Neo-Mom Food

When is turkey pot pie not turkey pot pie? When it's on Puente's new lunch menu of mom-like standards in witty New American guise. Take that turkey pie: a gorgeous conceit housed in the crispest sweet-potato pastry shell, filled with meticulous cubes of turkey and tiny pearl onions in a savory cream, a filigree of sweet potato crisps on top. Yum. If you haven't checked out Puente's good-looking transformation of the erstwhile Jack's on Woodway, here's your excuse to do it -- for $9.25.

The place looks great now that those Southwest-sunset colors and Santa Fe gewgaws are gone, and the food has genuine dash. Grilled meatloaf that's striped and smoky from the grill comes with provocative cascabel-chili ketchup and soulful mashed potatoes. Grilled oysters on croutons and a melt of fennel get a vivid-tasting, buttery sauce; great stuff, even if the oysters are oddly puny. The red-and-white Caesar sports terrific little fried green tomatillo "croutons," and the restaurant's thoughtful breads (spiced biscuits, corn sticks) show up at noon, too. Do you detect the influence of the Culinary Institute of America in all this? Right, that's where chef Brent Trudeau trained.

Final note for those willing to go right over the top, midday be damned: The feisty cranberry walnut cream-cheese tart in an orange gingersnap crust might just be the best dessert in town.

--Alison Cook

Puente, 5055 Woodway, 623-0788. Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner, 5 to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.


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