>> Wednesday, November 21, 2012
This is the third post in the Great Eats in Los Angeles with the Family Trip Series. Other posts in this series include 101 Noodle Express and Pizzeria Mozza.
This is exactly the type of restaurant I would visit frequently if I lived nearby.
Cafe Hiro is a little, unassuming restaurant in a random strip mall in Cypress, a city about 30 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles. Chef-owner Hiro Ohiwa trained extensively in both Japan and France (at one and two Michelin starred restaurants no less!) before moving to Los Angeles, where he cooked at places like Matsuhisa and Cafe del Rey. His restaurant reflects his broad international training, and is a comment on how Japanese food has been influenced by so many cultures.
The restaurant is self proclaimed "a blend of Japanese and French, with a touch of Italian", though I would argue it's much broader than that. Here's just a random sampling of the menu: steamed shao mai (Chinese?), osso bucco (Italian), chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce (French??), spiced fries (American??), sea urchin (uni) spaghetti (Italian-Japanese) and "hamburg" steak curry (Japanese, American, and Southeast Asian??).
Most restaurants that serve such a wide variety of food are usually very, very bad. However, Cafe Hiro is able to blend together flavors from all these different cuisines flawlessly, creating fun, innovative dishes that are delightful to eat.
The best part? The prices are a steal for this quality of food.
This Tuna Tartare Salad was a special and came with arugula, jicama, and a poached, runny egg on top.
We all loved the Calamari Frit, which consisted of fried calamari covered with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Expertly fried - the richly flavorful fried squid was crispy yet not a bit greasy.
Minestrone soup came with several of the set menus. This was solid, though nothing particularly exciting.
My mom ordered the Kurobuta Pork Loin Cutlet. Also know as tonkatsu in Japanese, this breaded fried pork loin cutlet is made with the famous Kurobuta (Black/Berkeshire) Pig. It comes with a choice of a demi-glace sauce or a citrus ponzu sauce.
Kurobuta is tender, juicy, and very fatty. If you look closely at the photo, you can see a layer of fat on one edge of the pork cutlet. Most people find this to be tender and juicy, the pinnacle of a rich and flavorful pork cutlet. In fact, the high end tonaktsu we had in Japan was jut like this. Unfortunately, my mom doesn't like the texture of pork fat, and ended up cutting off entire chunks of fat.
Yes, food connoisseurs of this prized kurobuta pork may think this is sacrilege, but for those that don't like pork fat, it's a bit much.
The Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Asparagus is served with an oven roasted tomato in a garlic lemon soy sauce. This is Bryan's mom's favorite dish, and my dad loved it as well. Bryan, who loves uni, got the Sauteed Shrimps with Sea Urchin (uni) "Risotto". This dish was excellent, with uni mixed throughout the thick, creamy risotto. My favorite (and Bryan's favorite as well), was the Sea Urchin "Uni" Spaghetti. Topped with toasted seaweed, this dish was simple yet shined due to the fresh ingredients and excellent execution. The pasta was al dente and the uni-flavored sauce was smooth, creamy, and oh-so-flavorful. This is one of Cafe Hiro's signature dishes and I can easily see why. Bryan's dad ordered the Osso Bucco, slowly braised Australian Wagyu beef served with a demi-glace sauce.
I think Bryan's mom ordered another special of the day, a flavorful Roasted Miso Marinated Black Cod over an assortment of vegetables.
The Matcha Panna Cotta was topped with a lovely, really strong green tea sauce, which I thought went so well with the rich, creamy panna cotta underneath. Everyone loved this dessert, and I think my father (who has a huge sweet tooth), was sad that we only ordered one for everyone to share.
This is a great find nestled within a random strip mall in Cypress, though I would hardly say it's "hidden." The place is always packed, so definitely make a reservation if you don't want to wait.
The food is fun, creative, and excellent. The basic menu hasn't changed too much since the place opened in 2002 (favorites such as uni spaghetti, chilean sea bass with shitake risotto, and the osso bucco) although Chef Hiro does continue to offer specials which are posted on the blackboard each day.
Prices are great. Most of the simpler curry rice and pasta dishes hover in the $10-$15 range, while the main entrees are priced well below $20.
This is really the perfect little gem to have in your backyard. I'm sincerely jealous of Bryan's parents, who could eat here every week if they wanted.