Fresh Express at Platform 505 3/4
Bus makes fine dining magical and mobile
A dusty old wardrobe, a busy train platform, a US Postal Service bus: None of these would seem particularly interesting—that is until you happen to make a magical crossing through one to somewhere entirely new and wondrous. One of Corrales’ newest fine dining options happens to be located in a 1955 Fageol Twin Couch bus that has morphed through a number of careers in its storied existence. The bus that is now called Fresh, A Mobile Bistro was born in Kent, Ohio and has served as a passenger bus, ambulance, cargo truck, post office and news truck before literally being put out to pasture in La Joya, N.M. It slept beneath the scorching desert sun for 15 years. The next reincarnation cycle began when John and Melissa Young purchased it and gave it new life. This is the story of the bus that lived.
I cruised down Alameda under a heavy blanket of clouds. Rain spit at my windshield just enough to make it look really dirty. I glanced at my dashboard clock—my reservation was for 6pm but my destination was in Corrales, where everyone drives 28 mph. Fresh’s current location was at La Casa Vieja, which my map app couldn’t find, directing me to the Corrales village limits instead. A 6:02pm I swerved into the dirt parking lot where I spotted “40 feet of fine dining” painted onto an old, unremarkable white bus. My dining partner and I rushed to the door, pulled it open and stepped through an enchanted barrier into a tiny French café tucked into one of the side streets of Rue Saint-Honoré in the first arrondissement of Paris. With child-like wonder, we gazed at the seemingly impossible interior.
On either side of a red carpet walkway were tiny booths and tables set with gleaming gold dishes and cutlery. Burgundy cloth napkins secured in gold rings sat waiting patiently on white plates. Soft café music in French, Italian, Spanish and Russian trickled across the frothy, white lace curtains that softened the light streaming in, and wood paneling with intricate designs and gold detailing gave the space a warm, Old World feel, broken up by bits of brick and stained glass. The back third of the bus contained a tiny kitchen where John Young was hard at work cooking.
Melissa greeted us warmly as we chose a table and the waiter (yes, there is a waiter) brought us water and goblets of tarragon-infused lemonade. It was perfectly sweet and balanced the licorice flavor of the herb. Between oohing and aahing over the interior, we perused the fixed six-course menu ($50 per person). Before the feast began, John stepped out of the kitchen, greeted us all and told us a little about the bus and his food, with “fresh” being the key word. He gets as many of his ingredients as possible from local growers so that the majority of what customers eat is local, in season and … well, fresh.
I cruised down Alameda under a heavy blanket of clouds. Rain spit at my windshield just enough to make it look really dirty. I glanced at my dashboard clock—my reservation was for 6pm but my destination was in Corrales, where everyone drives 28 mph.
The pacing was European-style: We had time to digest for a few minutes between courses because it was all cooked right before we ate it. The whole affair took a leisurely two hours so I was glad I picked a dining buddy who truly enjoys good food and could keep a conversation going between bites.
We started with crab cakes with a roasted garlic cream and basil, served with a lovely rose of thin sliced cucumber, caviar and petite Peruvian pickled peppers (say that five times fast). The crab was moist and the capers, caviar and cream created a perfect level of saltiness. The peppers were fun and delicious paired with the crab. Next up was a square bowl filled with yellow peppers, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar pearls. The peppers were lightly seasoned, crunchy and hot, and paired well with the creamy cheese and tart vinegar. The presentation was creative too—the pearls looked rather like large caviar and were made from mixing balsamic vinegar with agar agar (a gel-like product of algae).
The third course offered up a small bowl of steaming hot French onion soup with melty Swiss cheese. The broth was too salty for my taste but had a delectable wine flavor that made the dish rich and hearty. The main entrée arrived in the form of pork loin drizzled with a cherry-apple-brandy reduction and served with potatoes and a veggie of the day (whatever was at the growers market that morning). Let me tell you: That reduction was ambrosia. Golden in color with a texture reminiscent of apple sauce, the brandy added fiery warmth to the pork while the cherries kissed it with a bright sweetness. The pork was not quite as tender as it could’ve been, but as it was covered in the divine reduction, I didn’t mind. The veggies were delightfully buttery.
After getting a to-go box for the last third of the previous course, I was grateful for the cool and refreshing palate cleanser that came next: cherry-lime sorbet. There were only about two tablespoons of the pulpy concoction in the minuscule dish placed before me but it was just enough and not too sweet. Scraping the last drop from the porcelain vessel, I felt rejuvenated and ready for the grand finale. The café crème brûlée arrived in an espresso cup topped with loose whipped cream and more agar agar pearls, this time flavored with coffee. I was surprised there was no burnt sugar top (see: brûlée) but as soon as I put a spoonful in my mouth, I forgot everything. The crème was rich, cool and silky smooth. It was like tiramisu without the lady fingers. Fantastic.
My foodie partner and I sat in a daze afterward, occasionally inspecting the espresso cup again to see if there was one last speck of crème we’d missed. Melissa gifted each of us with a pink rose as we exited the bus and stepped back through the mystical veil into Corrales. Saddened that the magic was over, I looked up and saw that the rain had cleared and left a rainbow. I smiled, seeing it as a sign of cheery hope that I’d be back for all the enchanting meals yet to come from this magical bus.
Hours: See website for evening reservations
Vibe: Old World French cafe
Alibi Recommends: Fixed menu changes once a month