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Soleil has taken over the space that used to be Cafe Europa, a nice little bistro with an Asian fusion sort of take on things. The laundry at the front of the strip center burned down and the parking lot chaos of the remodeling phase and the rather poor visibility of the cafe from Blanco Road must have meant the death knell. Talking to a neighborhood diner when we went last week to the new bistro, she told us that while they had gone once and liked it ok, nothing seemed special enough to compel a repeat visit (and that was from someone who lived a stroll away).

Let’s hope for a longer run at things from the new kids on the block. We liked the Spanish take on Mediterranean, but, the big kid — Jason Dady’s Bin 555 — is not very far away. Will Chef William Schmidt make his menu stand out? Schmidt is a native of New Braunfels and trained at the CIA (not sure if it was the local, California or New York school). We liked the stuffed chicken breast a lot — the raisin, Spanish chorizo and manchego filling was quite special. And the front of the house handled the out-the-door crowd (result of an Express-News favorable review) quite nicely.

Here’s what you’ll find in print in a future TM issue:
Soleil Bistro and Wine Bar
UChef William Schmidt is a New Braunfels native, CIA trained, but in this cozy bistro he’s taken on the Mediterranean, with a preference for Spanish waters. Pan-seared scallops with a tomato fennel sauce, served on a crisp delectable spinach fritter, proved the kitchen’s mettle (though the fennel was so subtle it disappeared). Chicken breast wrapped around a stuffing of chorizo, manchego and raisins had fine flavor, too. The interior, kind of rustic contemporary, has some nice touches: majolica pitchers, tiny flagons for single glasses of wine, plank-like tables and friendly service. Beer & wine. 14415 Blanco Rd., Suite 105 (210 408-2670). Open Tues– Sat for lunch 11:30-2; Tapas bar 11:30 – 10, dinner 5:30–10, Sun brunch 10-2. Closed Mon. $$ +

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