Thursday, February 3, 2011

california pizza kitchen

we know what you're thinking, and we were thinking the same thing, too.  once again, though, clark found himself stranded in the mall and hungry for some new veg options.  cpk's menu promised plenty of veg-friendly fare, so he sat down for a quick bite.  (note: this review will be fairly brief.  just because.)

mission
california pizza kitchen | west county mall
west county

terrain
well, it's a chain restaurant.  generic in every sense of the word.  the one nice touch is that the kitchen is visible from most of the restaurant, so if you're eating alone you at least have some entertainment.

personnel
the server was adequate.  annoying at times, yes, but never snarky or anything.  she did retrieve some info from the kitchen about veg-friendly menu items (no, the tortilla chips are not homemade, but they are trans-fat free), but overall the incessant "is everything ok?  oh, great!" just sort of put clark in a foul mood. and what is it that makes servers think we're not interested in free bread baskets? maybe it's clark's pudgy cheeks. maybe we should thank them....

rations
here's the thing about cpk: it's actually quite progressive in terms of vegetarian awareness.  on their website, there's actually a "vegetarian" link, where customers can find exactly which items are veg-friendly and what ingredients can be substituted to make a safe vegetarian meal.  from vegans to lacto-ovo vegetarians, there's nutritional information for all.  pretty awesome, really.
for this visit (his second visit ever to a cpk), clark ordered from the "small cravings" menu, primarily because he felt guilty for eating out while his darling wife was at work but also because the menu is loaded with veg-friendly items.

he started with the white corn guacamole, which immediately set the tone for the rest of the meal.  the flavor? delicious.  the portion? pathetic.  yes, the idea of this menu is to allow customers to eat smaller portions, but this was ridiculous (just wait for the hummus!).  seriously, there were five black beans, a couple of jicama chunks, and virtually no trace of the serrano peppers.  still, the sweet white corn blended brilliantly with the avocado and cilantro, and the splash of lime was super refreshing.  it's terrific that a chain offers things like jicama, but it's unacceptable to utterly misrepresent a dish.  and the serving wasn't even enough to make use of half of the chips.  what a joke.

next up was the tuscan panzanella salad, which came dressed with a whole slew of veggies.  cannellini beans, beets, avocado, red onion, cucumber, cherry and yellow grape tomatoes, and basil were scattered everywhere, and the vinaigrette packed just enough punch without being overbearing.  it was the tomatoes, though, that kicked clark in the face!  dear gods, those maters were extraordinary!  and in february, for crying out loud.  why can't we get those tomatoes at whole foods???  anyway, after considerable moaning, clark finished off the salad, which is the "small craving" that came closest to being a legitimate serving size.

unfortunately, though, the meal did not end with the panzanella salad; it ended with the mediterranean plate.  ordinarily, we're suckers for mezze plates, so clark was immediately drawn to this option.  what a disappointment!  there couldn't have been more than a tablespoon's worth of hummus smeared on the plate, and the feta crumbles were nearly flavorless.  the little salad was dominated by kalamata olives.  worst of all: the four pathetically cold, unseasoned pita wedges.  in summary: it was a hot tepid mess.

it's tough to assess cpk objectively.  we want to celebrate what they're doing for vegetarians, and it's true that their food is flavored quite well.  but they'll have to do much better in the way of portion control and consistency of presentation before we'll be able to endorse them.  i mean, five black beans?  really?  gots ta raise yo game, cpk.

assessment
b-

vegetarian-friendly score:
b+

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