratch on the premises. This emphasis on carefully monitored quality and freshness translates into a menu that frequently adjusts to reflect whatever's in season, rather than a rigid list that caters to an American fondness for familiarity and controlled experiences.

Another Euro-reminiscent element of Colleen's food is her talent for portion control. My first Colleen's dinner entrée was an exquisite vegetarian selection (which, as the menu states, are "based upon farmers' market availability"), an open-faced ravioli with pesto and heirloom tomatoes. But when it arrived in front of me, my first thought was that I'd still be hungry, accustomed as I am to excessive restaurant portions. In fact the amount proved perfect, leaving just enough room for a sophisticated dessert of savory Gruyere and accompanying glass of well-selected Riesling.

But never fear, the Colleen's breakfast standbys you knew and loved are back, only slightly modified, with an expanded selection, and served until five. Also, whereas previously the restaurant seemed to operate on a skeleton crew, a host of help has been installed, assuring your food arrives in due time.

The addition of evening meals allows Colleen to shine as an epicure whose relationship to food is near poetic. (An entrée of roast squab was inspired by her admiration for that breed of bird's natural resistance to mass production.) The dinner menu showcases wild game, lending a striking quality to familiar plates like a burger (made of wild boar) or a pot pie (of venison and chanterelle mushrooms).

Having tasted literally every entrée on the current dinner menu, I can say that Colleen's is consistent. The rabbit ragout melts on your tongue, and an "old world" apple stuffed with pork sausage will warm and satisfy. Smaller fare, such as a bowl of butternut and apple bisque, was as subtly sweet and tart as it was creamy and comforting.

For all the ways Colleen's gently encourages you to expand your culinary horizons beyond the habitual, it remains a virtual guarantee. You'd be hard pressed to find anything approaching mediocre in this establishment, heartfelt an endeavor as it is. On the contrary, upon entering Colleen's, one should only expect to deal in varying degrees of wonderful.