Hiro to a Hungry Tummy’s Rescue

Pdho invited me to come have lunch with his friends JC and JF at some place in Cypress.  He wouldn’t tell me anything about the restaurant except, “You’ll like it. Trust me.” Of course, I was curious and I wanted to know more so I went and yelped Cafe Hiro for myself.  Over 200 Yelpers gave it 4 stars and I consider that a pretty strong rating. Although I take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt because supposedly there is a distinct demographic for the average Yelper, I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by any 4 star Yelp-rated place with that many reviews.  Many called it Asian-Euro fusion, but considering Pdho has a distinct disdain for fusion places, I knew it had to be better than what I was expecting…. and boy was it!

The banner on Cafe Hiro’s website actually says “A blend of French and Japanese with a touch of Italian”, and I think that is the most appropriate way of describing the cuisine.  The menu includes typical Japanese dishes such as the whole section dedicated to curries, but there is also a whole separate section for pastas that offers typical Italian takes like Pasta Carbonara and Penne Arrabiata as well as Japanese twists like Sea Urchin “Uni” Spaghetti and Spicy Caviar “Mentaiko” Spaghetti.  The entrees were a mix of Japanese flavors and Italian or French preparations like Sauteed Chicken in Spicy Miso Sauce, Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Mushroom Risotto, and Osso Bucco which was made from Wagyu Beef.

It was so hard deciding what to order, because everything seriously looked appetizing. I ended up deciding on one of the daily specials which was a Japanese Mushroom & Eggplant Spaghetti, while Pdho ordered the Mentaiko Spaghetti. Each of the main courses comes with a choice of soup or salad, so Pdho and I (as we usually do) divided and conquered so we could try both.

In truth, neither the salad or soup was very impressive. The Japanese usually make interesting salad dressings whether they be miso-based or roe-based or something. Either way, the dressing always taste flavorful and light. This was pretty good, but I just don’t think the salad itself had enough stuff. It was just a plate of lettuce leaves, and it left me wanting some corn or carrots or something to give it some flavor. I know… I’m just being picky here.

The soup was a Cream of Mushroom Soup which was okay.  It is much lighter compared to your typical cream of mushroom soup which was good and bad. I liked that it wasn’t so rich and heavy, so it didn’t weigh heavily on my tummy. Unfortunately, it was also light on flavor. So although it tasted like mushrooms, it needed a lot more salt. I think I must have put half a salt shaker in there.

The pasta dishes turned out to be much better.  My spaghetti dish was very interesting. The pasta was tossed in a garlic soy sauce and topped with bonito flakes and nori. The mushrooms were those Japanese, gourmet-style mushrooms which I really liked, and the eggplant was tasty.  I really didn’t like the bonito flakes though. I don’t know what it is… they have this salty, fishy taste that just tastes kind of odd.  I liked the creative twist of the dish, but I found the sauce to be a little off for some reason. It wasn’t bad, but I think when I compare it to Pdho’s Mentaiko Spaghetti it wasn’t as successful. Pdho actually liked my dish. Supposedly, the sauce and pasta needed to be mixed together more to really bring out all the flavors.

Pdho’s Mentaiko Spaghetti was really good though.  Ever since I had it at Curry House, I’ve loved it. This take on it is much better than Curry House’s mainly because it’s lighter and more flavorful in terms of the caviar/fish roe taste.  The sauce was less thick compared to Curry House… almost like a creamy broth.  I liked it a lot and ended up eating more of this dish than my own.

Although I was pretty full after the pastas, we decided to get a couple of desserts to share. We figured that we should at least try them since they sounded so interesting, and Pdho and his friends said they were worth giving a taste.

The Green Tea Blanc-Mange was probably my least favorite of the two desserts that we ordered. It is like a green tea-flavored pudding, but I think the green tea was a little bit too strong.  I couldn’t take more than one bite, because it was too bitter.

The Panna Cotta was much better even though it was more like a custard.  It didn’t have the expected firmness or gelatinous consistency, but in the theme of executing French techniques in a lighter Japanese style, it made a lot of sense and tasted really good. It was topped with fresh fruit, berries and kiwis, which weren’t super sweet but still refreshing.

Overall, the food was very good. I liked the style and cuisine of the restaurant, and although I didn’t love every single dish, it was all done in a way that made me curious to come back and check out more of the menu.  Although, I’m rarely in this part of town, I suppose I’ll have to make a bigger effort to come and check it out the next time I go back to the OC.

Cafe Hiro
10509 Valley View Street
Cypress, CA 90630

PAFO Ratings for Cafe Hiro:
Price 2 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars

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