Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cafe Japengo

(from December 19)

We stopped at this tony La Jolla restaurant for the company's holiday lunch. Located on the same lot as the Hyatt on LJ Village Drive, this is a place to see and be seen. Per our founder, evenings here can literally have a "meat market" atmosphere. Food-wise, it's Japanese fusion. Very expensive and very good, but do you get that much bang for your buck? Not really. It's Sushi Deli-style food with higher quality ingredients and prettier presentation. Since their prices are 5-6x Sushi Deli's, I'd rather go to Sushi Deli.

That's not to say that our lunch wasn't delish. We ordered tons of appetizers and rolls, all very fresh and classic Californian interpretations of the their Japanese counterparts. They were good, but I noticed that smoked salmon was substituted for raw salmon. I don't know if this is a quality thing or a maintenance thing (smoked salmon would last longer), but they had raw tuna, so I doubt it was anti-raw fish sentiment.

Here are two of the appetizers, starting with the duck potstickers:

They were good, but not extremely flavorful. I'd say the star of the dish was the coriander-mint pesto. It was fresh, light, and would have gone well with the duck had it been better prepared. Placed in a potsticker, where it's essentially steamed, duck loses the depth of flavor that searing would have given it. The fat needs to be cooked at high temperature to bring it all out. Also, who the hell sells 3 potstickers for nine dollars?!

The Japengo prawn salad, which was pretty good. I'd say their strength is using fresh ingredients, so the avocado, lettuce, and pineapple-honey dressing held up well against freshly fried shrimp.

The only thing that was really worth the price were the desserts. The money isn't paid for quantity, but for the details. Gorgeous, eye-catching desserts that tasted as pretty as they looked. My tasting platter of creme brulees was something to write home about. Green tea, lemongrass-coconut, espresso, and chai tea were literally explosions of flavor from shot-glass proportions. Given there were about three tiny spoonfuls per cup, the fact that I could easily and clearly distinguish the flavors says a lot about the custards. Texture was absolutely perfect.

Other desserts ordered were the assortment of sorbets and the bread pudding.

Absolutely gorgeous, aren't they? They were pretty good, too. Thus, the conclusion on Cafe Japengo is this: dress up, go to happy hour, and splurge on dessert.

0 bites:

0 bites