Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good, But Not As Good As I Expected

David Schat's Bakery Cafe, 130 W. Grand Avenue, El Segundo, CA 310-524-9895

It's an enormous place with an outdoor patio. Long deli cases run along the north wall with seating all over the place in front of them. Big windows, full sun.

The pastry case is first and you enter an "aisle" formed by a movable metal bread rack behind you. The "pastries" consist of slices of cakes (carrot cake, $4.50!) various cupcakes and two "foreign" sweets - French Napoleons and Italian Cannolis.

There are eight sandwichs and Richie ordered the "Pastrami with caraway rye, gourmet pastrami, caramelized onions, Provolone cheese, whole-grain mustard aioli." The side dishes included with your sandwich along with a soft drink are French fries or cole slaw or 5-spice sweet potato fries. For $2 each, you can add fresh fruit or mac and cheese.

I've been reading lately about two things I've never eaten so I went for the pork belly banh mi sandwich. Baguette (the banh mi) with house-braised pork belly, Sambal chili aioli, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno. I wanted to see how 5 star spice works with sweet potatoes, so I ordered them.

Our food arrived promptly. I couldn't taste the 5 spice on the fries and Richie couldn't either. If there is 5 spice on something, you're going to taste it. Maybe they forgot to dust them with it

As for pork bellies, which have been a recent foodie rage, I would call them "blonde bacon." Make that "boiled blonde bacon." Given the spices and flavors in the sndwich, I expected a great deal more than I got. How the hell they made jalapenos bland is a mystery.

Richie had to ask for the mustard which turned out to be very similar to whole mustard seeds dropped into a clump of mayonnaise. The garlic aioli that came, too, may have once in its lifetime been near a clove of garlic, but it wasn't in the recent past.

Richie didn't like the coleslaw which was long-shredded -- carrots and red cabbage at least 4 in. long per strand. His objection was to the stronger-than-usual vinegar taste. I tried taking a forkful and mixing the garlic aioli into it on my plate, but it didn't really work and he didn't like that any better.

Aioli is traditionally made from garlic, olive oil and a raw egg so think of it as a version of mayonnaise, add whatever seems like a good idea to you and have at it. My Sambal chili aioli was hot sauce with possibly chopped jalapenos in mayo, but again, it was served in a way I don't like - a big glop of sauce in the middle of the bread, but not spread out crust edge to edge.

I think this is a case of a new restaurant doing its job just fine - everyone was friendly, helpful and kind -- but not quite well enough in the flavor department to suit me. This is not their fault. No restaurant can please everyone who comes through their doors.

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